The essential and the accidental

Ratio 18 (3):276–289 (2005)
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The distinction between the essential and the accidental characteristics of a thing should be understood not in modal terms (the received view) nor in definitional terms (Fine’s recent proposal) but as follows:  an essential characteristic of a thing is one that is not explained by any other of that thing’s characteristics, and an accidental characteristic of a thing is one that is so explained.  Various versions of this proposal can be formulated.
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