Generic essence, objectual essence, and modality

Noûs 40 (4):753–767 (2006)
When thinking about the notion of essence or of an essential feature, philosophers typically focus on what I will call the notion of objectual essence. The main aim of this paper is to argue that beside this familiar notion stands another one, the notion of generic essence, which contrary to appearance cannot be understood in terms of the familiar notion, and which also fails to be correctly characterized by certain other accounts which naturally come to mind as well. Some of my objections to these accounts are similar to some of Kit Fine’s compelling objections to the standard modal account of (objectual) essence (Fine 1994). In the light of these objections, Fine advances the view that it is metaphysical necessity which has to be understood in terms of essence, rather than the other way around, and takes essence to be unanalyzable. When formulatinghis view, Fine had only objectual essence in mind (or had both concepts in mind, but assumed that the generic is a special case of the objectual), and for that reason, I will argue, his account fails. I will suggest that Fineans should modify their view, and take it that metaphysical necessity is to be understood in terms of the two notions of essence—a view I myself find appealing. Finally, I will end by suggesting a further move which reduces the objectual to the generic, making metaphysical necessity reducible to generic essence alone—a move with which I myself have some sympathy.
Keywords Objectual essence  Generic essence  Modality
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.1468-0068.2006.00632.x
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 15,974
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Kit Fine (1994). Essence and Modality. Philosophical Perspectives 8:1-16.
Kit Fine (1995). Ontological Dependence. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 95:269 - 290.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Sam Cowling (2013). Ideological Parsimony. Synthese 190 (17):3889-3908.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

130 ( #16,315 of 1,725,806 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

13 ( #53,203 of 1,725,806 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.