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Notes and Discussions Aristotelian Essentialism Revisited "Here is a lectern. A question which has often been raised in philosophy is: What are its essential properties? What properties, aside from trivial ones like self-identity, are such that this object has to have them if it exists at all, are such that if an object did not have it, it would not be this object?''~ "The claim that Caesar is necessarily a man, that he cannot not (or cannot help but) be a man, is founded then, according to our elucidation of these matters, in Caesar's being such that it is impossible to envisage with respect to him his having any attribute or sortal property exclusive of his being a man.''~ These quotations, the first from Kripke and the second from Wiggins, exemplify a common conceptual paradigm underlying their theories of the essences of individuals, theories which in other respects differ quite markedly from one another. I call this paradigm the object/property model. The model expresses the relationship between an individual object and its essence; the properties in question are restricted, on both theories, to the necessary ones.~ Contemporary essentialists like Kripke and Wiggins ask: What are the essential or necessary properties of this table or of this man? Or, the question might be put in terms of membership in a natural kind: What are the necessary properties of a tiger? Indeed, the object/property distinction is intuitivelyappealing as a means of expressing the notion that there is, on the one hand, an individual, and, on the other, its essence. Certainly there are other possible models for the relationship between individual and essence, but it suffices for the purpose of this paper to introduce the object/property model by pointing out that it is exemplified by two recent important theories of the essences of individuals. In this paper I argue that the relationship between essence and composite substance , in the central books of the Metaphysics is not accurately represented by the object/property model.4 Hence, there is a basic conceptual difference between Aris- ' "Identity and Necessity" by S. Kripke in Naming, Necessityand Natural Kinds, ed. by Stephen Schwartz (Cornell University Press, 1977),86. 9 D. Wiggins in Sameness and Substance (Blackwell, a98o), 12o. 3 The theories differ, of course, in their explanations of the meaning of the notions of necessity(and possibility)and hence which properties turn out to be necessary also differ. 4 In addition to rejecting the suitability of the object/property model for the relationship between a substance and its essence I also reject the position that an Aristotelian substance and its essenceare strictly identical. Advocates of this vieware Christopher Kirwan inAristotle'sMetaphysics, BooksF Aand E (ClarendonAristotle Series, Oxford 1971), 1oo, and M.J. Woodsin "Substance and [~85] a86 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 27:2 APRIL 1989 totle's theory and the contemporary essentialist theories exemplified by the opening quotations. The difference cannot simply be chalked up to the considerable chronological and ideological gulf which separates Aristotle from us. For it is clear that Aristotle had the distinction between object and property within his repertoire and so could have conceived of the relationship between substance and essence in the contemporary fashion.5 Indeed, Aristotle does use an object/property idiom in discussing essences in the Metaphysics, but I argue below that this language does not accurately represent the logical relationship between substance and essence. The reason the object/property relationship model is inadequate for Aristotelian essences is a consequence of the role played by essences in his metaphysical theory of substance. If this is right then we should expect to find important systematic differences between the notion and function of essence in Aristotle and the newer versions of essentialism. I conclude by describing these differences. At the outset some comments about the range of my description of essentialism in Aristotle are in order. I will be primarily interested in developing Aristotle's theory as found in the central books of the Metaphysics, although 1 do not confine my textual references to those books. The restriction makes some sense, since Metaphysics Books 7-9 do seem to form a unified treatment of a nest...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 285-298
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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