Real essentialism • by David S. Oderberg

Analysis 69 (2):376-378 (2009)

This book presents vigorous and wide-ranging arguments in defense of an Aristotelian metaphysical scheme along fairly orthodox Thomistic lines. The central claim is that the items that populate the world have real essences – natures that mind-independently define what each such item is. This Aristotelian essentialism, Oderberg begins by telling us, is a different doctrine from what has recently been called ‘essentialism’, and a more powerful one . For recent essentialism has treated a thing's essence as merely all those properties that the thing takes with it across all possible worlds – and here modality gets presupposed in order to explain essentialness, when the order should be reversed.We can observe essences, Oderberg holds, even though the observation is indirect, and even though knowing what to make of our observations requires applying metaphysical knowledge. Positivism-inspired worries that there is something unfactual about modal claims, and hence about essences, are unfounded . Claims about essences do have factual content, but not because they merely express our concepts or our grammar, and not because they simply report empirical findings . True reports of the essences of objects articulate a metaphysical insight from Aristotle: an object's essence is a compound of its substantial form and its prime matter . Its form actuates potentialities of its matter . The laws of nature derive from essences, and hence are necessary rather than contingent . Artifacts are ‘accidental unities’ of individual substances and …
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DOI 10.1093/analys/anp026
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Ordinary Objects.Amie Thomasson - 2009 - Analysis 69 (1):173-174.
Sortals and the Individuation of Objects.E. J. Lowe - 2007 - Mind and Language 22 (5):514-533.
Sortals and the Individuation of Objects. E. Lowe - 2007 - Mind and Language 22 (5):514-533.

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