The Structure of Essentialist Explanations of Necessity

Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 9 (1):4-13 (2020)
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Fine, Lowe and Hale accept the view that necessity is to be explained by essences: Necessarily p iff, and because, there is some x whose essence ensures that p. Hale, however, believes that this strategy is not universally applicable; he argues that the necessity of essentialist truths cannot itself be explained by once again appealing to essentialist truths. As a consequence, Hale holds that there are basic necessities that cannot be explained. Thus, Hale style essentialism falls short of what Wilsch calls the explanation-challenge (EC) for the metaphysics of necessity. Without endorsing the EC, I argue that Hale’s argument for basic, unexplained necessities fails due to a misunderstanding of the structure of essentialist explanations. Getting clear about the structure of essentialist explanations of necessity leads to a re-evaluation of crucial circularity- and regress-arguments that have been discussed in the debate about essentialism.

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Michael Wallner
University of Graz


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