Heidegger’s Relative Essentialism

Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 53 (1):40-60 (2022)
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There is relatively little comprehensive treatment of Heidegger’s theory of essences despite his ubiquitous use of essences. It is commonplace in contemporary analytic philosophy to view essences as the ground for true de re modal claims. I argue that Heidegger offers an account of essences that can best be understood as a type of relative essentialism. Relative essentialism is the view that more than one being can occupy the same space at the same time and those beings have distinct sets of de re modal truths about them. Heidegger’s account of essences allows for true de re modal claims about a wide variety of things including scientific and cultural entities. At the same time, Heidegger rejects absolute essentialism: the view that there is one privilege collection of beings whose natures determine the truth values of de re modal claims about them. Relative essentialism is distinguished from contextual essentialism.



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Timothy Nulty
University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

References found in this work

Fields of Sense: A New Realist Ontology.Markus Gabriel - 2015 - Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
On the essence of truth.Martin Heidegger - 1988 - In Martin Heidegger & Werner Brock (eds.), Existence and being. [U.S.]: Kampmann. pp. 274-287.
On the Essence of Truth (Pentecost Monday, 1926).Martin Heidegger - 1998 - New Yearbook for Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy 9:274-287.
Background Practices: Essays on the Understanding of Being.Hubert L. Dreyfus - 2017 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press. Edited by Mark A. Wrathall.

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