Maria Scarpati


Individual Essence and Modality


Following Fine (1994)’s counterexamples, a venerable tradition that regards a property P as essential to an object x if and only if x has that property necessarily (de re) if it exists, has steadily lost its cogency. Many have, nonetheless, attempted to amend the Existential Modal Account of Essence (EMA) so as to turn it into a viable account. Hybrid modalists, in particular, do so by adding some further condition, which should insulate EMA from Fine’s counterexamples. However, their amended versions of EMA usually go too far: they misclassify properties hitherto deemed as paradigmatic cases of essentiality and that weren’t targeted by any counterexample whatsoever. Remarkably, this has been the fate reserved to thisnesses, i.e., properties of being identical to a given thing in particular. Our aim is to argue that the distinction between essential and accidental properties should be characterized in terms that qualify a thisness as essential to its bearer. To restore the place of thisnesses in the realm of essential properties, we will start by duly characterizing the notion of a thisness and distinguishing it from that of a haecceity. We will then consider various forms of hybrid modalism which deem thisnesses as inessential to their bearers. In doing so, we will survey the positive motivations adduced to count thisnesses as inessential and find them all wanting. Thus, we will conclude that absent a new, positive argument for not viewing thisnesses as essential, failing to count them as such constitutes a strike against an account of essence.

Date / Time /Place

June 22nd / 12:05 / Aula 0A