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Essentialism is, broadly speaking, the doctrine that objects have essential properties. One issue here concerns the analysis or definition of ‘essential’ - i.e., what are the necessary and sufficient conditions for being an essential property? Modalists define essential properties in terms of an entity’s de re modal properties. And, while popular, the major challenges modalism faces have led many to embrace non-modalist accounts, which define essence in terms of e.g., 'real definition' or metaphysical explanation/grounding. A second issue concerns the extension of essential properties. Debates here center around various forms of essentialism, typically distinguished by the types of properties in question (e.g. origin essentialism, concerning whether an entity’s origin is essential to it, sortal essentialism, about whether an entity essentially is an instance of the sortal it is an instance of, etc.). A third issue concerns how we know essence facts. Tight connections with modal epistemology here seem obvious, but, depending upon how we answer the above analysis question, it could turn out that essence epistemology is an entirely different beast. Finally, while we can inquire about the essences of particular instances of kinds (e.g. is Tigger essentially carnivorous?), we can also ask questions about the essences of kinds themselves (e.g. are tigers essentially carnivorous?), where the former concerns individual or objectual essence, the latter, general or generic essence; the exact relation between these two types of essence is yet to be determined.

Key works The place to start is Kripke 1980, which effectively re-introduced metaphysicians to essentialism; closely related is Putnam 1975. Regarding the analysis of essence, the most important piece is Fine 1994, where Fine offers his influential critique of the modalist analysis of essence. Highlighted modalist responses include  Gorman 2005, Zalta 2006, and Correia 2007, though also see Correia 2012 for a few tweaks to Fine’s position and Lowe 2008 for an alternative non-modalist account. Meanwhile, concerning extension, Mackie 2006 offers a wonderful and detailed over-view of the debates here, while Paul 2006 argues against ‘shallow’ (minimalist) essentialism. Finally, on epistemology, see the above Lowe, Tahko unknown, as well as the affiliated section on Modal Epistemology. 
Introductions Robertson 2008 - An excellent introduction to the Essential/Accidental Property distinction, touches upon most of the major topics concerning essence; Roca-Royes 2011 - Another excellent introduction looking at the relation between essential properties and other types of properties.
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  1. Diana F. Ackerman (1986). Essential Properties and Philosophical Analysis. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 11 (1):305-313.
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  2. A. Ahmed (2009). Rigidity and Essentiality: Reply to Gomez-Torrente. Mind 118 (469):121-133.
    Mario Gómez-Torrente (2006) says that whilst theoretical identifications (e.g. 'All lightning is electrical discharge') do not entail their own necessitations, they do entail the necessitation of a weaker statement. And he claims that this weaker entailment serves Kripke's purposes as well as the stronger one would have. I argue that this is false. Section 1 says what the weaker entailment is; section 2 says why it matters. Section 3 argues that the entailment identified at section 1 does not meet the (...)
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  3. Joseph Almog (2003). The Structure–in–Things: Existence, Essence and Logic. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (2):197–225.
    It has been common in contemporary philosophical logic to separate existence, essence and logic. I would like to reverse these separative tendencies. Doing so yields two theses, one about the existential basis of truth, the other about the essentialist basis of logic. The first thesis counters the common claim that both logical and essential truths-in short, structural truths-are existence-free. It is proposed that only real existences can generate essentialist and logical predications. The second thesis counters the common assumption that logic (...)
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  4. Torin Alter, Garrett on Causal Essentialism and Zombies.
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  5. Edward Averill (1982). Essence and Scientific Discovery in Kripke and Putnam. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 43 (2):253-257.
    THE CLAIM THAT IF GOLD HAS THE ATOMIC NUMBER 79 THEN GOLD NECESSARILY HAS THE ATOMIC NUMBER 79 IS SHOWN TO BE FALSE. THE KRIPKE-PUTNAM ARGUMENT FOR THIS CLAIM IS REWORKED TO SHOW THIS: IF A PROPERTY OF GOLD (LIKE ATOMIC NUMBER) PLAYS A BASIC ROLE IN A THEORY OF SUBSTANCE, THAT IS BOTH TRUE AND THE BEST MOST COMPREHENSIVE THEORY OF SUBSTANCE POSSIBLE, THEN GOLD NECESSARILY HAS THIS PROPERTY. 'BASIC ROLE' IS EXPLAINED.
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  6. Lynne Rudder Baker (1997). Why Constitution is Not Identity. Journal of Philosophy 94 (12):599-621.
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  7. K. C. Barclay (1967). Geach, Locke, and Nominal Essences. Philosophical Studies 18 (5):78 - 80.
  8. H. Clark Barrett (2001). On the Functional Origins of Essentialism. [Journal (Paginated)] (in Press) 2 (1):1-30.
    This essay examines the proposal that psychological essentialism results from a history of natural selection acting on human representation and inference systems. It has been argued that the features that distinguish essentialist representational systems are especially well suited for representing natural kinds. If the evolved function of essentialism is to exploit the rich inductive potential of such kinds, then it must be subserved by cognitive mechanisms that carry out at least three distinct functions: identifying these kinds in the environment, constructing (...)
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  9. Andreas Bartels (1996). Modern Essentialism and the Problem of Individuation of Spacetime Points. Erkenntnis 45 (1):25--43.
    In this paper Modern Essentialism is used to solve a problem of individuation of spacetime points in General Relativity that has been raised by a New Leibnizian Argument against spacetime substantivalism, elaborated by Earman and Norton. An earlier essentialistic solution, proposed by Maudlin, is criticized as being against both the spirit of metrical essentialism and the fundamental principles of General Relativity. I argue for a modified essentialistic account of spacetime points that avoids those obstacles.
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  10. Christopher Belshaw & Gary Kemp (eds.) (2009). Twelve Modern Philosophers. Wiley--Blackwell.
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  11. Daniel Bennett (1969). Essential Properties. Journal of Philosophy 66 (15):487-499.
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  12. Thomas Wheaton Bestor (1988). Plato's Phaedo and Plato's 'Essentialism'. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 66 (1):26 – 51.
    A new story is abroad that plato possessed two redundant devices in the "phaedo" to explain why some sensible "f" (a drift of snow, say) is "g" but never not-"g" (cold, say): (i) "f" participates in a special way in the (upper world) forms "f" and "g"; (ii) "f" is essentially "g" in its own (lower world) right. Were there such genuinely redundant devices, this would tidily explain both plato's coming to reject essential properties for sensibles in the "republic" and (...)
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  13. Nalini Bhushan (2007). What is a Chemical Property? Synthese 155 (3):293 - 305.
    Despite the currently perceived urgent need among contemporary philosophers of chemistry for adjudicating between two rival metaphysical conceptual frameworks—is chemistry primarily a science of substances or processes?—this essay argues that neither provides us with what we need in our attempts to explain and comprehend chemical operations and phenomena. First, I show the concept of a chemical property can survive the abandoning of the metaphysical framework of substance. While this abandonment means that we will need to give up essential properties, contingent (...)
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  14. John C. Bigelow (1979). Parker on Existence and Essence. Philosophia 9 (1):39-43.
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  15. Alexander Bird (2009). Essences and Natural Kinds. In Robin Le Poidevin (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Metaphysics. Routledge. 497--506.
    Essentialism as applied to individuals is the claim that for at least some individuals there are properties that those individuals possess essentially. What it is to possess a property essentially is a matter of debate. To possess a property essentially is often taken to be akin to possessing a property necessarily, but stronger, although this is not a feature of Aristotle’s essentialism, according to which essential properties are those thing could not lose without ceasing to exist. Kit Fine (1994) takes (...)
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  16. Alexander Bird (2009). Kripke. In Christopher Belshaw & Gary Kemp (eds.), 12 Modern Philosophers. Wiley-Blackwell. 153--72.
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  17. Alexander Bird (2008). Lowe on a Posteriori Essentialism. Analysis 68 (4):336 - 344.
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  18. Alexander Bird (2008). Review of Alexander Bird, Nature's Metaphysics: Laws and Properties. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2008 (6).
    This is a rewarding book. In terms of area, it has one foot firmly planted in metaphysics and the other just as firmly set in the philosophy of science. Nature's Metaphysics is distinctive for its thorough and detailed defense of fundamental, natural properties as essentially dispositional and for its description of how these dispositional properties are thus suited to sustain the laws of nature as (metaphysically) necessary truths.
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  19. Alexander Bird (2008). Remarks on Our Knowledge of Modal Facts. Norsk Filosofisk Tidsskrift 43:54--60.
    Can we have a posteriori knowledge of modal facts? And if so, is that knowledge fundamentally a posteriori, or does a priori intuition provide the modal component of what is known? Though the latter view seems more straightforward, there are also reasons for taking the first option seriously.
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  20. Alexander Bird (2004). Kuhn on Reference and Essence. Philosophia Scientiae 8 (1):39-71.
    Kuhn's incommensurability thesis seems to challenge scientific realism. One response to that challenge is to focus on the continuity of reference. The casual theory of reference in particular seems to offer the possibility of continuity of reference that woud provide a basis for the sort of comparability between theories that the realist requires. In "Dubbing and Redubbing: the vulnerability of rigid designation" Kuhn attacks the causal theory and the essentialism to which is is related. Kuhn's view is defended by Rupert (...)
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  21. Alexander Bird (2001). Necessarily, Salt Dissolves in Water. Analysis 61 (4):267–274.
    In this paper I aim to show that a certain law of nature, namely that common salt (sodium chloride) dissolves in water, is metaphysically necessary. The importance of this result is that it conflicts with a widely shared intuition that the laws of nature (most if not all) are contingent. There have been debates over whether some laws, such as Newton’s second law, might be definitional of their key terms and hence necessary. But the law that salt dissolves in water (...)
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  22. Edward Black (1968). Aristotle's 'Essentialism' and Quine's Cycling Mathematician. The Monist 52 (2):288-297.
  23. Paul Bloom (2008). Psychological Essentialism in Selecting the 14th Dalai Lama. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 12 (7):243.
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  24. Robert Bolton (1976). Essentialism and Semantic Theory in Aristotle: Posterior Analytics, II, 7-10. Philosophical Review 85 (4):514-544.
    This essay argues that aristotle's doctrine of nominal definition is his semantic theory for natural-Kind terms. It offers a new interpretation of that doctrine. On this interpretation nominal definitions are initial working theoretical accounts of natural kinds which serve as starting points for scientific inquiry. As such, Nominal definitions have existential import. They make an implicit reference to the most familiar actual instances of the kinds they define and they define the essences of those kinds by reference to those instances. (...)
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  25. Raymond D. Bradley (1987). Wittgenstein's Tractatarian Essentialism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 65 (1):43 – 55.
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  26. Raymond D. Bradley (1984). Essentialism and The New Theory of Reference. Dialogue 23 (01):59-77.
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  27. Ingo Brigandt (2007). When Traditional Essentialism Fails. Philosophical Topics 35 (1/2):189-215.
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  28. Larry Briskman (1982). Essentialism Without Inner Natures? Philosophy of the Social Sciences 12 (3):303-309.
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  29. B. A. Brody (1967). Natural Kinds and Real Essences. Journal of Philosophy 64 (14):431-446.
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  30. Baruch A. Brody (1973). Why Settle for Anything Less Than Good Old-Fashioned Aristotelian Essentialism. Noûs 7 (4):351-365.
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  31. Baruch A. Brody (1972). De Re and de Dicto Interpretations of Modal Logic or a Return to an Aristotelean Essentialism. Philosophia 2 (1-2):117-136.
  32. Berit Brogaard & Joe Salerno (forthcoming). A Counterfactual Account of Essence. The Reasoner.
    Kit Fine (1994. “Essence and Modality”, Philosophical Perspectives 8: 1-16) argues that the standard modal account of essence as de re modality is ‘fundamentally misguided’ (p. 3). We agree with his critique and suggest an alternative counterfactual analysis of essence. As a corollary, our counterfactual account lends support to non-vacuism the thesis that counterpossibles (i.e., counterfactual conditionals with impossible antecedents) are not always vacuously true.
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  33. S. Brown (ed.) (1998). Meeting of the Minds: The Relationship Between Medieval and Modern Philosophy. Brespols.
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  34. Todd Buras (2006). Counterpart Theory, Natural Properties, and Essentialism. Journal of Philosophy 103 (1):27-42.
    David Lewis advised essentialists to judge his counterpart theory a false friend. He also argued that counterpart theory needs natural properties. This essay argues that natural properties are all essentialists need to find a true friend in counterpart theory. Section one explains why Lewis takes counterpart theory to be anti-essentialist and why he thinks it needs natural properties. Section two establishes the connection between the natural properties counterpart theory needs and the essentialist consequences Lewis disavows. Section three answers two objections: (...)
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  35. Ronna Burger (1987). Is Each Thing the Same As Its Essence? Review of Metaphysics 41 (1):53-76.
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  36. Michael B. Burke (1994). Dion and Theon: An Essentialist Solution to an Ancient Puzzle. Journal of Philosophy 91 (3):129-139.
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  37. Michael R. Burke (1983). Essentialism and the Identity of Indiscernables. Philosophy Research Archives 9:223-243.
    The paper formulates and defends a version of the Identity of Indiscernibles and demonstrates that it entails a non-trivial version of the doctrine of essentialism.
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  38. Julia R. Bursten (forthcoming). Microstructure Without Essentialism: A New Perspective on Chemical Classification. 81 (4):633-653,.
    Recently, macroscopic accounts of chemical kind individuation have been proposed as alternatives to the microstructural essentialist account advocated by Kripke, Putnam, and others. These accounts argue that individuation of chemical kinds is based on macroscopic criteria such as reactivity or thermodynamics, and they challenge the essentialism that grounds the Kripke-Putnam view. Using a variety of chemical examples, I argue that microstructure grounds these macroscopic accounts, but that this grounding need not imply essentialism. Instead, kinds are individuated on the basis of (...)
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  39. Gregory Bynum (2005). John Dewey's Anti-Essentialism and Social Progress. Journal of Social Philosophy 36 (3):364–381.
  40. Ross P. Cameron (2010). The Grounds of Necessity. Philosophy Compass 5 (4):348-358.
    Some truths are necessary, others could have been false. Why? What is the source of the distinction between the necessary and the contingent? What's so special about the necessary truths that account for their necessity? In this article, we look at some of the most promising accounts of the grounds of necessity: David Lewis' reduction of necessity to truth at all possible worlds; Kit Fine's reduction of necessity to essence; and accounts of necessity that take the distinction between the necessary (...)
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  41. Ben Caplan & Kris McDaniel, Mereological Myths.
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  42. James D. Carney & P. von Bretzel (1973). Modern Materialism and Essentialism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 51 (May):78-81.
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  43. Pablo Carnino (2014). Essence et fondation. Les Ateliers de l'Éthique / the Ethics Forum 9 (2):190-204.
    L’orthodoxie dans la littérature florissante au sujet de la fondation (grounding) suggère que cette notion ne peut être analysée ou exprimée en terme d’aucune autre. Par ailleurs, le primitivisme à propos de l’essence est considéré comme très plausible depuis l’article influent de Kit Fine à ce sujet. Cela contraint les philosophes qui emploient ces deux notions à accepter une position doublement primitiviste. Mon objectif principal est de proposer une définition de la fondation en terme d’essence. Je commencerai par présenter la (...)
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  44. William R. Carter (1986). Mapping Semantic Paths: Is Essentialism Relevant? Midwest Studies in Philosophy 11 (1):53-73.
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  45. Richard L. Cartwright (1968). Some Remarks on Essentialism. Journal of Philosophy 65 (20):615-626.
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  46. Roberto Casati & Achille C. Varzi (2000). Topological Essentialism. Philosophical Studies 100 (3):217-236.
    Considering topology as an extension of mereology, this paper analyses topological variants of mereological essentialism (the thesis that an object could not have different parts than the ones it has). In particular, we examine de dicto and de re versions of two theses: (i) that an object cannot change its external connections (e.g., adjacent objects cannot be separated), and (ii) that an object cannot change its topological genus (e.g., a doughnut cannot turn into a sphere). Stronger forms of structural essentialism, (...)
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  47. Gerald Casey (2008). An Argument for Essentialism. Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations 7.
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  48. Quassim Cassam (1986). Science and Essence. Philosophy 61 (235):95--107.
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  49. Troy T. Catterson (forthcoming). Sorting Out the Sortals: A Fregean Argument for Essentialism. Erkenntnis:1-21.
    In his paper, “Identity Statements and Essentialism,” Loux (New Scholast 44:431–439, 1971) seeks to demonstrate sortal essentialism based on Frege’s thesis that all statements of number concerning a collection require that the members fall under the same sortal concept. I shall attempt to argue that a detailed analysis of Loux’s argument reveals it as failing to imply the type of sortal dependency thesis necessary for the justification of sortal essentialism. However, if one construes the transworld identity relation as no different (...)
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  50. Anjan Chakravartty (2003). The Dispositional Essentialist View of Properties and Laws. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 11 (4):393 – 413.
    One view of the nature of properties has been crystallized in recent debate by an identity thesis proposed by Shoemaker. The general idea is that there is for behaviour. Well-known criticisms of this approach, however, remain unanswered, and the details of its connections to laws nothing more to being a particular causal property than conferring certain dispositions of nature and the precise ontology of causal properties stand in need of development. This paper examines and defends a dispositional essentialist account of (...)
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