Essence in abundance

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 45 (1):100-112 (2015)
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Fine is widely thought to have refuted the simple modal account of essence, which takes the essential properties of a thing to be those it cannot exist without exemplifying. Yet, a number of philosophers have suggested resuscitating the simple modal account by appealing to distinctions akin to the distinction Lewis draws between sparse and abundant properties, treating only those in the former class as candidates for essentiality. I argue that ‘sparse modalism’ succumbs to counterexamples similar to those originally posed by Fine, and fails to capture paradigmatic instances of essence involving abundant properties and relations

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Alexander Skiles
Rutgers University - New Brunswick


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