In Defense of Platonic Essentialism About Numbers

Stance 14:102-114 (2021)
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Abstract

In defense of anti-essentialism, pragmatist Richard Rorty holds that we may think of all objects as if they were numbers. I find that Rorty’s metaphysics hinges on two rather weak arguments against the essences of numbers. In contrast, Plato’s metaphysics offers a plausible definition of essentiality by which numbers do have essential properties. Further, I argue that Rorty’s argumentative mistake is mischaracterizing Plato’s definition. I conclude that Plato’s definition of “essential” is a robust one which implies that many properties, beyond those we might intuitively think of, can count as essential properties of objects.

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Megan Wu
Swarthmore College

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