Essentialism vs. Potentialism: Allies or Competitors?

Philosophisches Jahrbuch 129 (2):325-338 (2022)
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Do essence-based accounts of necessity and Vetter’s potentiality-based account of possibility in fact lead to the same result, viz., a single derived notion of necessity that is interdefinable with possibility or vice versa? And does each approach independently have the ability to reach its desired goal without having to rely on the primitive notion utilized by the other? In this essay, I investigate these questions and Vetter’s responses to them. Contrary to the “separatist” position defended by Vetter, I argue that there are reasons to favor “Combination”, according to which an essence-based account of necessity should be combined with a potentiality-based account of possibility, or vice versa. According to this alternative approach, essentialism and potentialism should be regarded as allies, rather than as competitors, in a theory of derived modality, since both notions are needed in order to give a full account of necessity and possibility. Keywords: possibility, necessity, potentiality, essence, interdefinability, actuality, dependence, artifact-functions.

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Kathrin Koslicki
Université de Neuchâtel


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