Adaptive abilities

Mayr E, Vetter B (2023)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2023


DOI: 10.1111/phis.12249


Abilities, in contrast to mere dispositions, propensities, or tendencies, abilities 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? Our aim in this paper is to point, in answer to this question, 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. We begin by pointing out two aspects of abilities with regard to which current accounts seem (at best) incomplete: control and exercise. We then introduce adaptivity as we understand it, and end by putting it to work in developing a fuller understanding of abilities that does better than current accounts.

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Mayr, E., & Vetter, B. (2023). Adaptive abilities. Nous-Supplement: Philosophical Issues.


Mayr, Erasmus, and Barbara Vetter. "Adaptive abilities." Nous-Supplement: Philosophical Issues (2023).

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