It is my aim in this paper to show that the contemporary assimilation of essence to modality is fundamentally misguided and that, as a consequence, the corresponding conception of metaphysics should be given up. It is not my view that the modal account fails to capture anything which might reasonably be called a concept of essence. My point, rather, is that the notion of essence which is of central importance to the metaphysics of identity is not to (...) be understood in modal terms or even to be regarded as extensionally equivalent to a modal notion. The one notion is, if I am right, a highly refined version of the other; it is like a sieve which performs a similar function but with a much finer mesh. (shrink)
Dispositional essentialists argue that physical properties have their causal roles essentially. This is typically taken to mean that physical properties are identical to dispositions. I argue that this is untenable, and that we must instead say that properties bestow dispositions. I explore what it is for a property to have such a role essentially. Dispositional essentialists argue for their view by citing certain epistemological and metaphysical implications, and I appeal to these implications to place desiderata on the concept of (...) class='Hi'>essence involved. I argue that the traditional modal theory of essence meets these desiderata, but that the resulting theory wrongly implies that certain dispositions essential to mass are essential to charge, thereby offering a new argument against modal theories of essence. I argue that dispositional essentialism requires a primitive notion of essence, and develop a primitivist theory based on Kit Fine's views. I show that the primitivist theory has all the virtues of the modal alternative, and none of the vices. I develop a novel way of thinking about the relationship between properties, laws and dispositions, and argue that it has distinct advantages over standard dispositional essentialist formulations. (shrink)
This paper provides a possible worlds semantics for the system of the author's previous paper 'The Logic of Essence'. The basic idea behind the semantics is that a statement should be taken to be true in virtue of the nature of certain objects just in case it is true in any possible world compatible with the nature of those objects. It is shown that a slight variant of the original system is sound and complete under the proposed semantics.
Modal epistemology has been dominated by a focus on establishing an account either of how we have modal knowledge or how we have justified beliefs about modality. One component of this focus has been that necessity and possibility are basic access points for modal reasoning. For example, knowing that P is necessary plays a role in deducing that P is essential, and knowing that both P and ¬P are possible plays a role in knowing that P is accidental. Chalmers (2002) (...) and Williamson (2007) provide two good examples of contrasting views in modal epistemology that focus on providing an account of modal knowledge where necessity and possibility are basic access points for modal knowledge, and Yablo (1993) provides a good account of how we have justified beliefs about modality. In contrast to this tradition I argue for and outline a modal epistemology based on objectual understanding and essence, rather than knowledge or justification and necessity and possibility. The account employs a non-modal conception of essence and takes objectual understanding of essence, rather than knowledge of essence to be basic in modal reasoning. I begin by articulating Kvanvig’s (2003) account of objectual understanding, on which objectual understanding of Φ is not equivalent to propositional knowledge of Φ. I then argue that an epistemology of essence that uses property variation-in-imagination is better construed as a model that delivers objectual understanding of essence rather than knowledge of essence. I argue that this is so, since the latter and not the former runs into a version of the Meno paradox. I show how this account can be applied to two issues in modal epistemology: the Benacerraf problem for modality, and the architecture of modal knowledge. (shrink)
The purpose of the present paper is to provide a way of understanding systems of logic of essence by introducing a new semantic framework for them. Three central results are achieved: first, the now standard Fitting semantics for the propositional logic of evidence is adapted in order to provide a new, simplified semantics for the propositional logic of essence; secondly, we show how it is possible to construe the concept of necessary truth explicitly by using the concept of (...) essential truth; finally, Fitting semantics is adapted in order to present a simplified semantics for the quantified logic of essence. (shrink)
According to David Charles, in the Meno Socrates fleetingly distinguishes the signification from the essence question, but, in the end, he conflates them. Doing so, Charles thinks, both leads to Meno's paradox and prevents Socrates from answering it satisfactorily. I argue that Socrates doesn't conflate the two questions, and that his reply to Meno's paradox is more satisfactory than Charles allows.
Aquinas’ philosophy is revolutionary, especially his doctrine of essence within the context of natural philosophy has transcended that of Aristotle. The principal distinctions between the doctrines of Aquinas and Aristotle are demonstrated in four layers which are entity-nature, compositeness, particularity and potentiality of essence. Aquinas not only overturns and reforms the Western traditional view of essence, but also constructs a prominent “joint” connecting essentialism to existentialism in Western philosophy.
Early in Aristotle’s terminology, and ever since, “essence” has been conceived as having two meanings, namely “universality” and “individuality”. According to the tradition of thought that has dominated throughout the history of Western philosophy, “essence” unequivocally refers to “universality”. As a matter of fact, however, “universality” cannot cover Aristotle’s definition and formulation of “essence”: Essence is what makes a thing “happen to be this thing.” “Individuality” should be the deep meaning of “essence”. By means of (...) an analysis of some relevant Western thoughts and a review of cultural realities, it can be concluded that the difference between the attitudes toward things of the natural sciences and the humane sciences mainly lies in the fact that the former focus on the pursuit of universal regularity, whereas the latter go after the value and significance of human life. The movement from natural things to cultural things is a process in which essence shifts from universality to individuality. It is the author’s contention that what should be stressed in the fields of human culture and society is the construction of an ideal society that is “harmonious yet not identical”, on the basis of respecting and developing individual peculiarity and otherness. (shrink)
Following postmodernism, post-colonialism reflects modernity from a new perspective-the cultural perspective. Post-colonialism interprets colonialism contained in modernity, deconstructs orientalism and cultural hegemonism, and turns western reflection of modernity into an inquiry about the global relationship between the East and the West. Post-colonialism brings forward a new theoretical domain, that is, the colonizational relationship between the East and the West in the process of modernization. This interpretation expresses a strong tendency of anti-western centrality and shares some ideas with Marxism. This article (...) discusses the essence, characteristics, and limitation of post-colonialism from the viewpoint of Marxism, expecting to further the study of post-colonialism and its relationship with Marxism. (shrink)
If modernity is manifested as essentialism, postmodernity is manifested as anti-essentialism. Modernity is, in essence, human beings’ discovery of their own power, and is based on rational knowledge that has grasped the essence of things. In fact, in the discourse system of modernity, the various concepts of “essence” connote nothing but people’s imaginative constructions and rational conjectures about objects. In the past, our order, be it internal or external, was in essence guaranteed by God. Afterwards, all (...) “essences”, as essences, must rationally prove the reason for their existence. In the postmodern context and discourse system, God, and also the “human being” who has created essence, has “died”. We should not simply resume the belief in traditional essence, but should reconstruct, on the basis of a full understanding of the intellectual meaning of postmodernity’s challenges, some historicity, practicality, and the concept of essence that accords with the historical as well as communicative rationality. We must realize that the essence of things is the essence of particular things in a particular stage of development, internally containing infinite differences and variety. Only things with postmodern traits contain modernity, and only the concept of essence that conceives difference accords with time. (shrink)
Educational reforms in developed countries are not successful, because we do not have a clear understanding of what is education. The essence of education is the limits of its improvement. Education is understood as the artificial extension of human ability to learn, as the product of learner's own efforts, and finally, as a series of historic forms of labor arrangements.
In this article I consider whether Aquinas’ arguments for the claim that God is His essence are conclusive, and what was his purpose of upholding this thesis. I show his proofs from Summa Theologiae and Summa Contra Gentiles to be problematic and argue that the defense of Aquinas’ views on that matter suggested by certain remarks of P. T. Geach is flawed.
Book Review of Paul Ricœur, Être, essence et substance chez Platon et Aristote. Cours professé à l’université de Strasbourg en 1953-1954. Texte vérifié et annoté par Jean-Louis Schlegel , (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2011), 348 pp.
We say that things happen accidentally when they do indeed happen, but only by chance. In the opposite situation, an essential happening is inescapable, its inevitability being the sine qua non for its very occurrence. This paper will investigate modal logics on a language tailored to talk about essential and accidental statements. Completeness of some among the weakest and the strongest such systems is attained. The weak expressibility of the classical propositional language enriched with the non-normal modal operators of (...) class='Hi'>essence and accident is highlighted and illustrated, both with respect to the definability of the more usual modal operators as well as with respect to the characterizability of classes of frames. Several interesting problems and directions are left open for exploration. (shrink)
Early in Aristotle's terminology, and ever since, "essence" has been conceived as having two meanings, namely "universality" and "individuality". According to the tradition of thought that has dominated throughout the history of Western philosophy, "essence" unequivocally refers to "universality". As a matter of fact, however, "universality" cannot cover Aristotle's definition and formulation of "essence": Essence is what makes a thing "happen to be this thing." "Individuality" should be the deep meaning of "essence". By means of (...) an analysis of some relevant Western thoughts and a review of cultural realities, it can be concluded that the difference between the attitudes toward things of the natural sciences and the humane sciences mainly lies in the fact that the former focus on the pursuit of universal regularity, whereas the latter go after the value and significance of human life. The movement from natural things to cultural things is a process in which essence shifts from universality to individuality. It is the author's contention that what should be stressed in the fields of human culture and society is the construction of an ideal society that is "harmonious yet not identical", on the basis of respecting and developing individual peculiarity and otherness. /// "本质" 最早在亚里士多德的用语中包含有两重含义: 是指 "普遍的东 西" ("共相")，一是指 "个体的东西" ("这个")。在西方哲学史上民期占统治 地位的思想片面地认为: "本质" 就是指 "普遍的东西"。但实际上"普遍的东 西" 并不能涵盖亚里士多德对 "本质" 的界定和表述t 本质是使一事物 "恰恰地是 这个事物"的东西。"本质" 的深层含义应是 "个体性"。通过对西方一些相关思 想观点的分析和文化现实的考察，可以得出结论z 自然科学与人文科学对待事物的 态度的区别在于z 前者重普遍性规律的追求，后者重个体性的人生价值意义的追求。 从自然物到文化物是一个由以普遍性为本质到以个体性为本质的转化过程。在人文 社会领域应该强调的是z 在尊重和发扬个人的独特性和差异性的基础上，建立 "和而 不同"的理想社会。. (shrink)
L’une des tâches de la phénoménologie transcendantale, que Husserl lui-même définit comme une science éidétique des phénomènes transcendentalement réduits, est de découvrir des lois a priori matérielles d’un type spécial : des lois éidétiques descriptives établies sur la base de concepts descriptifs purs. Cet article s’attache d’abord à préciser la notion husserlienne d’essence au le sens large, définie comme une fonction d’état-de-choses (Sachverhaltsfunktion) ; une telle fonction noématique est le corrélat « objectif » de cette fonction propositionnelle que nous (...) appelons « concept » et qui est une partie de la proposition, c’est-à-dire de la visée-d’état-de-choses (Sachverhaltsmeinung) par laquelle on projette un état-de-choses. En revanche, par essences au sens étroit ou strict on entend ces essences pures que Husserl appelle « Eide ». Le concept d’essence pure propre à l’éidétique descriptive phénoménologique est ainsi clarifié par une explication de la notion husserlienne de « concept descriptif pure », dans le but de montrer comment ces concepts, qui sont des pures concepts de types, se distinguent des concept descriptifs impures, et notamment des concepts dénotant des genres naturels. Fondées exclusivement sur des concepts descriptifs purs, les lois éidétiques descriptives (Wesensgesetze) possèdent des conditions de vérités particulières et nécessitent de modalités d’examen tout autant spécifiques. La place propre à la méthode appelée « variation éidétique » est justement celle de examiner, falsifier ou justifier des lois éidétiques descriptives présumées. A partir de cas exemplaires d’états-de-choses familiers confirmant les lois présumées, la variation libre, qui opère dans la pure imagination, a pour tâche de construire des contre-exemples possibles dont le but est de falsifier la loi éidétique présumée. La propriété d’être falsifiable par des contre-exemples construits dans la pure imagination permet de distinguer les lois empiriques des lois éidétiques descriptives de l’éidétique husserlienne. La possibilité de falsifier par des contre-exemples fictionnels ou factuels montre que la phénoménologie transcendantale est une entreprise scientifique ouverte à l’examen intersubjectif, et cela justement en raison de son caractère éidétique. (shrink)
Realist essentialists face a prima facie challenge in accounting for our knowledge of the essences of things, and in particular, in justifying our engaging in thought experiments to gain such knowledge. In contrast, conferralist essentialism has an attractive story to tell about how we gain knowledge of the essences of things, and how thought experiments are a justified method for gaining such knowledge. The conferralist story is told in this essay.
This paper presents a propositional version of Kit Fine's (quantified) logic for essentialist statements, provides it with a semantics, and proves the former adequate (i.e. sound and complete) with respect to the latter.
Amongst the entities making up social reality, are there necessary relations whose necessity is not a mere reflection of the logical connections between corresponding concepts? We distinguish three main groups of answers to this question, associated with Hume and Adolf Reinach at opposite extremes, and with Searle who occupies a position somewhere in the middle. We first set forth Reinach’s views on what he calls ‘material necessities’ in the realm of social entities. We then attempt to show that Searle has (...) not identified a sustainable position somewhere between the Humean and the Reinachian extremes. This is because Searle’s position is threatened by circularity, and to steer clear of that danger it must incorporate at least some elements of Reinach’s essentialism. (shrink)
An essential property is a property that an object possesses in every possible world in which that object exists. An individual essence is a property (or set of properties) that an object possesses in every world in which that object exists, and that no other object possesses in any possible world. Call the claim that some artifacts possess an individual essence ‘artifactual essentialism’. I will argue that artifactual essentialism is true.
In his influential paper ‘‘Essence and Modality’’, Kit Fine argues that no account of essence framed in terms of metaphysical necessity is possible, and that it is rather metaphysical necessity which is to be understood in terms of essence. On his account, the concept of essence is primitive, and for a proposition to be metaphysically necessary is for it to be true in virtue of the nature of all things. Fine also proposes a reduction of conceptual (...) and logical necessity in the same vein: a conceptual necessity is a proposition true in virtue of the nature of all concepts, and a logical necessity a proposition true in virtue of the nature of all logical concepts. I argue that the plausibility of Fine's view crucially requires that certain apparent explanatory links between essentialist facts be admitted and accounted for, and I make a suggestion about how this can be done. I then argue against the reductions of conceptual and logical necessity proposed by Fine and suggest alternative reductions, which remain nevertheless Finean in spirit. (shrink)
The distinction between the essence of an object and its properties has been obscured in contemporary discussion of essentialism. Locke held that the properties of an object are exclusively those features that ‘flow’ from its essence. Here he follows the Aristotelian theory, leaving aside Locke’s own scepticism about the knowability of essence. I defend the need to distinguish sharply between essence and properties, arguing that essence must be given by form and that properties flow from (...) form. I give a precise definition of what the term of art ‘flow’ amounts to, and apply the distinction to various kinds of taxonomic issues. (shrink)
Traditional debate on the metaphysics of gender has been a contrast of essentialist and social-constructionist positions. The standard reaction to this opposition is that neither position alone has the theoretical resources required to satisfy an equitable politics. This has caused a number of theorists to suggest ways in which gender is unified on the basis of social rather than biological characteristics but is “real” or “objective” nonetheless – a position I term social objectivism. This essay begins by making explicit the (...) motivations for, and central assumptions of, social objectivism. I then propose that gender is better understood as a real kind with a historical essence, analogous to the biologist’s claim that species are historical entities. I argue that this proposal achieves a better solution to the problems that motivate social objectivism. Moreover, the account is consistent with a post-positivist understanding of the classificatory practices employed within the natural and social sciences. (shrink)
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.
Some recently-proposed counterexamples to the traditional definition of essential property do not require a separate logic of essence. Instead, the examples can be analysed in terms of the logic and theory of abstract objects. This theory distinguishes between abstract and ordinary objects, and provides a general analysis of the essential properties of both kinds of object. The claim ‘x has F necessarily’ becomes ambiguous in the case of abstract objects, and in the case of ordinary objects there are various (...) ways to make the definition of ‘F is essential to x’ more fine-grained. Consequently, the traditional definition of essential property for abstract objects in terms of modal notions is not correct, and for ordinary objects the relationship between essential properties and modality, once properly understood, addresses the counterexample. (shrink)
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 is free of essentialist involvement. I propose the contrary-logical predications are to be explained as a special kind of essentialist attributions. (shrink)
Our epistemic access to essence is a topic which has received very little attention. This is partly due to the mystery surrounding the notion of essence itself, and partly due to the sheer difficulty of developing a plausible epistemology. The need for such an account is clear: if there are any essences, we better have some story about how we come to know them. The starting point of this paper is an Aristotelian conception of essence; familiar from (...) the work of Kit Fine, E. J. Lowe, David S. Oderberg, and others, i.e., essence is ontologically prior to modality. I introduce four options regarding our epistemic access to essence. These fall in two groups: we could gain knowledge about essence either directly, or via modal knowledge. Furthermore, each of these routes to essence could be either a priori or a posteriori (or a combination of the two). The advantages and disadvantages of each approach will be analysed, and I will ultimately defend the view according to which our epistemic access to essence is via our a priori knowledge of metaphysical modality. (shrink)
I argue that clarity about essence provides the tools both to isolate a distinct concept of art and to see why anti-essentialism is a plausible, though incomplete, doctrine about it. While this concept is not the only concept currently expressed by our word ‘art’, it is an interesting, and might be an important, one. One of the challenges it poses to conceptual analysis is to explain what it is to be better than being good of a thing's kind, where (...) this extra-goodness is neither a trivial fact nor simply a matter of being a good instance of two different kinds of thing. While anti-essentialism seems to be right about what types of analysis will not work for it, this result only deepens the question of what its proper analysis is. (shrink)
In the opening to his late essay, Der Gedanke, Frege asserts without qualification that the word "true" points the way for logic. But in a short piece from his Nachlass entitled "y Basic Logical Insights", Frege writes that the word true makes an unsuccessful attempt to point to the essence of logic, asserting instead that "what really pertains to logic lies not in the word "true" but in the assertoric force with which the sentence is uttered". Properly understanding what (...) Frege takes to be at issue here is crucial for understanding his conception of logic and, in particular, what he takes to be its normative status vis-à-vis judgement, assertion, and inference. In this paper, I focus my attention on clarifying the latter claim and Frege's motivations for making it, exposing what I take to be a fundamental tension in Frege's conception of logic. Finally, I discuss whether Frege's deployment of the horizontal in his mature Begriffsschrift helps to resolve this tension. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
In ‘Two Notions of Being: Entity and Essence’ E. J. Lowe defends “serious essentialism”. Serious essentialism is the position that (a) everything has an essence, (b) essences are not themselves things, and (c) essences are the ground for metaphysical necessity and possi- bility. Lowe’s defence of serious essentialism is both metaphysical and epistemological. In what follows I use Lowe’s discussion as a point of departure for, first, adding some considerations for the plausi- bility of essentialismand, second, somework onmodal (...) epistemology. (shrink)
This paper discusses Heidegger's 1931-32 lecture course on The Essence of Truth. It argues that Heidegger read Platonic ideas, not only as stage-setting for the western philosophical tradition's privileging of conceptualization over practice, and its correlative treatment of truth as correctness, but also as an early attempt to work through truth as the fundamental experience of unhiddenness. Wrathall shows how several of Heidegger's more-famous claims about truth, e.g. that propositional truth is grounded in truth as world-disclosure, and including Heidegger's (...) critique of the self-evidence of truth as correspondence, are first revealed in a powerful (if iconoclastic) reading of Plato. (shrink)
I argue against a prevailing view that the essence of Godis identical with the attributes. I show that given what Spinoza says in 2d2 – Spinoza'spurported definition of the essence of a thing – the attributes cannot be identical withthe essence of God (whether the essence of God is understood as the distinct attributesor as a totality of indistinct attributes). I argue that while the attributes do notsatisfy the stipulations of 2d2 relative to God, absolutely infinite (...) and eternal power does satisfythose stipulations. Hence, I conclude that absolutely infinite and eternal power is God'sessence and that the attributes are expressions of that power. (shrink)
This paper studies the first metaphysical theory in Arabic philosophy, that of al-Kindi, as found in "On First Philosophy" and other of his works. Placing these works against the background of translations produced in al-Kindi's circle (the "Theology of Aristotle," which is the Arabic version of Plotinus, and the "Liber de Causis," the Arabic version of Proclus' "Elements of Theology"), it argues that al-Kindi has two conceptions of being: "simple" being, which excludes predication and derives from Neoplatonism, and "complex" being, (...) which is based on Aristotle's notion of substance. At the end of the paper the "simple" notion of being is seen to anticipate in some respects Avicenna's distinction between existence and essence. (shrink)
Essence and causation are fundamental in metaphysics, but little is said about their relations. Some essential properties are of course causal, as it is essential to footprints to have been caused by feet. But I am interested less in causation's role in essence than the reverse: the bearing a thing's essence has on its causal powers. That essencemight make a causal contribution is hinted already by the counterfactual element in causation; and the hint is confirmed by the (...) explanation essence offers of something otherwise mysterious, namely, how events exactly alike in every ordinary respect, like the bolt'ssuddenly snapping and its snapping per se, manage to disagree in what they cause. Some prior difference must exist between these events to make their causal powers unlike. Paradoxically, though, it can only be in point of a property, suddenness, which both events possess in common. Only by postulating a difference in themanner — essential or accidental — of the property's possession is the paradox resolved. Next we need an account of causation in which essence plays an explicit determinative role. That account, based on the idea that causes should becommensurate with their effects, is thatx causesy only if nothing essentially poorer would have done, and nothing essentially richer was needed. (shrink)
Two radically different, general accounts of human character traits - the "essentialist" and the "summary" accounts - are given critical consideration. The former account is characterized in terms of Saul Kripke's conception of metaphysical essence. Both accounts are discussed with reference to Jean-Paul Sartre's treatment of character traits. The essentialist account cannot withstand considerations relating to personal identity over time. The summary account is also rejected, as is a certain kind of dispositional account. An approach to at least some (...) character traits in terms of persisting aims, beliefs, and so on is recommended. (shrink)
This paper addresses D. C. Williams’s question, “How can Leibniz know that he is a member of the actual world and not merely a possible monad on the shelf of essence?” A variety of answers are considered. Ultimately, it is argued that no particular perception of a state of affairs in the world can warrant knowledge of one’s actuality, nor can the awareness of any property within oneself; rather, it is the nature of experience itself, with the flow of (...) perceptions, that guarantees our actuality. A consequence of this view is that no non-actual individuals can truly be said to experience their worlds, nor can they ask the question if they are actual or not. (shrink)
Aristotle's claim in Metaphysics Z.6 that "each substance is the same as its essence" has long puzzled commentators. For it seems to conflict with two other Aristotelian theses: (1) primary substances are individuals (e.g., Socrates and Callias), and (2) essences are universals (e.g., Man and Horse). Three traditional solutions to this difficulty are considered and rejected. Instead, to make the Z.6 equation consistent with (1) and (2), I propose that it be interpreted to be making something other than a (...) straightforward identity claim. Callias is the same as his essence in the sense that to be identical to Callias is to be the same man as Callias (where Man is the essence of Callias). In general, x is identical to y if, and only if, x and y are the same E (where E specifies the "what it is to be" for x, i.e., the essence of x). So each of Socrates and Callias is the same as his essence, and Man is that essence, but Socrates and Callias are not identical, for they are not the same man. (shrink)
David Charles presents a major new study of Aristotle's views on meaning, essence, necessity, and related topics. These interconnected views are central to Aristotle's metaphysics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of science, and are also highly relevant to current philosophical debates. Charles aims to reach a clear understanding of Aristotle's claims and arguments, to assess their truth, and to evaluate their importance to ancient and modern philosophy.
Many philosophers have thought that colours or flavours or values are in some way less objective than shape or mass or motion. This paper explores the approach to capturing this thought that is based on the idea of ‘response-dependence’. First, it is argued that the conceptions of response-dependence developed by Mark Johnston, Philip Pettit and Crispin Wright fail to capture this thought adequately. Then, the rest of the paper proposes an alternative conception, based in part on Kit Fine's notion of (...) "essence", which looks more likely to succeed in capturing the thought adequately. (shrink)
This is a transcription of a debate on the concept of a person conducted in Moscow in 1983. David Bakhurst argues that Evald Ilyenkov's social constructivist conception of personhood, founded on Marx's thesis that the human essence is 'the ensemble of social relations', is either false or trivially true. F. T. Mikhailov, V. S. Bibler, V. A. Lektorsky and V. V. Davydov critically assess Bakhurst's arguments, elucidate and contextualize Ilyenkov's views, and defend, in contrasting ways, the claim that (...) human individuals are socially constituted beings. Issues discussed include: the concepts of activity (dejatel'nost') and community (obščenija) and their relevance to the notions of mind and personhood; self-consciousness and its relation to personal identity; naturalism in Soviet thought. Translated from the Russian. (shrink)