Edited by Tuomas E. Tahko (University of Helsinki)
|Summary||De re modality concerns the modal properties that an object has in virtue of itself. This contrasts with de dicto modality, which concerns modal properties that are merely "said of" an object. More formally: De dicto: Necessarily, some x is such that it is F. De re: Some x is such that it is necessarily F.
The essence of an entity in contemporary metaphysics is generally regarded as being constituted by the entity's de re modal properties. For instance, if we consider it necessary for John to be human, then this is part of John's essence. Different varieties of essentialism can be distinguished by the kind of de re modal properties in question. If we debate whether it is necessary for John to have the very parents that he actually has, we are debating origins essentialism.
It should also be noted that essences may be individual or general. John's essence is an individual essence, and it may be essential for John to belong to the (natural) kind human. But we can also ask what is essential for the kind, e.g. whether humans are essentially rational. In that case we are concerned with the general essence of humans. Essentialism about species is a good example of a debate concerning general essences.
Finally, although essences are commonly considered to be synonymous with de re modal properties, following the work of Kripke and others, the more traditional view, following Aristotle, may in fact be that essence is ontologically prior to modality. Recently, such non-modal accounts of essence have been defended in the literature, with one suggestion being that essence should be explicated via real definition.
|Key works||The most influential modern contributions are no doubt Kripke 1980, and Putnam 1975 which reintroduced essentialism into metaphysics. Quine's classic critique (Quine 1953) of De Re Modality was largely undermined by the contributions of Kripke and Putnam, but Marcus 1967 and Hintikka 1970 should also be mentioned. Wiggins 1980, Plantinga 1992, and Salmon 2005 are also classics. One important application of essentialism is counterpart theory, e.g. Lewis 1968. The secondary literature on different aspects of the topic is enormous, but recent, often cited contributions include Bealer 1987, Shalkowski 1994, Ellis 2001, Della Rocca 2002, LaPorte 2004, Paul 2006, Mackie 2006, and Devitt 2008. Non-modal accounts of essence have been gaining popularity, especially due to the work of Kit Fine (e.g. Fine 1994). Other recent works in this tradition include Oderberg 2007, Lowe 2008, Tahko 2009, Correia 2011, Dumsday 2012, and Vaidya forthcoming.|
|Introductions||Robertson 2008, Cameron 2010, Roca-Royes 2011, Roca-Royes 2011.|
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Counterpart Theory (66)
Origins Essentialism (31)
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