On how (not) to define modality in terms of essence

Philosophical Studies 176 (4):1015-1033 (2019)
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Abstract

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 by Correia which is not based on Fine’s primitive essentialist notion. The first main point of the paper is that the singular reading is untenable. The second that given plausible background assumptions, the remaining three definitions are extensionally equivalent. The third is that, this equivalence notwithstanding, Essentialists should adopt Correia’s version of the definition, since both the existential variant, which has de facto been adopted as the standard version of the definition in the literature, and the plural reading suffer from problems connected to Fine’s primitive essentialist notion.

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Robert Michels
Universidade de Lisboa

References found in this work

On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.
Monism: The Priority of the Whole.Jonathan Schaffer - 2010 - Philosophical Review 119 (1):31-76.
Making Things Up.Karen Bennett - 2017 - New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Metaphysical Dependence: Grounding and Reduction.Gideon Rosen - 2010 - In Bob Hale & Aviv Hoffmann (eds.), Modality: metaphysics, logic, and epistemology. Oxford University Press. pp. 109-135.
Essence and modality.Kit Fine - 1994 - Philosophical Perspectives 8 (Logic and Language):1-16.

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