COLLOQUIUM: "E -/-> N"

May. 10, 2019

Friday, May 10, 2019 - 3:00pm, BEH 217
"E -/-> N"
Chris Tillman and Adam Murray, Department of Philosophy, University of Manitoba 


This talk is based on work done with Joshua Spencer of UW-Milwaukee. What is the relationship between essence and necessity? A popular thought was that they amount to the same thing, or are, at least, materially equivalent. But Kit Fine (1994) convinced many that this isn't so; there can be necessary facts pertaining to you (e.g., you're a member of your singleton), that aren't correspondingly essence facts (supposing your essence is silent on whether there are sets). In slogan form, we can think of Fine as arguing for N -/-> E.
We want to argue that the relationship between essence and necessity is even more complicated: we argue for E -/-> N. That is, there can be essence facts pertaining to a thing that aren't correspondingly necessary facts. Some x can figure into the essence of y, but without it being the case that, necessarily, y exists only if x does. We consider a range of metaphysical views that we see as committed to E -/-> N. But the bigger point, for us, is that E -/-> N should be endorsed regardless of your stance on those metaphysical views. For an account of essence should not decide seemingly independent and substantive metaphysical debates by fiat.