About this topic
Summary Essentialists hold that at least a certain range of entities can be meaningfully said to have essences or natures independently of how these entities figure in our specifically human activities (e.g., linguistic, mental, social, conventional, explanatory, inferential or other practices).  Anti-essentialists of various stripes (e.g., anti-realists, social constructivists, conventionalists, conferralists, pragmatists, etc.) deny that entities have essences in this sense.  Commonly (at least in non-historical contexts) the essence/accident distinction is drawn in terms of a distinction between the essential and accidental properties of an entity; but the claim that essences should be thought of as properties or collections thereof is by no means uncontroversial.  Following Aristotle, the essence/accident distinction is often characterized in terms of different types of changes that an entity could or could not survive, revealing simultaneously a connection between the notions of essence and substance: while entities can persist through non-substantial changes, i.e., changes with respect to their accidents, no entity can persist through a substantial change, i.e., a change with respect to its essence; a substantial change therefore is one in which an entity comes into or goes out of existence.  Other (often related) characterizations of the essence/accident distinction also exist in the literature: for example, essences are linked with the classification of entities into kinds (especially natural kinds), persistence conditions, modal profiles, individuation, unity, as well as explanation and the formulation of general laws.  Essences and conceptions of essence come in many different flavors: for example, we can distinguish between individual and kind essences; historical (genealogical, origin) essences and non-historical essences; as well as between intrinsic vs. relational/extrinsic essences.  Modalists conceive of essences in modal terms, while non-modalists take facts about essences as basic and hold that necessity in some way “flows” from essence.  While the exact nature of this alleged connection between non-modal essence and necessity still remains to be worked out, candidate proposals include appeals to logical consequence, metaphysical explanation (e.g., as associated with grounding or ontological dependence) or causation (e.g., formal causation).  
Key works Essences have been a central philosophical concern throughout the history of Western philosophy, going back at least to the Socratic practice of asking “What is F?” questions.  In modern times, so-called “Aristotelian essentialism” was famously subjected to criticism by W.V.O. Quine (e.g., in Quine 1955), but rehabilitated, e.g., by Ruth Barcan Marcus (e.g., in Marcus 1971) and Saul Kripke (e.g., in Kripke 1980).  The recent revival of Aristotelian essentialism in metaphysics can mostly be traced to Kit Fine’s influential defense of a non-modal conception of essence (e.g., in Fine 1994, Fine 1994, Fine 1994, Fine 1995, Fine 2000).  Modal accounts of essence can be found, for example, in Forbes 1985, Lewis 1986, Mackie 2006, Plantinga 1974.  
Introductions Robertson & Atkins 2013, Roca-Royes 2011, Roca-Royes 2011
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  1. Santayana's Anticipations of Deleuze: Total Natural Events and Quasi-Pragmatism.Joshua M. Hall - 2017 - Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 53 (2):270.
    In a monograph published last year, literary theorist Mark Noble notes that, in the way Deleuze understands the relationship between materialism and subjectivity, Deleuze “also sounds curiously like Santayana.” For example, the work of both philosophers “locates human value in a source at once immanent and alien.” Noble also wonders “whether the lesson of Santayana’s own negotiation with his tendency to humanize the non-human ground of experience also anticipates the thrill Deleuze chases when positing the univocity of being.” In the (...)
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Essentialism and Quantified Modal Logic
  1. The Reduction of Necessity to Essence.Andreas Ditter - 2020 - Mind 129 (514):351-380.
    In `Essence and Modality', Kit Fine proposes that for a proposition to be metaphysically necessary is for it to be true in virtue of the nature of all objects whatsoever. Call this view Fine's Thesis. This paper is a study of Fine's Thesis in the context of Fine's logic of essence (LE). Fine himself has offered his most elaborate defense of the thesis in the context of LE. His defense rests on the widely shared assumption that metaphysical necessity obeys the (...)
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  2. Essence, Modality, and Intrinsicality.Gaétan Bovey - forthcoming - Synthese:1-23.
    Kit Fine famously objected against the idea that essence can be successfully analyzed in terms of de re necessity. In response, I want to explore a novel, interesting, but controversial modal account of essence in terms of intrinsicality and grounding. In the first section, I will single out two theoretical requirements that any essentialist theory should meet—the essentialist desideratum and the essentialist challenge—in order to clarify Fine’s objections. In the second section, I will assess Denby’s improved modal account, which appeals (...)
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  3. Toward a Scotistic Modal Metaphysics.Woosuk Park - 1998 - The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 9:48-54.
    The problem I tackle in this article is: Do we have in Scotus a modal logic or a counterpart theory? We need to take a rather roundabout path to handle this problem. This is because, whether it be in Lewis's original formulation or in others' applications, the crucial concept of 'counterpart' has never been clearly explicated. In section two, I shall therefore examine the recent controversy concerning Leibniz's views on modalities which centers around the counterpart relation. By fully exploiting the (...)
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  4. A response to Chisholm’s paradox.Andrew Dennis Bassford - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (4):1137-1155.
    Essentialists suppose that for every individual, if that individual exists at any possible world, then necessarily that individual exemplifies some non-trivial qualitative property essential to it, as such. Anti-essentialists deny this. One important argument leveled by some anti-essentialists against essentialism takes the form of a thought experiment, one originally introduced by Chisholm :1–8, 1967), sometimes referred to as Chisholm’s Paradox. In this essay, I defend essentialism against CP. I begin by presenting the argument and showing how it leads to a (...)
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  5. The Essence of Grounding.Justin Zylstra - 2019 - Synthese 196 (12):5137-5152.
    I develop a reduction of grounding to essence. My approach is to think about the relation between grounding and essence on the model of a certain conceptof existential dependence. I extend this concept of existential dependence in a coupleof ways and argue that these extensions provide a reduction of grounding to essenceif we use sorted variables that range over facts and take it that for a fact to obtain is forit to exist. I then use the account to resolve various (...)
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  6. A Note on Logics of Essence and Accident.David R. Gilbert & Giorgio Venturi - forthcoming - Logic Journal of the IGPL.
  7. Collective Essence and Monotonicity.Justin Zylstra - 2019 - Erkenntnis 84 (5):1087-1101.
    This paper focuses on the concept of collective essence: that some truths are essential to many items taken together. For example, that it is essential to conjunction and negation that they are truth-functionally complete. The concept of collective essence is one of the main innovations of recent work on the theory of essence. In a sense, this innovation is natural, since we make all sorts of plural predications. It stands to reason that there should be a distinction between essential and (...)
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  8. Essence and Explanation: A Logical Mismatch.Aaron Segal & Noga Gratvol - forthcoming - Tandf: Inquiry:1-13.
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  9. Essence and Logical Properties.Hashem Morvarid - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (11):2897-2917.
    Since Kit Fine presented his counter-examples to the standard versions of the modal view, many have been convinced that the standard versions of the modal view are not adequate. However, the scope of Fine's argument has not been fully appreciated. In this paper, I aim to carry Fine’s argument to its logical conclusion and argue that once we embrace the intuition underlying his counter-examples, we have to hold that properties obtained, totally or partially, by application of logical operations are not (...)
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  10. Constitutive and Consequentialist Essence.Justin Zylstra - 2019 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 8 (3):190-199.
    Thought: A Journal of Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  11. Strong Noncontingency: On the Modal Logics of an Operator Expressively Weaker Than Necessity.Jie Fan - 2019 - Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 60 (3):407-435.
    Operators can be compared in at least two respects: expressive strength and deductive strength. Inspired by Hintikka’s treatment of question embedding verbs, the variations of noncontingency operator, and also the various combinations of modal operators and Boolean connectives, we propose a logic with strong noncontingency operator as the only primitive modality. The novel operator is deductively but not expressively stronger than both noncontingency operator and essence operator, and expressively but not deductively weaker than the necessity operator. The frame-definability power of (...)
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  12. Relativized Metaphysical Modality: Index and Context.Benj Hellie, Adam Russell Murray & Jessica Wilson - forthcoming - In Otávio Bueno & Scott Shalkowski (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Modality. New York: Routledge.
    Relativized Metaphysical Modality (RMM: Murray and Wilson, 'Relativized metaphysical modality', Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, 2012; Murray, Perspectives on Modal Metaphysics, 2017) exploits 'two-dimensionalist' resources to metaphysical, rather than epistemological, ends: the second dimension offers perspective-dependence without contingency, diverting attacks on 'Classical' analyses of modals (in effect, analyses validating S5 and the Barcan Formulae). Here, we extend the RMM program in two directions. First, we harvest resources for RMM from Lewis's 1980 'Context--Index' (CI) framework: (a) the ban in CI on binding (...)
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  13. Aristotle's Modal Logic: Essence and Entailment in the Organon. [REVIEW]Leo J. Elders - 1997 - Review of Metaphysics 50 (4):915-915.
    Quite a number of contemporary students of logic tend to consider Aristotle's logic mainly from a formal point of view. Richard Patterson, on the other hand, attempts to show that Aristotle's system of logic as well as his modal logic must be studied in the light of his fundamental theory of syntax and his metaphysics. Even if all of Aristotle's modal logic has not been accepted in the West, the ideas underpinning it are those of his syllogistic logic. Patterson observes (...)
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  14. Is Self-Identity Essential to Objects?Nicola Spinelli - 2019 - Synthese:1-17.
    A common view is that self-identity is essential to objects if anything is. Itself a substantive metaphysical view, this is a position of some import in wider debates, particularly in connection with such problems as physicalism and personal identity. In this article I challenge the view. I distinguish between two accounts of essence, the modal and the definitional, and argue that self-identity is essential to objects on the former but not on the latter. After laying out my case, I deal (...)
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  15. On How (Not) to Define Modality in Terms of Essence.Robert Michels - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (4):1015-1033.
    In his influential article ‘Essence and Modality’, Fine proposes a definition of necessity in terms of the primitive essentialist notion ‘true in virtue of the nature of’. Fine’s proposal is suggestive, but it admits of different interpretations, leaving it unsettled what the precise formulation of an Essentialist definition of necessity should be. In this paper, four different versions of the definition are discussed: a singular, a plural reading, and an existential variant of Fine’s original suggestion and an alternative version proposed (...)
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  16. Automating Leibniz’s Theory of Concepts.Paul Edward Oppenheimer, Jesse Alama & Edward N. Zalta - 2015 - In Amy P. Felty & Aart Middeldorp (eds.), Automated Deduction – CADE 25: Proceedings of the 25th International Conference on Automated Deduction (Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence: Volume 9195), Berlin: Springer. Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 73-97.
    Our computational metaphysics group describes its use of automated reasoning tools to study Leibniz’s theory of concepts. We start with a reconstruction of Leibniz’s theory within the theory of abstract objects (henceforth ‘object theory’). Leibniz’s theory of concepts, under this reconstruction, has a non-modal algebra of concepts, a concept-containment theory of truth, and a modal metaphysics of complete individual concepts. We show how the object-theoretic reconstruction of these components of Leibniz’s theory can be represented for investigation by means of automated (...)
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  17. Contingent Existence and the Reduction of Modality to Essence.Trevor Teitel - 2019 - Mind 128 (509):39-68.
    This paper first argues that we can bring out a tension between the following three popular doctrines: (i) the canonical reduction of metaphysical modality to essence, due to Fine, (ii) contingentism, which says that possibly something could have failed to be something, and (iii) the doctrine that metaphysical modality obeys the modal logic S5. After presenting two such arguments (one from the theorems of S4 and another from the theorems of B), I turn to exploring various conclusions we might draw (...)
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  18. Making Semantics for Essence.Justin Zylstra - 2019 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 62 (8):859-876.
    ABSTRACTIn this paper, I develop a truthmaker semantics for essence and use the semantics to investigate the explanatory role of essence.
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  19. Grounding, Essence, And Identity.Fabrice Correia & Alexander Skiles - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (3):642-670.
    Recent metaphysics has turned its focus to two notions that are—as well as having a common Aristotelian pedigree—widely thought to be intimately related: grounding and essence. Yet how, exactly, the two are related remains opaque. We develop a unified and uniform account of grounding and essence, one which understands them both in terms of a generalized notion of identity examined in recent work by Fabrice Correia, Cian Dorr, Agustín Rayo, and others. We argue that the account comports with antecedently plausible (...)
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  20. In Defense of the Possibilism–Actualism Distinction.Christopher Menzel - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-27.
    In Modal Logic as Metaphysics, Timothy Williamson claims that the possibilism-actualism (P-A) distinction is badly muddled. In its place, he introduces a necessitism-contingentism (N-C) distinction that he claims is free of the confusions that purportedly plague the P-A distinction. In this paper I argue first that the P-A distinction, properly understood, is historically well-grounded and entirely coherent. I then look at the two arguments Williamson levels at the P-A distinction and find them wanting and show, moreover, that, when the N-C (...)
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  21. Modality is Not Explainable by Essence.Carlos Romero - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 69 (274):121-141.
    Some metaphysicians believe that metaphysical modality is explainable by the essences of objects. In §II, I spell out the definitional view of essence, and in §III, a working notion of metaphysical explanation. Then, in §IV, I consider and reject five natural ways to explain necessity by essence: in terms of the principle that essential properties can't change, in terms of the supposed obviousness of the necessity of essential truth, in terms of the logical necessity of definitions, in terms of Fine's (...)
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  22. The Broadest Necessity.Andrew Bacon - 2018 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 47 (5):733-783.
    In this paper the logic of broad necessity is explored. Definitions of what it means for one modality to be broader than another are formulated, and it is proven, in the context of higher-order logic, that there is a broadest necessity, settling one of the central questions of this investigation. It is shown, moreover, that it is possible to give a reductive analysis of this necessity in extensional language. This relates more generally to a conjecture that it is not possible (...)
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  23. Knowing How Things Might Have Been.Mark Jago - 2018 - Synthese:1-19.
    I know that I could have been where you are right now and that you could have been where I am right now, but that neither of us could have been turnips or natural numbers. This knowledge of metaphysical modality stands in need of explanation. I will offer an account based on our knowledge of the natures, or essencess, of things. I will argue that essences need not be viewed as metaphysically bizarre entities; that we can conceptualise and refer to (...)
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  24. The Epistemology of Modality and the Problem of Modal Epistemic Friction.Anand Jayprakash Vaidya & Michael Wallner - forthcoming - Synthese:1-27.
    There are three theories in the epistemology of modality that have received sustained attention over the past 20 years : conceivability-theory, counterfactual-theory, and deduction-theory. In this paper we argue that all three face what we call the problem of modal epistemic friction. One consequence of the problem is that for any of the three accounts to yield modal knowledge, the account must provide an epistemology of essence. We discuss an attempt to fend off the problem within the context of the (...)
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  25. Essence and Mere Necessity.Jessica Leech - 2018 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 82:309-332.
    Recently, a debate has developed between those who claim that essence can be explained in terms of de re modality (modalists), and those who claim that de re modality can be explained in terms of essence (essentialists). The aim of this paper is to suggest that we should reassess. It is assumed that either necessity is to be accounted for in terms of essence, or that essence is to be accounted for in terms of necessity. I will argue that we (...)
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  26. Essence with Ground.Justin Zylstra - 2018 - Analytic Philosophy 59 (2):193-207.
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  27. Essential Bundle Theory and Modality.Mark Jago - 2018 - Synthese:1-16.
    Bundle theories identify material objects with bundles of properties. On the traditional approach, these are the properties possessed by that material object. That view faces a deep problem: it seems to say that all of an object’s properties are essential to it. Essential bundle theory attempts to overcome this objection, by taking the bundle as a specification of the object’s essential properties only. In this paper, I show that essential bundle theory faces a variant of the objection. To avoid the (...)
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  28. Modalities: Philosophical Essays. [REVIEW]Robert Kraut - 1996 - Journal of Philosophy 93 (5):243.
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  29. The New Aristotelian Essentialists.Harold Noonan - 2018 - Metaphysica 19 (1):87-93.
    In recent years largely due to the seminal work of Kit Fine and that of Jonathan Lowe there has been a resurgence of interest in the concept of essence and the project of explaining de re necessity in terms of it. Of course, Quine rejected what he called Aristotelian essentialism in his battle against quantified modal logic. But what he and Kripke debated was a notion of essence defined in terms of de re necessity. The new Aristotelian essentialists regard essence (...)
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  30. Essential Properties - Analysis and Extension.Nathan Wildman - 2011 - Dissertation, Cambridge
  31. Modeling Unicorns and Dead Cats: Applying Bressan’s ML Ν to the Necessary Properties of Non-Existent Objects.Tyke Nunez - 2018 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 47 (1):95–121.
    Should objects count as necessarily having certain properties, despite their not having those properties when they do not exist? For example, should a cat that passes out of existence, and so no longer is a cat, nonetheless count as necessarily being a cat? In this essay I examine different ways of adapting Aldo Bressan’s MLν so that it can accommodate an affirmative answer to these questions. Anil Gupta, in The Logic of Common Nouns, creates a number of languages that have (...)
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  32. Essence and Definition by Abstraction.Bob Hale - forthcoming - Synthese:1-17.
    We may define words or concepts, and we may also, as Aristotle and others have thought, define the things for which words stand and of which concepts are concepts. Definitions of words or concepts may be explicit or implicit, and may seek to report preexisting synonymies, as Quine put it, but they may instead be wholly or partly stipulative. Definition by abstraction, of which Hume’s principle is a much discussed example, seek to define a term-forming operator, such as the number (...)
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  33. Against the Reduction of Modality to Essence.Nathan Wildman - 2018 - Synthese:1-17.
    It is a truth universally acknowledged that a claim of metaphysical modality, in possession of good alethic standing, must be in want of an essentialist foundation. Or at least so say the advocates of the reductive-essence-first view, according to which all modality is to be reductively defined in terms of essence. Here, I contest this bit of current wisdom. In particular, I offer two puzzles—one concerning the essences of non-compossible, complementary entities, and a second involving entities whose essences are modally (...)
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  34. Priority Monism.Kelly Trogdon - 2017 - Philosophy Compass 12 (11):1-10.
    Argument that priority monism is best understood as being a contingent thesis.
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  35. Finean Essence, Local Necessity, and Pure Logical Properties.Hashem Morvarid - 2018 - Synthese 195 (11):4997-5005.
    Since Kit Fine published his famous counter-examples to the modal account of essence, numerous modalists have proposed to avoid the counter-examples by revising the modal account. A sophisticated revision has been put forward by Fabrice Correia. Drawing on themes from Prior’s modality, Correia has introduced a nonstandard conception of metaphysical modality and has proposed to analyze essence in its terms. He has claimed that the analysis is immune to Fine’s counter-examples. In this paper, I argue that there are counter-examples supported (...)
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  36. Quantified Modality and Essentialism.Saul A. Kripke - 2017 - Noûs 51 (2):221-234.
  37. Quantified Modality and Essentialism.Saul A. Kripke - 2017 - Noûs 51 (2):221-234.
  38. Quantified Modal Logic and Quine's Critique: Some Further Observations.Saul A. Kripke - 2017 - Noûs 51 (2):235-237.
  39. Quantified Modal Logic and Quine's Critique: Some Further Observations.Saul A. Kripke - 2017 - Noûs 51 (2):235-237.
  40. Essence and Necessity, and the Aristotelian Modal Syllogistic: A Historical and Analytical Study.Vecchio Daniel James - unknown
    The following is a critical and historical account of Aristotelian Essentialism informed by recent work on Aristotle’s modal syllogistic. The semantics of the modal syllogistic are interpreted in a way that is motivated by Aristotle, and also make his validity claims in the Prior Analytics consistent to a higher degree than previously developed interpretative models. In Chapter One, ancient and contemporary objections to the Aristotelian modal syllogistic are discussed. A resolution to apparent inconsistencies in Aristotle’s modal syllogistic is proposed and (...)
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  41. Aristotle's Modal Logic. Essence and Entailment in the ‘Organon’.Richard Patterson - 1995 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 58 (3):567-569.
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  42. Aristotle's modal logic. Essence and entailment in the "Organon".R. Patterson - 1995 - Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 101 (4):556-557.
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  43. Aristotle's Modal Logic: Essence and Entailment in the Organon.Richard Patterson - 1995 - Studia Logica 60 (2):331-333.
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  44. Peacocke’s Principle-Based Account of Modality: “Flexibility of Origins” Plus S4.Sonia Roca Royes - 2006 - Erkenntnis 65 (3):405-426.
    Due to the influence of Nathan Salmon's views, endorsement of the "flexibility of origins" thesis is often thought to carry a commitment to the denial of S4. This paper rejects the existence of this commitment and examines how Peacocke's theory of the modal may accommodate flexibility of origins without denying S4. One of the essential features of Peacocke's account is the identification of the Principles of Possibility, which include the Modal Extension Principle, and a set of Constitutive Principles. Regarding their (...)
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  45. El estatus ontológico de los mundos posibles.Manuel Pérez Otero - 2009 - Critica 41 (122):69-96.
    Tanto la Fórmula Barcan como la postulación de possibilia contradicen los juicios intuitivos preteóricos de la mayoría de los sujetos, favorables al actualismo sobre la naturaleza de los mundos posibles. En este artículo discuto y rechazo dos argumentos que pretenderían contrarrestar tales juicios, y que conciben erróneamente la relación entre la semántica de mundos posibles y nuestros lenguajes naturales modales. El argumento más importante asume que el dominio de todas las entidades es idéntico al dominio de @. Desarrollo una interpretación (...)
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  46. Aristotle’s Modal Logic: Essence and Entailment in the Organon. [REVIEW]Michael J. Degnan - 2000 - Ancient Philosophy 20 (1):215-222.
  47. Logic for Contigent Beings.Harry Deutsch - 1994 - Journal of Philosophical Research 19:273-329.
    One of the logical problems with which Arthur Prior struggled is the problem of finding, in Prior’s own phrase, a “logic for contingent beings.” The difficulty is that from minimal modal principles and classical quantification theory, it appears to follow immediately that every possible object is a necessary existent. The historical development of quantified modal logic can be viewed as a series of attempts---due variously to Kripke, Prior, Montague, and the fee-logicians---to solve this problem. In this paper, I review the (...)
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  48. Verdad necesaria versus teorema de lógica modal.Manuel Perez Otero - 1996 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 11 (1):185-201.
    En este artículo discuto el supuesto compromiso de la lógica modal cuantificada con el esencialismo. Entre otros argumentos, Quine, el más emblemático de los críticos de la modalidad, ha objetado a la lógica modal cuantificada que ésta se compromete con una doctrina filosófica usualmente considerada sospechosa, el esencialismo: la concepción que distingue, de entre los atributos de una cosa, aquellos que le son esenciales de otros poseidos sólo contingentemente. Examino en qué medida Quine puede tener razón sobre ese punto explorando (...)
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  49. Prior and Possibly Not Existing.Michael Nelson - 2016 - Synthese 193 (11):3651-3663.
    In classical quantificational logic, every individual constant is assigned a value from the domain of discourse, thus ensuring that every instance of \\) is valid and so a theorem of a complete logic. Standard tense and modal logics validate a rule of necessitation, according to which, crudely, every theorem is always and necessarily true. Combining these two generates the result that everything always and necessarily exists. In a number of works from the late 1950s through to his death in 1969, (...)
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