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. (shrink)
It has been argued that quantum mechanics forces us to accept the existence of metaphysical, mind-independent indeterminacy. In this paper we provide an interpretation of the indeterminacy involved in the quantum phenomena in terms of a view that we call Plural Metaphysical Supervaluationism. According to it, quantum indeterminacy is captured in terms of an irreducibly plural relation between the actual world and various misrepresentations of it.
Gideon Rosen has recently sketched an argument which aims to establish that the notion of metaphysical modality is systematically ambiguous. His argument contains a crucial sub-argument which has been used to argue for Metaphysical Contingentism, the view that some claims of fundamental metaphysics are metaphysically contingent rather than necessary. In this paper, Rosen’s argument is explicated in detail and it is argued that the most straight-forward reconstruction fails to support its intended conclusion. Two possible ways to save the argument are (...) rebutted and it is furthermore argued that the crucial sub-argument only supports a rather particular variant of Metaphysical Contingentism. (shrink)
Vaidya has recently argued that while Husserl’s method for acquiring knowledge of essence through use of our imagination is subject to a vicious epistemic circle, we can still use the method to successfully attain objectual understanding of essence. In this paper, I argue that the Husserlian objectual understanding-based epistemology envisaged by Vaidya suffers from a similar epistemic circularity as its knowledge-based foil. I argue that there is a straight-forward solution to this problem, but then raise three serious problems for an (...) amended version of Vaidya’s proposal and any similar Husserlian epistemology of essence. The paper closes with some general reflections on applying the Husserlian method to the contemporary notion of essence and on the idea of refocusing the epistemology of essence on understanding instead of knowledge. (shrink)
This paper motivates and defends a principle which captures a systematic connection between essence, truth, and grounding. It says that if a proposition expresses an essential truth, i.e., if it is true in virtue of the nature of some objects, then there are grounds for its truth which involve these objects. Together with the assumption that a fact can only be grounded in facts which are relevant to it, this principle is then applied in an argument against the monotonicity of (...) the Essentialist notion ‘true in virtue of the nature of’. (shrink)
A common feature of all standard theories of the laws of nature is that they are "absolutist": They take laws to be either all metaphysically necessary or all contingent. Science, however, gives us reason to think that there are laws of both kinds, suggesting that standard theories should make way for "non-absolutist" alternatives: theories which accommodate laws of both modal statuses. In this paper, we set out three explanatory challenges for any candidate non-absolutist theory and discuss the prospects of the (...) two extant candidates in light of these challenges. We then develop our own non-absolutist theory, the essentialist DTA account, which combines the nomic-necessitation or DTA account with an essentialist approach to metaphysical modality in order to meet the three explanatory challenges. Finally, we argue that the distinction between kinematical and dynamical laws found in physical theories supports both non-absolutism in general and our proposed essentialist DTA view in particular. (shrink)
This paper criticizes Soames’s main argument against a variant of two-dimensionalism that he calls strong two-dimensionalism. The idea of Soames’s argument is to show that the strong two-dimensionalist’s semantics for belief ascriptions delivers wrong semantic verdicts about certain complex modal sentences that contain both such ascriptions and claims about the truth of the ascribed beliefs. A closer look at the formal semantics underlying strong two-dimensionalism reveals that there are two feasible ways of specifying the truth conditions for claims of the (...) latter sort. Only one of the two yields the problematic semantic verdicts, so strong two-dimensionalists can avoid Soames’s argument by settling for the other way. (shrink)
In a recent paper, Tuomas Tahko has argued for a hybrid view of the laws of nature, according to which some physical laws are metaphysically necessary, while others are metaphysically contingent. In this paper, we show that his criterion for distinguishing between these two kinds of laws — which crucially relies on the essences of natural kinds — is on its own unsatisfactory. We then propose an alternative way of drawing the metaphysically necessary/contingent distinction for laws of physics based on (...) the central kinematical/dynamical distinction used in physical theorising, and argue that the criterion can be used to amend Tahko’s own account, but also that it can be combined with different metaphysical views about the source of necessity. (shrink)
The starting point of this paper is an argument to the conclusion that the definition of metaphysical possibility in terms of correct conceivability, conceivability informed by knowledge of relevant essences, found in Rosen (2006) is equivalent to a version of the essentialist definition of metaphysical necessity. This argument appears to show that correct conceivability is a notion of conceivability by name only and is therefore of no interest to epistemologists of modality. In this paper, I present the equivalence argument, explain (...) the idealizing assumptions involved in it and sketch a version of the conceivability approach which weakens these assumptions in order to show that the notion of correct conceivability can still play a specific limited role in the epistemology of modality. (shrink)
Divers (2014) argues that a Lewisian theory of modality which includes both counterpart theory and modal realism cannot account for the truth of certain intuitively true modal sentences involving cross-world comparatives. The main purpose of this paper is to defend the Lewisian theory against Divers’s challenge by developing a response strategy based on a degree-theoretic treatment of comparatives and by showing that this treatment is compatible with the theory.
Essentialists claim that we can distinguish between an object's essential and its accidental properties. Following important developments in modal logic during the 1960s and 70s, the orthodox view was that the essential properties of an object are its necessary properties. In his influential 1994 paper "Essence and Modality", Kit Fine argues that the orthodox view is wrong. His two main claims are that first, essentiality cannot be defined in terms of necessity and second, that necessity should instead be defined in (...) terms of essentiality. In my dissertation, I aim to undermine both of his claims in order to defend a variation of the orthodox view. To do this, I first develop Fine's proposal for an essentialist definition of necessity into a more general essentialist theory of modality. I then raise a series of problems for the resulting theory. Finally, I introduce and defend a novel definition of essentiality in terms of metaphysical necessity and a notion of metaphysical dependence. (shrink)