Philosophical Studies

, Volume 155, Issue 3, pp 345-369

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The metaphysics of rule-following

  • Markus E. SchlosserAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Leiden Email author 


This paper proposes a causal–dispositional account of rule-following as it occurs in reasoning and intentional agency. It defends this view against Kripke’s (Wittgenstein on rules and private language, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1982) objection to dispositional accounts of rule-following, and it proposes a solution to the problem of deviant causal chains. In the first part, I will outline the causal–dispositional approach. In the second part, I will follow Martin and Heil’s (Philos Perspect 12:283–312, 1998) realist response to Kripke’s challenge. I will propose an account that distinguishes between two kinds of rule-conformity and two kinds of rule-following, and I will defend the realist approach against two challenges that have recently been raised by Handfield and Bird (Philos Stud 140:285–298, 2008). In the third part, I will turn to the problem of deviant causal chains, and I will propose a new solution that is partly based on the realist account of rule-following.


Rule-following Reasoning Deviant causal chains Dispositions Metaphysics of mind Metaphysics of agency