How to get Necessity from Essence via Identity (or not?)

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Jessica Leech ("From Essence to Necessity via Identity") has recently challenged proponents of the essentialist theory of modality (ETM) to show why essence "should generate necessity". In particular, she argues that Correia’s and Skiles’ ("Grounding, Essence, and Identity") theory of essence in terms of generalized identity, while initially promising for proponents of ETM, cannot solve the challenge. On the surface, the challenge is to justify the assumption that essence claims (and hence generalized identities) are necessary. The first part of this paper shows how this epistemic challenge can be addressed given Correia’s and Skiles’ theory. After suggesting some available justificatory strategies, it argues that rejecting the necessity of generalized identities requires (sentential) higher order contingentism (HOC). While HOC is compatible with the necessity of essence and generalized identities, a proposal is made as to how to ground necessities in certain essence involving conditionals given HOC and the contingency of essence. Aspects of Leech’s discussion point towards a further, explanatory challenge. The second part of this paper identifies such a challenge for ETM given Correia’s and Skiles’ theory, namely to provide grounds for the necessity of generalized identities themselves. It then proposes a solution by combining Correia’s and Skiles’ definition of grounding in terms of generalized identity with the idea that some necessities are grounded in zero-grounding facts, resulting in the proposal that the necessity of generalized identities is grounded in their being zero-grounded, which in turn is accounted for in terms of generalized identity. In the end, a potential residual problem is proposed.
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Archival date: 2021-02-23
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