, Volume 196, Issue 1, pp 329–354 | Cite as

The question of realism for powers

  • Lorenzo AzzanoEmail author


In recent years, a new dispute has risen to prominence: the dispute between realists and anti-realists about causal powers. Albeit sometimes overlooked, the meta-ontological features of this “question of realism for powers” are quite peculiar. For friends and foes of causal powers have characterized their contrasting views in a variety of different ways; as existence claims, as semantic or truth-making claims, as fundamentality claims, as claims about the nature of certain properties. Not only does this multiplicity of interpretations make it unclear what the genuine bone of contention is, if there is one; some of them appear to be mutually exclusive. Some light can be shed on this apparent yet widespread confusion by distinguishing three degrees of ontological involvement in dispositional truths; viz., three ways, of increasing robustness, to read ontological commitments from dispositional truths. Relatedly, by exploring the literature, and focusing on some selected examples of power realism and anti-realism, we can observe that power realists vastly disagree over the intrinsic nature ad make-up of dispositional properties. Such examples furthermore invite the thought that the question of realism for powers is best understood not as the debate around the existence of properties with a distinctive identity, but rather as a debate about metaphysical hierarchy. Finally, some anti-realists positions are indistinguishable from realist ones, using merely intensional resources: power realism is best appreciated by going hyperintensional.


Meta-ontology Realism about causal powers Dispositions Mark of the dispositional Grounding 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Scuola Normale Superiore (Pisa)PisaItaly

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