Continuants, Identity and Essentialism

Unwin, Nicholas Leslie (2020) Continuants, Identity and Essentialism. Synthese, 197. 3375–3394. ISSN 0039-7857

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The question of whether it is permissible to quantify into a modal context is re-examined from an empiricist perspective. Following Wiggins, it is argued that an ontology of continuants implies essentialism, but it is also argued, against Wiggins, that the only conception of necessity that we need to start out with is that of analyticity. Essentialism, of a limited kind, can then be actually generated from this. An exceptionally fine-grained identity criterion for continuants is defended in this context. The debate between Wiggins and Ayer over the legitimacy of de re modality is then examined in the light of these results, and it is argued that my position is consistent with Ayer’s minimalist assumptions. It is also argued that non-continuants will not sustain the essential/accidental distinction, thus giving some concessions to the sceptics. It is also shown that there are close connections between these issues and the more modern two-dimensionalist way of disentangling the necessary from the a posteriori, and that the latter needs to learn from the former.

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08 Oct 2018 15:00
Last Modified:
19 Sep 2023 02:00