Shaviro has an INTERESTING POST up on Molnar’s book Powers. As Shaviro writes:
Molnar’s basic argument is that things (or OOO’s objects) possess causal powers that are ontologically real, and not just confined to the instances in which they are manifested. Salt contains the power of being soluble (dissolveable) in water; this power is a veritable property of the salt, even if it never encounters water and never actually gets dissolved. In insisting that powers are actual independently of their manifestation (even if they can only be described in terms of their manifestation), Molnar rejects the skeptical (empiricist, and especially Humean) hypothesis that talk of powers has no meaning apart from the conditional statement that, e.g., if the salt is put into water, then it will dissolve. The classic Early Modern reproach to medieval philosophy was to ridicule the latter for allegedly saying, for instance, that opium puts people to sleep because it has a dormative power — and to claim that this sort of explanation is utterly meaningless. Molnar is arguing, in effect, that opium really does have something like a “dormative power.” This is not to deny that such a power can be analyzed, e.g., in terms of particular neurochemical events that take place in the brain of somebody who has smoked opium. But such an analysis of the “dormative power” does not get away from the attribution of powers, since it simply replaces the power of opium per se with a more detailed account of the powers possessed by particular molecules in the composition of opium.
As always with Steve’s posts, there’s a lot there so make sure you read the whole thing. Molnar’s powers, it sounds, are largely equivalent to my virtual proper being. For me, virtual proper being is the domain of powers possessed by an object. The difference would be that 1) I don’t equate these powers with properties of an object, and 2) I don’t treat them as actual. Perhaps I’m missing something about the concept of actuality, but it strikes me as strange to equate a power with properties. Properties, I argue, are something that result from the action of powers, their activation. I reserve the domain of the actual for actions and current properties embodied by an object. This is why I also treat powers as virtual rather than actual. There seems to be a difference in language here. If I’m following Molnar correctly (based on Shaviro’s discussion), he’s using the term “actual” to refer to something that an object really has. This is also how I use the term virtual. Objects really have their virtual powers, they’re just not exercising them at the moment. Speaking of powers as actual strikes me as misleading as the concept of actuality, in my mind, refers to properties that an object currently embodies. Looks like I’ll have to order Molner’s book.