Aristotle's Essentialism

David Charles

in Aristotle on Meaning and Essence

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780199256730
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597183 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Aristotle Studies

 Aristotle's Essentialism

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Aristotle's account of essences is distinct from that offered by Platonists (who do not give such a central role to causal explanation) and by scientific realists (for whom definitions are solely dependent on real‐world patterns of causal explanation). Further, while Aristotle's essences are part of the fabric of reality, they can be grasped only by those with certain definitional and explanatory practices. Thus, his account differs from (amongst others) that of the Platonist (for whom essences can be discovered by any mind, independently of its definitional practices). Standard criticisms of Aristotle's essentialism (such as those that are to be found in the writings of John Locke or W.V.O. Quine) are, I argue, misdirected against a Platonist Aristotle of legend and do not successfully engage with Aristotle's own account.

Keywords: active intellect; Aristotle; biological kinds; causal explanation; essence; intelligibility; Locke; master craftsman; Platonism; Quine; scientific realism

Chapter.  11499 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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