Essentialism, Semantic Theory, and Natural Kinds

Penelope Mackie

in How Things Might Have Been

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780199272204
Published online September 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191604034 | DOI:
 Essentialism, Semantic Theory, and Natural Kinds

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Following Nathan Salmon and D. H. Mellor, this chapter argues that natural kind essentialism of the type advocated by Kripke and Putnam is not an inevitable consequence of the adoption of an anti-descriptivist semantic theory of natural kind terms. It attempts to clarify various issues about the characteristics of natural kind essentialism and its relation to semantic theory, as well as reinforcing the distinction made earlier in the book between essentialism about individuals and essentialism about natural kinds. The author remains agnostic on the question of the truth of essentialism about natural kinds, but suggests reasons for scepticism about its plausibility in comparison with some weaker views, such as the theory that a natural kind has a Lockean ‘real essence’ which need not belong to the kind in all possible worlds.

Keywords: description theory; direct reference; essence; essentialism; Kripke; Mellor; natural kind; Putnam; Salmon; semantic theory

Chapter.  13518 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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