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Summary

Essentialism is, broadly speaking, the doctrine that objects have essential properties. One issue here concerns the analysis or definition of ‘essential’ - i.e., what are the necessary and sufficient conditions for being an essential property? Modalists define essential properties in terms of an entity’s de re modal properties. And, while popular, the major challenges modalism faces have led many to embrace non-modalist accounts, which define essence in terms of e.g., 'real definition' or metaphysical explanation/grounding. A second issue concerns the extension of essential properties. Debates here center around various forms of essentialism, typically distinguished by the types of properties in question (e.g. origin essentialism, concerning whether an entity’s origin is essential to it, sortal essentialism, about whether an entity essentially is an instance of the sortal it is an instance of, etc.). A third issue concerns how we know essence facts. Tight connections with modal epistemology here seem obvious, but, depending upon how we answer the above analysis question, it could turn out that essence epistemology is an entirely different beast. Finally, while we can inquire about the essences of particular instances of kinds (e.g. is Tigger essentially carnivorous?), we can also ask questions about the essences of kinds themselves (e.g. are tigers essentially carnivorous?), where the former concerns individual or objectual essence, the latter, general or generic essence; the exact relation between these two types of essence is yet to be determined.

Key works The place to start is Kripke 1980, which effectively re-introduced metaphysicians to essentialism; closely related is Putnam 1975. Regarding the analysis of essence, the most important piece is Fine 1994, where Fine offers his influential critique of the modalist analysis of essence. Highlighted modalist responses include  Gorman 2005, Zalta 2006, Correia 2007, and Wildman 2013, though also see Correia 2012 for a few tweaks to Fine’s position and Lowe 2008 for an alternative non-modalist account. Meanwhile, concerning extension, Mackie 2006 offers a wonderful and detailed over-view of the debates here, while Paul 2006 argues against ‘shallow’ (minimalist) essentialism. Finally, on epistemology, see the above Lowe, Tahko 2018, as well as the affiliated section on Modal Epistemology. 
Introductions Robertson & Atkins 2013 - An excellent introduction to the Essential/Accidental Property distinction, touches upon most of the major topics concerning essence; Roca-Royes 2011 - Another excellent introduction looking at the relation between essential properties and other types of properties.
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  1. added 2020-05-18
    Is Logic Out of This World?Michael J. Raven - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophy.
    Is logic out of this world? This elusive question reveals a tension in our thinking about the basis of logic: both worldly and unworldly answers get something right and yet they conflict. My aim is to clarify the question and explore a conciliatory answer. I focus on a characterization of unworldliness in terms of ground. This allows for a distinction between proximal and distal unworldliness. That in turn reconfigures our approach to the question. It may now be taken as asking (...)
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  2. added 2020-05-17
    Mentalizing Objects.David Rose - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy 4.
    We have a mentalistic view of objects. This is due to the interdependence of folk psychology and folk physics, where these are interconnected by what I call Teleological Commingling. When considering events that don’t involve agents, we naturally default to tracking intentions, goal-directed processes, despite the fact that agents aren’t involved. We have a deep-seated intentionality bias which is the result of the pervasive detection of agency cues, such as order or non-randomness. And this gives rise to the Agentive Worldview: (...)
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  3. added 2020-05-13
    Phenomenal Relations and Collective Essence.Yannic Kappes - forthcoming - The Philosophical Quarterly.
    Antonin Broi (2019) argues that the thesis of phenomenal revelation is in tension with the best available accounts of similarity and certain other relations between phenomenal properties and should hence be rejected. In the following, I investigate Broi’s argument, show how the notion of collective essence can be used to withstand it, and consider a corresponding “collective” version of the revelation thesis.
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  4. added 2020-05-13
    Review: Real Natures and Familiar Objects. [REVIEW]M. A. Khalidi - 2006 - Mind 115 (457):149-152.
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  5. added 2020-05-04
    Quiddytyzm i quidditas w metafizyce analitycznej.Karol Lenart - 2020 - Filozofia Nauki 28 (1):61-84.
    The paper is a survey of contemporary quidditism, understood as two interrelated metaphysicalpositions — recombinatorial quidditism, which is an account of the nature of possibilities, andindividuation quidditism, which is concerned with the problem of how to individuate properties.I have three aims: to examine the commitments and consequences of both views, to investigatethe relationships between them, and to sketch the logic of the dispute between structuralism andquidditism. I explain how these views relate to Ramseyan humility, according to which we cannotknow the (...)
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  6. added 2020-04-08
    The Limits of Neo‐Aristotelian Plenitude.Joshua Spencer - 2020 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 101 (1):74-92.
    Neo‐Aristotelian Plenitude is the thesis that, necessarily, any property that could be had essentially by something or other is had essentially by something or other if and only if and because it is instantiated; any essentializable property is essentialized iff and because it is instantiated. In this paper, I develop a partial nonmodal characterization of ‘essentializable' and show it cannot be transformed into a full characterization. There are several seemingly insurmountable obstacles that any full characterization of essentializability must overcome. Moreover, (...)
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  7. added 2020-03-23
    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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  8. added 2020-03-09
    Natural Kind Terms Are Similar to Proper Names in Being World-Independent.Ari Maunu - 2002 - Philosophical Writings 19:51-68.
    According to the New Theory of Reference, proper names (and indexicals) and natural kind terms are semantically similar to each other but crucially different from definite descriptions and “ordinary” predicates, respectively. New Theorists say that a name, unlike a definite description, is a directly referential nondescriptional rigid designator, which refers “without a mediation of the content” and is not functional (i.e. lacks a Carnapian intension). Natural kind terms, such as ‘horse’ and ‘water’, are held to have similar distinctions, in contrast (...)
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  9. added 2020-03-04
    Essence and Explanation.Albert Casullo - 2020 - Metaphysics 2 (1):88-96.
    In Necessary Beings, Bob Hale addresses two questions: What is the source of necessity? What is the source of our knowledge of it? He offers novel responses to them in terms of the metaphysical notion of nature or, more familiarly, essence. In this paper, I address Hale’s response to the first question. My assessment is negative. I argue that his essentialist explanation of the source of necessity suffers from three significant shortcomings. First, Hale’s leading example of an essentialist explanation merely (...)
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  10. added 2020-02-12
    The Metaphysics of Modality.Stephen Yablo - 1988 - Journal of Philosophy 85 (6):329-337.
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  11. added 2020-02-11
    How Things Might Have Been: Individuals, Kinds, and Essential Properties.André Gallois - 2007 - Philosophical Quarterly 57 (227):297-300.
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  12. added 2020-02-11
    Aristotle on Meaning and Essence.Yannis Stephanou - 2002 - Mind 111 (444):841-847.
  13. added 2019-12-04
    The Structure of Essentialist Explanations of Necessity.Michael Wallner - 2020 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 9 (1):4-13.
    Fine, Lowe and Hale accept the view that necessity is to be explained by essences: Necessarily p iff, and because, there is some x whose essence ensures that p. Hale, however, believes that this strategy is not universally applicable; he argues that the necessity of essentialist truths cannot itself be explained by once again appealing to essentialist truths. As a consequence, Hale holds that there are basic necessities that cannot be explained. Thus, Hale style essentialism falls short of what Wilsch (...)
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  14. added 2019-11-14
    Essential Properties Are Super-Explanatory: Taming Metaphysical Modality.Marion Godman, Antonella Mallozzi & David Papineau - forthcoming - Journal of the American Philosophical Association.
    This paper aims to build a bridge between two areas of philosophical research, the structure of kinds and metaphysical modality. Our central thesis is that kinds typically involve super-explanatory properties, and that these properties are therefore metaphysically essential to natural kinds. Philosophers of science who work on kinds tend to emphasize their complexity, and are generally resistant to any suggestion that they have “essences”. The complexities are real enough, but they should not be allowed to obscure the way that kinds (...)
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  15. added 2019-11-12
    Apriority and Essential Truth.Tristan Grøtvedt Haze - 2020 - Metaphysica 21 (1):1-8.
    There is a line of thought, neglected in recent philosophy, according to which a priori knowable truths such as those of logic and mathematics have their special epistemic status in virtue of a certain tight connection between their meaning and their truth. Historical associations notwithstanding, this view does not mandate any kind of problematic deflationism about meaning, modality or essence. On the contrary, we should be upfront about it being a highly debatable metaphysical idea, while nonetheless insisting that it be (...)
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  16. added 2019-09-04
    Is Socrates Essentially a Man?Linda Wetzel - 2000 - Philosophical Studies 98 (2):203-220.
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  17. added 2019-08-30
    Essentialism.Marilyn Frye - manuscript
    "Essentialism," an invited paper at the meetings of the Central Division of the American Philosophical Association, April 2001.
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  18. added 2019-08-30
    New Directions in the Epistemology of Modality, Special Issue of Synthese.Antonella Mallozzi (ed.) - forthcoming - Springer.
    The fourteen papers in this collection offer a variety of original contributions to the epistemology of modality. In seeking to explain our knowledge of possibility and necessity, they raise some novel questions, develop some unfamiliar theoretical perspectives, and make some intriguing proposals. In the Introduction (penultimate draft available for download), I give some general background about the contemporary literature in the area, by sketching a timeline of the main tendencies of the past twenty-five years or so, up to the present (...)
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  19. added 2019-08-30
    New Directions in the Epistemology of Modality: Introduction.Antonella Mallozzi - 2019 - Synthese:1-19.
    The fourteen papers in this collection offer a variety of original contributions to the epistemology of modality. In seeking to explain how we might account for our knowledge of possibility and necessity, they raise some novel questions, develop some unfamiliar theoretical perspectives, and make some intriguing proposals. Collectively, they advance our understanding of the field. In Part I of this Introduction, I give some general background about the contemporary literature in the area, by sketching a timeline of the main tendencies (...)
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  20. added 2019-08-30
    Essence and Naturalness.Thiago Xavier de Melo - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 69 (276):534-554.
    According to sparse modalism, the notion of essence can be analysed in terms of necessity and naturalness. In this paper, I develop and defend a version of sparse modalism that is equipped with a non-standard, relativized conception of naturalness. According to this conception, properties and relations can be natural to different degrees relative to different kinds of things, and relations can be natural to different degrees relative to different slots. I argue that this relativized version of sparse modalism can accommodate (...)
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  21. added 2019-08-30
    O fundamentach dla metafizycznego fundowania.Karol Lenart - 2019 - Analiza I Egzystencja 45 (2019):5-24.
    In this article I defend a view according to which facts that express metaphysical grounding are grounded in essences of properties involved into a given grounding relationship. To justify this view, first, I present some reasons for a claim that metaphysical grounding is grounded. In the next step I discuss two theories that explain what are the grounds for grounding: a theory that involves a notion of a superinternal relation and a theory that uses a notion of essences of properties. (...)
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  22. added 2019-08-30
    Form, Matter, Substance. [REVIEW]Daniel Z. Korman - 2019 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
    In Form, Matter, Substance, Kathrin Koslicki articulates and defends her preferred brand of hylomorphism, weighing in on how we should conceive of the matter and the form of such compounds, and on how they can qualify as fundamental “substances” despite being ontologically dependent on their components. I review Koslicki’s principal claims and conclusions (§1), and then raise some concerns about her master argument for “individual forms” (§2) and her criticism of standard essentialist accounts of artifacts (§3).
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  23. added 2019-08-30
    Esencjalizm, antyhaecceityzm i haecceityzm.Karol Lenart - 2019 - Hybris 44 (1):131-151.
    A standard contemporary formulation of essentialism defines essential properties with a help of a concept of possible worlds. It is often argued that in order to use possible worlds effectively, facts about transworld identity of individuals need to be determined. In this paper I discuss how essentialist might attempt the issue of transworld identity of individuals. Specifically, I analyze a connection between essentialism and the two theories that explain the transworld identity issue, that is, haecceitism and antihaecceitism. I provide a (...)
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  24. added 2019-08-30
    What Is the Essence of an Essence? Comparing Afro-Relational and Western-Individualist Ontologies.Thaddeus Metz - 2018 - Synthesis Philosophica 65 (1):209-224.
    The dominant view amongst contemporary Western philosophers about the essence of a natu­ ral object is that it is constituted by its intrinsic properties. The ontological approach salient in the African philosophical tradition, in contrast, accounts for a thing’s essence by appeal to its relational properties. The Afro­relational ontology is under­developed, with the primary aim of this article being to help rectify that weakness. Specifically, this article’s aims are: to articulate an African approach to understanding the essence of a concrete, (...)
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  25. added 2019-08-20
    Essentialist Plenitude and the Semantics of Proper Names.Uriah Kriegel - 2019 - Metaphysics 2 (1):16-25.
    A number of prominent metaphysicians have recently defended a set of ideas which I will call ‘essentialist plenitude.’ Very roughly, and to a first approximation, essentialist plenitude says that wherever there is an object with properties P1, …, Pn there is in fact a plenitude of coincident objects that differ only in the distribution of essentiality and accidentality across P1, …, Pn (§1). The main purpose of this paper is to arouse the suspicion that essentialist plenitude may have far-reaching consequences (...)
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  26. added 2019-08-06
    Grounding: Necessary or Contingent?Kelly Trogdon - 2013 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 94 (4):465-485.
    Argument that full grounds modally entail what they ground.
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  27. added 2019-07-05
    Transworld Identity as a Problem for Essentialism About Kinds.Kaave Lajevardi - manuscript
    Essentialism about natural kinds involves talking about kinds across possible worlds. I argue that there is a non-trivial transworld identity problem here, which cannot be (dis)solved in the same way that Kripke treats the corresponding transworld identity problem for individuals. -/- I will briefly discuss some ideas for a solution. The upshot is scepticism concerning natural-kind essentialism.
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  28. added 2019-06-07
    Cómo podrían ser las cosas. Nota crítica a: Penelope Mackie, How things might have been. Individuals, kinds and essential properties, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006. [REVIEW]José Tomás Alvarado Marambio - 2007 - Philosophica 32:203-219.
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  29. added 2019-06-06
    The Context of Essence.L. A. Paul - 2004 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82 (1):170.
    I address two related questions: first, what is the best theory of how objects have de re modal properties? Second, what is the best defence of essentialism given the variability of our modal intuitions? I critically discuss several theories of how objects have their de re modal properties and address the most threatening antiessentialist objection to essentialism: the variability of our modal intuitions. Drawing on linguistic treatments of vagueness and ambiguity, I show how essentialists can accommodate the variability of modal (...)
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  30. added 2019-06-06
    Two Kinds of Essence in Aristotle: A Pale Man Is Not the Same as His Essence.Norman O. Dahl - 1997 - Philosophical Review 106 (2):233-265.
    Virtually everyone will agree that according to Aristotle, for a particular substance to be is at least for it to be a thing of a certain kind. Every particular substance falls under a substance kind, where the essence of that particular substance at least includes the essence of its substance kind. For example, for a particular man to be is at least for him to be characterized by those predicates that make something a man. More generally, if A is said (...)
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  31. added 2019-06-06
    XIV—Ontological Dependence.Kit Fine - 1994 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 95 (1):269-290.
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  32. added 2019-06-06
    Being Precedes Essence: An Ontological Critique of the New Realism.David F. Haight - 1983 - New Scholasticism 57 (4):517-527.
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  33. added 2019-06-06
    Proper Differentiae, the Unity of Definition, and Aristotle’s Essentialism.Sheldon Marc Cohen - 1981 - New Scholasticism 55 (2):229-240.
  34. added 2019-06-06
    Identity and Essence. [REVIEW]B. J. - 1981 - Review of Metaphysics 34 (4):782-783.
    If the slogan "No entity without identity" might be said to encapsulate the new essentialism, it has in any case been felt to serve the working ontologist as a powerful tool for ruling out certain dubious entities. The first half of Baruch Brody’s book consists in a radical "critique of this whole philosophical tradition," as it is seen to be "based upon a fundamental erroneous assumption," namely that "the truth-conditions of claims concerning identity vary as the type of entity in (...)
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  35. added 2019-06-06
    Essentialism and the Problem of Individuation.Henry B. Veatch - 1974 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 48:64.
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  36. added 2019-06-06
    Aristotle’s ‘Essentialism’ and Quine’s Cycling Mathematician.Edward Black - 1968 - The Monist 52 (2):288-297.
    As Aristotle before him, Quine has earned a just renown for his exposure of untenable dualisms: he is best-known, of course, for his rejection of the ‘dogma’ of the radical distinction between analytic and synthetic truths. But another dualism which Quine has no use for has scarcely caused a murmuring in the assembly of philosophers, where Quine’s opposition to the analytic-synthetic dichotomy placed him on the far left, because on this matter he has aligned himself with the philosophical right, with (...)
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  37. added 2019-06-05
    Water has a Microstructural Essence After All.Carl Hoefer & Genoveva Martí - 2018 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 9 (1):12.
    In recent years attacks on the Kripke-Putnam approach to natural kinds and natural kind terms have proliferated. In a recent paper, Häggqvist and Wikforss attack the once-dominant essentialist account of natural kinds. Häggqvist & Wikforss also suggest that it is time to return to some sort of cluster-based descriptivist semantics for natural kind terms, thus targeting both the metaphysical and semantic tenets that underpin the Kripke-Putnam approach. In our paper we want to challenge both parts of Häggqvist and Wikforss’ project. (...)
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  38. added 2019-05-02
    Holes in Spacetime: Some Neglected Essentials.Trevor Teitel - 2019 - Journal of Philosophy (7):353-389.
    The hole argument purports to show that all spacetime theories of a certain form are indeterministic, including the General Theory of Relativity. The argument has given rise to an industry of searching for a metaphysics of spacetime that delivers the right modal implications to rescue determinism. In this paper, I first argue that certain prominent extant replies to the hole argument—namely, those that appeal to an essentialist doctrine about spacetime—fail to deliver the requisite modal implications. As part of my argument, (...)
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  39. added 2019-04-07
    A Constructive Thomistic Response to Heidegger’s Destructive Criticism: On Existence, Essence and the Possibility of Truth as Adequation.Liran Shia Gordon & Avital Wohlman - forthcoming - Heythrop Journal.
    Martin Heidegger devotes extensive discussion to medieval philosophers, particularly to their treatment of Truth and Being. On both these topics, Heidegger accuses them of forgetting the question of Being and of being responsible for subjugating truth to the modern crusade for certainty: ‘truth is denied its own mode of being’ and is subordinated ‘to an intellect that judges correctly’. Though there are some studies that discuss Heidegger’s debt to and criticism of medieval thought, particularly that of Thomas Aquinas, there is (...)
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  40. added 2019-03-25
    (Finean) Essence and (Priorean) Modality.Fabrice Correia - 2007 - Dialectica 61 (1):63-84.
    In Fine 1994, Kit Fine challenges the view that the notion of essence is to be understood in terms of the metaphysical modalities, and he argues that it is not essence which reduces to metaphysical modality, but rather metaphysical modality which reduces to essence. In this paper I put forward a modal account of essence and argue that it is immune from Fine’s objections. The account presupposes a non‐standard, independently motivated conception of the metaphysical modalities which I dub Priorean. Arthur (...)
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  41. added 2019-03-02
    Essential Accident and the Four-Fold Problems.Nadia Maftooni - unknown - Kheradnameh Sadra Quarterly 37.
    Essential accidents are among the complicated issues of the vast domain of philosophical-logical epistemology. In this paper, after a review of the meaning of the essential accident and its distinctive features from the viewpoint of philosophers such as Aristotle, Farabi, and Ibn-Sina, the writer poses the problems which are related to essential accidents. On the whole, two objections are advanced against the meaning of essential accidents and two more against its distinctive features.On of the conceptual problems is related to determining (...)
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  42. added 2019-03-02
    Essence Revisited.Jack Kaminsky - 1969 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 30 (1):1-6.
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  43. added 2019-03-02
    Symposium: Critical Realism: Can the Difficulty of Affirming a Nature Independent of Mind Be Overcome by the Distinction Between Essence and Existence?J. Loewenberg, C. D. Broad & C. J. Shebbeare - 1924 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 4 (1):86 - 129.
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  44. added 2019-02-20
    Sortals for Dummies.John E. Sarnecki - 2008 - Erkenntnis 69 (2):145-164.
    Advocates of sortal essentialism have argued that concepts like “thing” or “object” lack the unambiguous individuative criteria necessary to play the role of genuine sortals in reference. Instead, they function as “dummy sortals” which are placeholders or incomplete designations. In disqualifying apparent placeholder sortals, however, these philosophers have posed insuperable problems for accounts of childhood conceptual development. I argue that recent evidence in psychology demonstrates that children do possess simple or basic sortals of physical objects or things. I contend that (...)
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  45. added 2019-02-05
    Explaining Essences.Michael J. Raven - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies.
    This paper explores the prospects of combining two views. The first view is metaphysical rationalism (the principle of sufficient reason): all things have an explanation. The second view is metaphysical essentialism: there are real essences. The exploration is motivated by a conflict between the views. Metaphysical essentialism posits facts about essences. Metaphysical rationalism demands explanations for all facts. But facts about essences appear to resist explanation. I consider two solutions to the conflict. Exemption solutions attempt to exempt facts about essences (...)
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  46. added 2019-01-23
    An Essentialist Theory of the Meaning of Slurs.Eleonore Neufeld - 2019 - Philosophers' Imprint 19.
    In this paper, I develop an essentialist model of the semantics of slurs. I defend the view that slurs are a species of kind terms: Slur concepts encode mini-theories which represent an essence-like element that is causally connected to a set of negatively-valenced stereotypical features of a social group. The truth-conditional contribution of slur nouns can then be captured by the following schema: For a given slur S of a social group G and a person P, S is true of (...)
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  47. added 2019-01-18
    Essence and the Inference Problem.Ashley Coates - forthcoming - Synthese:1-17.
    Discussions about the nature of essence and about the inference problem for non-Humean theories of nomic modality have largely proceeded independently of each other. In this article I argue that the right conclusions to draw about the inference problem actually depend significantly on how best to understand the nature of essence. In particular, I argue that this conclusion holds for the version of the inference problem developed and defended by Alexander Bird. I argue that Bird’s own argument that this problem (...)
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  48. added 2018-11-15
    Essential Truths and Their Truth-Grounds.Robert Michels - 2018 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 5:790-815.
    This paper motivates and defends a principle which captures a systematic connection between essence, truth, and grounding. It says that if a proposition expresses an essential truth, i.e., if it is true in virtue of the nature of some objects, then there are grounds for its truth which involve these objects. Together with the assumption that a fact can only be grounded in facts which are relevant to it, this principle is then applied in an argument against the monotonicity of (...)
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  49. added 2018-09-13
    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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  50. added 2018-09-02
    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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