The Distinction of Powers
Chris Meyns, Chris Meyns

part of: 2014 Joint Session
July 12, 2014, 8:15am - 9:15am
Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University

United Kingdom

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  • Aristotelian Society
  • The Mind Association

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It is commonly held that there are multiple powers, and that powers are individuated on the basis of their manifestation type. In this paper I demonstrate that this view of powers is problematic, because it conflicts with a plausible baseline principle: the principle that any introduction of a distinction must be supported by a reason. To establish this, I first show that individuation by manifestation type is no universal principle, and cannot support this form of pluralism about powers. Secondly, I bring out that support for pluralism can neither be found in its attractive explanatory structure, because it shares this with power monism, which rejects all distinctions between powers. This means that we lack positive reason to accept manifestation-based distinctions. However, positing distinctions without a reason violates the baseline principle for their introduction. After responding to two objections, I conclude that proponents of power-based explanations face a choice: either they give up the baseline principle, or they give up pluralism. The former breaks down the overall explanatory project that motivated the introduction of powers in first place. The latter results in the view that there is at most one power.

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