How to be a modalist about essence

In Mark Jago (ed.), Reality Making. Oxford University Press (2016)
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Rather infamously, Kit Fine provided a series of counter-examples which purport to show that the modalist program of analysing essence in terms of metaphysical necessity is fundamentally misguided. Several would-be modalists have since responded, attempting to save the position from this Finean Challenge. This paper evaluates and rejects a trio of such responses, from Della Rocca, Zalta, and Gorman. But I’m not here arguing for Fine’s conclusion – ultimately, this is a fight amongst friends, with Della Rocca, Zalta, Gorman, and I all wanting to be modalists, but disagreeing on the details. As such, while my primary aim is to show what’s wrong with this trio, the secondary aim is demonstrating how what’s right about them in fact pushes one towards my own sparse modalist account. So while the primary conclusion of this paper is negative, the secondary, positive, conclusion is that modalists shouldn’t give up hope – plausible responses to Fine are still out there.

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Nathan Wildman
Tilburg University


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