Nominalist dispositional essentialism

Synthese 200 (2) (2022)
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Dispositional Essentialism, as commonly conceived, consists in the claims that at least some of the fundamental properties essentially confer certain causal-nomological roles on their bearers, and that these properties give rise to the natural modalities. As such, the view is generally taken to be committed to a realist conception of properties as either universals or tropes, and to be thus incompatible with nominalism as understood in the strict sense. Pace this common assumption of the ontological import of Dispositional Essentialism, the aim of this paper is to explore a nominalist version of the view, Austere Nominalist Dispositional Essentialism. The core features of the proposed account are that it eschews all kinds of properties, takes certain predicative truths as fundamental, and employs the so-called generic notion of essence. As I will argue, the account is significantly closer to the core idea behind Dispositional Essentialism than the only nominalist account in the vicinity of Dispositional Essentialism that has been offered so far—Ann Whittle’s Causal Nominalism—and is immune to crucial problems that affect this view.

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Lisa Vogt
University of Geneva


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