The dynamical essence of powers
AbstractPowers are properties defined by what they do. The focus of the large majority of the powers literature has been mainly put on explicating the (multifaceted) results of the production of a power in certain (multifaceted) initial conditions: but all this causal complexity is bound to be—and, in fact, it has proved to be—quite difficult to handle. In this paper we take a different approach by focusing on the very activity of producing those multifaceted manifestations themselves. In this paper, we propose an original account of what the essence of a power consists in which stems from a radical reconceptualisation of power-causation according to which counterfactuals are to be explained away by powers, and not vice-versa. We call this approach the dynamical operator account of powers. According to this account, the causal role of powers consists in their ensuring that the ontological transition from a stimulus S to a manifestation M happens. Powers thus have a dynamical essence which consists in the fundamental activity of generating the counterfactuals typically associated with them. We show that if one conceptualises this functional activity as the metaphysical fulcrum around which counterfactual-based causation revolves, one is granted not only an improved methodology to individuate powers but also a better understanding of their knowability, modality and directedness.