Essentialism in Aristotle, Kripke and Fine : differences in explanatory purposes
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In this dissertation I compare the different forms of essentialism that we find in Aristotle, Saul Kripke and Kit Fine. I argue that there is a clear difference in explanatory purpose between Aristotle’s essentialism on the one side and Kripke’s and Fine’s essentialism on the other, while the last two have closely connected explanatory purposes. Aristotle’s essentialism is mainly concerned with questions of substance, in particular in what sense essences are substances. In contrast, Kripke’s ‘modal essentialism’ and Fine’s ‘definitional essentialism’, as I dub them, are both primarily concerned with questions of modality, in particular where metaphysical necessity has its place or source. Both associate metaphysical necessity closely with essence, though in different ways. While Fine claims (implicitly) that his essentialism is broadly Aristotelian in spirit, I argue that there are substantial differences between them, in particular with respect to their conceptions of real definition and related notions. And it is exactly the difference in explanatory purpose between fine’s and Aristotle’s essentialism that explains these substantial differences. I show how closely Fine’s and Kripke’s essentialism are connected, despite clear differences with respect to their conceptions of essential properties; and further where and why Aristotle’s essentialism differs from Kripke’s and Fine’s essentialism with respect to the kinds of properties that count as essential (apart from differences in that respect between Kripke and Fine). I further argue for a systematic (though imperfect correspondence between the kinds of properties of individuals considered to be essential in Kripke and Fine, and certain kinds of causal relations in the broad Aristotelian sense. I conclude that there is good reason to hold, that Aristotle’s essentialism has basically a different subject matter than Kripke’s and Fine’s essentialism, contrary to a widespread assumption. And I identify several issues for future research to complete my comparison.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2025-05-18
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 18th May 2025
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