Adaptive Abilities
Barbara Vetter (Freie Universität Berlin)

November 27, 2023, 3:15pm - 4:45pm

This event is online


Stockholm University
University of Gothenburg
University of Vienna

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The Collective Ethics Seminar: Online Presentation – 27 November 2023 - 15.15 - 16.45 CET / 09.15 - 10.45 EST

Barbara Vetter (FU Berlin) – Adaptive Abilities

On Monday 27 November, Barbara Vetter (FU Berlin) will give an online presentation at the Collective Ethics Seminar entitled ‘Adaptive Abilities’.

Abstract: Abilities, in contrast to mere dispositions, propensities, or tendencies, seem to be features of agents that put the agent herself in control. But what is the distinguishing feature of abilities vis-à-vis other kinds of powers? In this talk (based on a co-authored paper with Erasmus Mayr), I point to a crucial feature of abilities that existing accounts have tended to neglect: their adaptivity. Adaptivity is a feature of how abilities are exercised. The main reason for its relative neglect has been that most extant accounts have focused solely on whether abilities are exercised successfully in certain possible situations and have mostly understood the exercise of an ability in terms of complete successful performance. I begin by pointing out two aspects of abilities with regard to which current accounts seem (at best) incomplete: control and exercise. I then introduce adaptivity and put it to work in developing a fuller understanding of abilities that does better than current account. I end with some speculations on how the account of ability may be applied to group abilities.

The online seminar is open for all to attend. The other remaining presenters this semester are Anne Schwenkenbecher (Murdoch University) and Maeve McKeown (University of Groningen). For more information about the seminar and the schedule, please see

The session starts at 15.15 CET / 09.15 EST. You can join the session via the following link:

We hope to see you at the seminar!

Kind regards,

Gunnar Björnsson (Stockholm University), Olle Blomberg (University of Gothenburg), and Niels de Haan (University of Vienna)

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