Individual Essences and Bare Identities

Penelope Mackie

in How Things Might Have Been

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780199272204
Published online September 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191604034 | DOI:
 Individual Essences and Bare Identities

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This chapter introduces the question of whether ordinary individuals have non-trivial individual essences: essential properties that are not only necessary but also sufficient for their identities in all possible worlds. It argues that the issue is important, for if there are no such non-trivial individual essences for ordinary individuals, we are forced to choose from what may seem to be an unpalatable list of options: either the identities of these individuals across possible worlds can be ‘bare’ identities, or their transworld identities can be ‘extrinsically determined’, or — unless we abandon de re modal claims about such individuals entirely — we must interpret those de re modal claims in terms of counterpart theory rather than identity across possible worlds. Two arguments for non-trivial individual essences are considered. The first is an ‘indiscernibility argument’ that is related to an argument presented by Robert Adams for ‘primitive thisness’. The second is based on an argument presented by Graeme Forbes. The distinction between ‘trivial’ and ‘non-trivial’ individual essences is explained, and the relation between the theses that there can be ‘bare’ transworld identities and that there can be ‘haecceitistic’ (non-qualitative) differences between possible worlds is discussed.

Keywords: Adams; bare identities; Forbes; haecceitism; incompatible essential property; indiscernibility; individual essence; multiple occupancy; possible world; reduplication

Chapter.  12991 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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