Possibilities and the arguments for origin essentialism

Mind 107 (428):729-750 (1998)
In this paper, I examine the case that has been made for origin essentialism and find it wanting. I focus on the arguments of Nathan Salmon and Graeme Forbes. Like most origin essentialists, Salmon and Forbes have been concerned to respect the intuition that slight variation in the origin of an artifact or organism is possible. But, I argue, both of their arguments fail to respect this intuition. Salmon's argument depends on a sufficiency principle for cross-world identity, which should be rejected, if - as Salmon concedes - a given artifact might have been originally made from slightly different material. Similarly, Forbes's argument succeeds only if essentially the same argument can be used to establish a claim that - by his own admission - is too strong, namely that no variation, however slight, in an organism's origin is possible.
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