Essence, Potentiality, and Modality

Mind 130 (519):833-861 (2021)
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According to essentialism, metaphysical modality is founded in the essences of things, where the essence of a thing is roughly akin to its real definition. According to potentialism (also known as dispositionalism), metaphysical modality is founded in the potentialities of things, where a potentiality is roughly the generalized notion of a disposition. Essentialism and potentialism have much in common, but little has been written about their relation to each other. The aim of this paper is to understand better the relations between essence and potentiality, on the one hand, and between essentialism and potentialism, on the other. It is argued, first, that essence and potentiality are not duals but interestingly linked by a weaker relation dubbed ‘semi-duality’; second, that given this weaker relation, essentialism and potentialism are not natural allies but rather natural competitors; and third, that the semi-duality of essence and potentiality allows the potentialist to respond to an important explanatory challenge by using essentialist resources without thereby committing to essentialism.



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Barbara Vetter
Freie Universität Berlin

Citations of this work

Essence and Necessity.Andreas Ditter - 2022 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 51 (3):653-690.
New powers for Dispositionalism.Giacomo Giannini - 2022 - Synthese 200 (384):1-30.
Plenitude and necessarily unmanifested dispositions.Jonas Werner - 2021 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 10 (3):169-177.

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Essence and modality.Kit Fine - 1994 - Philosophical Perspectives 8 (Logic and Language):1-16.
Scientific Essentialism.Brian Ellis - 2001 - Cambridge University Press.
Grounding, Essence, And Identity.Fabrice Correia & Alexander Skiles - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 98 (3):642-670.
Real Definition.Gideon Rosen - 2015 - Analytic Philosophy 56 (3):189-209.

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