Essentialism in Modal Logic
Marcus (Ruth Barcan)
Source: Nous, 1.1 (Mar. 1967) pp. 91-96
Paper - Abstract

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Philosophers Index Abstract

    Essentialism is minimally characterized as requiring that there are properties which some objects have necessarily and other objects do not have necessarily. Varieties of essentialism represent strengthening of this condition. It is argued that modal logic1 is not committed to essentialism in the sense of generating provable or non-trivially true statements of essential attribution. The trivial cases, e.G., The attribute of being identical to the object 'a' which is necessary of the object 'a' and not necessary of any other object; are partial instantiations of valid functions, and logically equivalent to statements which do not involve essential attributes, e.G., "'A' is necessarily identical to 'a'" is logically equivalent to "'a' is necessarily self identical," and self identity is true of everything, not just 'a'. Modal logic2 is neutral with respect to serious essentialist claims, e.G., Aristotle's claim that being a man is an essential attribute where those attributes are not partial instantiations of valid functions.

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