The fundamentality of fundamental powers

Joaquim Giannotti

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Dispositional essentialism is the view that all or many fundamental properties are essentially dispositional, or powers. The literature on the dispositional essence of powers is abundant. In contrast, the question of how to understand the fundamentality of fundamental powers has received scarce interest. Therefore, the fundamentality of powers stands in need of clarification. There are four main conceptions of the fundamental, namely as that which is (i) metaphysically independent; or (ii) belonging to a minimally complete basis; or (iii) perfectly natural; or (iv) metaphysically primitive. Here, I present and discuss each of these approaches from the viewpoint of dispositional essentialism. I show that (i) is incompatible with the metaphysics of powers and (ii)–(iv) have more drawbacks than merits. Therefore, my conclusion is that the dispositional essentialist should seek an alternative. Although I offer no positive account, I pave the way to more fruitful views by identifying the shortcoming of these unpromising options.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-613
JournalActa Analytica
Issue number4
Early online date16 Apr 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Apr 2021


  • Dispositionalism
  • Essence
  • Fundamentality
  • Metaphysical dependence
  • Powers
  • Primitivism


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