Max Kistler

Max Kistler `Objective and Subjective Powers and Dispositions'

Max Kistler (Sorbonne) `Objective and Subjective Powers and Dispositions'. Listen to the talk here. 


First, I introduce a distinction between powers and dispositions: A “multi-track disposition” manifests itself in different ways Mi in different triggering circumstances Ti. If the bearer of the disposition has intrinsic properties that contribute causally to all these manifestations Mi, those intrinsic properties constitute a unique power underlying these dispositions. Powers have the status of theoretical properties.

Second, I suggest that this framework helps solving a traditional puzzle arising from the nontransitivity of the indiscriminability of colours. If A, B, C are three uniformly coloured surfaces presented to the view of a subject in optimal conditions, their colours can differ so little that the subject cannot discriminate A and B (nor B and C), yet can discriminate A and C. It seems paradoxical that A and B, and also B and C, have the same look, yet that A’s look differs from C’s.

The framework of powers and dispositions helps solving the puzzle without denying the nontransitivity of indiscriminability and without denying that subjects know directly how things appear to them. An objective colour is a power. The subjective representation of a colour is also a power. In each context of perception, the former determines, together with the laws of nature, the latter (i.e. a representation). Looks, which are directly accessible to the subject, are manifestations of dispositions grounded in these subjective powers.