Mark Sinclair: "Inclination and the Modality of Dispositions"

Mark Sinclair (Manchester Metropolitan): "Inclination and the Modality of Dispositions". Listen to the talk here.


In Getting Causes from Powers, Steven Mumford and Rani Lil Anjum have argued that all dispositions are to be thought as tendencies or inclinations; that such tendencies or inclinations have a sui generis modality, irreducible to traditional ideas of necessity or possibility; and that we have direct experience of such inclinations in our subjective experience of agency. In this paper, I critically assess these arguments in the light of 19th-century French philosophy. I turn to the work of Pierre Maine de Biran and Félix Ravaisson in order to develop the claim that a particular and irreducible modality of dispositions is indeed available to us in subjective experience – but in the particular phenomena of habit rather than within agency in general. Ravaisson’s 1838 De l’habitude provides a phenomenology of habit as inclination and a metaphysics that makes the phenomenological fact of inclination intelligible; and both this phenomenology and this metaphysics, I contend, have much to teach contemporary work in the metaphysics of powers.