John Pemberton: "Manifestations of Powers: Timing and Continuity"

John Pemberton: "Manifestations of Powers: Timing and Continuity". Listen to the talk here.


A credible account of powers requires clarity as to the timing of manifestations in particular whether manifestations are continuous through time or step-changes to new states. Many existing accounts seem to assume that a manifestation is a new state but this position seems problematic whether the change is assumed to occur instantaneously or over a period. Taking manifestations to be a continuous processes of change seems more promising, but I note some unanswered questions which result. I look to science for ideas, identifying two types of manifestations with differing timing characteristics: (1) Force-manifestations for which the manifestations are forces (such as the pulling of a rope, gravitational attraction, electro-magnetic attraction / repulsion) which are immediate; and (2) Rearrangement-manifestations which include (inter alia) the movement of things from one place to another (e.g. the swing of a pendulum, the smashing of a glass, the dissolving of salt, the firing of a neuron) which  occur over an extended time period. In many cases the (partial) scientific story about such rearrangement manifestations suggests that the local arrangement / structure of things coordinates relevant forces to produce the characteristic rearrangement - a remarkably nice (partial) solution to the timing question, when it is applicable. These considerations raise some interesting questions for metaphysics. The scientific story of correlative powers giving rise to coherent processes of change, where the (force-) powers persist through that change, and where arrangement is of central importance suggests an Aristotelian account of powers. It seems such an Aristotelian solution will require a robust ontology of arrangement/structure   something like Aristotelian forms.