Marco Marabello


Essence and Realism


A not far-fetched position within the metaphysics of essence is the following one: to a mind-dependent essence corresponds a mind-dependent existence. Call the position (LOCKE), from the name of its most famous advocate. (LOCKE) is a significant view, for were it true, it would have far-reaching consequences. Suppose, for instance, that all individuals and kinds have essences and that those essences are products of the human mind. If (LOCKE) were true, then, all individuals and kinds wouldn’t be real, for their existence would be merely a product of our minds. The purpose of this paper is to defend (LOCKE). To do so, I will begin by sketching out why (LOCKE) is a plausible view. In doing so, I will appeal to some theoretical roles usually ascribed to essences and argue that if essences are to fulfill those roles but are nonetheless mind-dependent, then mind-dependent existence ensues. Despite its plausibility, (LOCKE)’s advocates can be counted on one hand. I will thus proceed by surveying the extant arguments in its support and find them wanting. In particular, I will focus on an argument presented in Sidelle (2010). I will provide a rendering of the argument that makes clear its structure and its assumptions. This will allow me to show that the argument is not sound given some innocent considerations about the semantics of counterfactuals. I will then propose a modified argument in defense of (LOCKE) that is immune from the objections fatal to Sidelle’s one. To conclude I will consider some objections against (LOCKE) that have been put forward in Sullivan (2017). I will show that Sullivan’s objections are misplaced, and they do not constitute a threat for (LOCKE)’s friends. Therefore, I will surmise that (LOCKE) is true. In other words, one must hold that either essences, individuals, and kinds are mind-dependent, or that none of them is.

Date / Time / Place

June 22nd / 15:55 / Aula Magna