Essences and natural kinds

In Robin Le Poidevin (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Metaphysics. Routledge. 497--506 (2009)
Abstract
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 essential properties to be those that an object has in virtue of its identity, while other essentialists refer (as Fine also does) to the nature of an object as the source of its essential properties. It is sometimes important to distinguish the essential properties of a thing and the ‘full’ essence of a thing. The latter is the set of the essential properties of a thing, when that set necessarily suffices to determine the thing’s identity. One might hold that something has essential properties without agreeing that it has an identity-determining essence. Essentialism was largely in abeyance during the first two thirds of the twentieth century thanks to the domination of analytic philosophy by anti-metaphysical logical empiricism and the linguistic turn. The rehabilitation of essentialism owes much to the development of a formal apparatus for the understanding of modality more generally, thanks to C. I. Lewis, Ruth Barcan Marcus, and Saul Kripke. Kripke’s discussion of essentialism both about individuals and also about about natural kinds brought essentialism to wider philosophical prominence. Natural kind essentialism, which finds its modern genesis also in the work of Hilary Putnam, claims that natural kinds have essential properties: to say that possession of property P is is part of the essence of the kind K implies that, necessarily, every member or sample of the kind K possesses P. Essentialism about individuals has been linked to thinking about natural kinds by the contentious claim that one of the essential properties of any entity is that it belongs to the natural kind (or kinds) it actually belongs to. In this chapter I shall first outline certain claims and arguments concerning essentialism concerning individuals (Section 2)..
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Citations of this work BETA
M. J. Cain (2012). Essentialism, Externalism, and Human Nature. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 70:29-51.
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