Volume 14, Issue 2, 2017
Thomas Aquinas, “the Greatest Advocate of Dispositional Modality”
Fact or Fiction?
Aquinas has been labelled “the greatest advocate of dispositional modality”, by one contemporary power theorist. This paper’s goal is to critically analyse this claim. Before doing so, however, it first explicates some components of Aquinas’s ontology of powers, putting him in dialogue with contemporary discussions. Next it explicates the two competing views of the modality of powers, dispositional modality and conditional necessity, and proceeds to examine the textual basis as to which of the two Aquinas held. Ultimately the paper finds evidence in favour of the latter. The paper then concludes with a suggestion as to how Aquinas would explain examples given by those who advocate the dispositional modality position. In answer to the title, therefore, the paper argues that thinking of Aquinas as the greatest advocate of dispositional modality is a fiction, and that this award belongs to someone else.