Generic essence, objectual essence, and modality

Noûs 40 (4):753–767 (2006)
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Abstract

When thinking about the notion of essence or of an essential feature, philosophers typically focus on what I will call the notion of objectual essence. The main aim of this paper is to argue that beside this familiar notion stands another one, the notion of generic essence, which contrary to appearance cannot be understood in terms of the familiar notion, and which also fails to be correctly characterized by certain other accounts which naturally come to mind as well. Some of my objections to these accounts are similar to some of Kit Fine’s compelling objections to the standard modal account of (objectual) essence (Fine 1994). In the light of these objections, Fine advances the view that it is metaphysical necessity which has to be understood in terms of essence, rather than the other way around, and takes essence to be unanalyzable. When formulatinghis view, Fine had only objectual essence in mind (or had both concepts in mind, but assumed that the generic is a special case of the objectual), and for that reason, I will argue, his account fails. I will suggest that Fineans should modify their view, and take it that metaphysical necessity is to be understood in terms of the two notions of essence—a view I myself find appealing. Finally, I will end by suggesting a further move which reduces the objectual to the generic, making metaphysical necessity reducible to generic essence alone—a move with which I myself have some sympathy.

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Fabrice Correia
University of Geneva

Citations of this work

Grounding, Essence, And Identity.Fabrice Correia & Alexander Skiles - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 98 (3):642-670.
Unified Foundations for Essence and Ground.Kit Fine - 2015 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 1 (2):296-311.
Possibility Precedes Actuality.Tuomas E. Tahko - 2023 - Erkenntnis 88 (8):3583-3603.
Essentialist Explanation.Martin Glazier - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (11):2871-2889.

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References found in this work

Essence and modality.Kit Fine - 1994 - Philosophical Perspectives 8 (Logic and Language):1-16.
Objects of thought.Arthur Norman Prior - 1971 - Oxford,: Clarendon Press. Edited by P. T. Geach & Anthony Kenny.
XIV*—Ontological Dependence.Kit Fine - 1995 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 95 (1):269-290.
Senses of Essence.Kit Fine - 1995 - In Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Diana Raffman & Nicholas Asher (eds.), Modality, Morality and Belief. Essays in Honor of Ruth Barcan Marcus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 53-73.

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