• Banno
    22.9k
    Here's the article in which Fine provides his argument for reconsidering essence, and divorcing it from modality.

    Esence and Modality

    There's a clear setting up of the import and history of the issues involved before Fine gets to the argument, that while if an individual has a certain property essentially, it must have it necessarily, it may have a property necessarily that is not a part of its essence; that we must distinguish between the essence of an object and those properties which are necessarily true of it.

    The argument proceeds roughly as follows. The set {Socrates} has exactly one member, Necessarily, if this set exists, it has Socrates as a member, and conversely, Socrates has the necessary property of being a member of {Socrates}. If the essence of Socrates is considered to be exactly the necessary properties of Socrates, then part of the essence of Socrates is being a member of {Socrates}.

    But that seems unwieldily. It does not seem to be part of what Socrates is, that he be a member of such a set.

    The modal account of essence captures more than is needed.

    The article goes on to defend the notion of essence in terms of definition rather than modality. For Fine it seems the essence of an object is found in providing a definition rather than setting otu necessary properties.

    For me, what is salient here is the failure of the modal account of essence.

    This thread is about the paper. Have a read. There's more, since Fine is a staunch defender of essence.
  • Shawn
    12.6k
    I'm quoting the gist of the argument displayed between pg.7-8.

    Certainly, there is a connection between the two concepts. For any essentialist attribution will give rise to a necessary truth; if certain objects are essentially related then it is necessarily true that the objects are so related (or necessarily true given that the objects exist). However, the resulting necessary truth is not necessary simpliciter. For it is true in virtue ofthe identity ofthe objects in question; the necessity has its source in those objects which are the subject of the underlying essentialist claim.

    Thus different essentially induced truths may have their source in the identities of different objects - Socrates being a man having its source in the identity of Socrates, 2 being a number having its source in the identity of 2. In particular, an induced truth which concerns various objects may have its source in the nature of some of these objects but not of others. This is how it is with our standard example of Socrates being a member of singleton Socrates; for this is true in virtue of the identity of singleton Socrates, but not of the identity of Socrates.

    Regarding the bolded part, what's the difference? Is it again the de re/de dicto distinction?
  • Shawn
    12.6k
    The author brings up the de re/de dicto distinction, initially; but, proposes a different way to denote a person by a name, and argues that definitions aren't always analytic. But, what are analytic statements if not definitional? It seems to me that the problem the author presents is how do we pick out things in the world, with names if there isn't anything particular about them that could allow us to categorize them as singletons in sets.

    Am I reading this accurately, @Banno?
  • Shawn
    12.6k
    Definition of a simple:

    In contemporary mereology, a simple is any thing that has no proper parts. Sometimes the term "atom" is used, although in recent years[when?] the term "simple" has become the standard.

    Simples are to be contrasted with atomless gunk (where something is "gunky" if it is such that every proper part has a further proper part). Necessarily, given the definitions, everything is either composed of simples, gunk or a mixture of the two. Classical mereology is consistent with both the existence of gunk and either finite or infinite simples (see Hodges and Lewis 1968).

    -Wikipedia
  • Banno
    22.9k
    Where are you reading? I'm thinking it's that lack of symmetry - the set [Socrates} is dependent on Socrates but Socrates is not dependent on {Socrates}.

    ...proposes a different way to denote a person by a name...Shawn

    Where's that?

    I'm not seeing much that concerns simples.
  • Shawn
    12.6k
    the set [Socrates} is dependent on Socrates but Socrates is not dependent on {Socrates}.Banno

    But, that's an ambiguity introduced by not adhering to the de re de dicto distinction, yes?

    Where's that?Banno

    Nevermind, I don't think it's relevant, what I said.
  • Banno
    22.9k
    But, that's an ambiguity introduced by not adhering to the de re de dicto distinction, yes?Shawn

    How?
  • Shawn
    12.6k


    De dicto, we can only state truthfully what is analytic about Socrates. However, the author seems to argue that Socrates can refer to his identity without being a singleton. Isn't this way of analyzing obscuring the de re-de dicto distinction.

    I'm not seeing much that concerns simples.Banno

    He does refer in the quoted part in my response to your OP as a singleton.
  • Banno
    22.9k
    He does refer in the quoted part in my response to your OP as a singleton.Shawn

    A singleton being a set with exactly one element.
  • Shawn
    12.6k


    So, what is your opinion of what was said in my post above. I'll quote it again here:

    Thus different essentially induced truths may have their source in the identities of different objects - Socrates being a man having its source in the identity of Socrates, 2 being a number having its source in the identity of 2. In particular, an induced truth which concerns various objects may have its source in the nature of some of these objects but not of others. This is how it is with our standard example of Socrates being a member of singleton Socrates; for this is true in virtue of the identity of singleton Socrates, but not of the identity of Socrates.

    I don't quite understand the difference here ...
  • Banno
    22.9k
    ↪Shawn I'm thinking it's that lack of symmetry - the set [Socrates} is dependent on Socrates but Socrates is not dependent on {Socrates}.Banno

    So, roughly, Socrates is necessary for there to be a {Socrates}, and vice versa. But there being a Socrates is essential to {Socrates}, but there being a {Socrates} is not essential to Socrates. Therefore necessity is different to essence.

    {Socrates} being the singleton.

    Socrates is necessary for the singleton, and vice versa. There being a Socrates is essential to the singleton, but there being the singleton is not essential to Socrates. Therefore necessity is different to essence.
  • Shawn
    12.6k


    What does existential quantification look like for singletons?

    I know Quine is mentioned, so does Fine profess his 'no instantiation without existential quantification' belief?
  • Shawn
    12.6k
    So, just to clarify, Pegasus has no essence but can be instantiated in the domain of discourse without being a singleton, yes?
  • Caldwell
    1.3k
    Good essay! And thanks much!
    I'm placing a passage here cause I might need to use it in another thread. :smile:
    I'm trying to explain to my interlocutor that the below is more appropriate than any other means of explaining something as simple as thinking.

    But, more significantly, we must give up the traditional idea that the logical derivation of an analytic statement from the definitions of its terms constitutes an analysis of that statement, one which may enable us to see that it is true. For there is nothing in the underlying conception of definitional truth which will force the resulting derivations to be analyses in any meaningful sense of the term. Indeed, as far as this conception goes, one might as well extract any predicate P from the given analytic statement and use the artificial "definition" above to provide it with a trivial pseudo-analysis.

    These difficulties are avoided if we require the definitional truths which figure in the account of analyticity to be true in virtue of the meanings of their defined terms. For the account is then as about as direct as it could be; and real content is given to the idea of analysis. The given analytic statement is derived from definitions which in a significant sense provide one with the meanings of the individual terms.
  • Shawn
    12.6k


    Yes, I read most of it. He seems to advocate a very trivial notion of ontology that if something to exist it should exist in reality. However, how does this differ from Quine in that we ought to have an existential quantifier to instantiate x in the domain of discourse.
  • Richard B
    363
    Banno

    Nice synopsis.
  • Banno
    22.9k
    There's a number of puzzling ideas mentioned in the IEP article, from Fine. Taken elsewhere.
  • Banno
    22.9k
    The upshot, so far as I can make it out, is that modality will not suffice to ground essence. Instead, Fine would have us look to definitions; an essence is given by a definition. There's an accompanying taxonomy of definitions, and some analysis.

    For my part I've expressed some distrust of definitions, so the argument instead serves to build on my prejudice that difficulties in working with the notion of essences renders them of little use. But it may be worth reconsidering this.
  • Richard B
    363
    “The Finean cluster may be roughly summarized by the following methodological “directives”:

    1. Provide a rigorous account of the appearances first before trying to discern the reality underlying them.
    2. Focus on the phenomenon itself and not just how we represent or express it in language or thought.
    3. Respect what’s at issue by not allowing worries about what we can mean from preventing us from accepting the intelligibility of notions that strike us as intelligible.
    4. Be patient with the messy details even when they resist tidying or systematization.
    5. Don’t allow epistemic worries about how we know what we seem to know interfere with or distract us from clarifying what it is that we seem to know.”

    As one who appreciates and practices later Wittgenstein philosophy, I am particularly suspicious of 1 and 2. And 3 looks like a pill for what some may say is a medication to treat “Wittgensteinian brainwashing”.
  • Banno
    22.9k
    Yes, this is a recent, direct and competent rejection of some of Wittgenstein's approach. A reason to check it out.
  • Wayfarer
    20.4k
    From which:

    Fine argues, on plausible assumptions, it is also necessary that Socrates is a member of {Socrates}. And so, by the modal conception, it follows that Socrates is essentially a member of {Socrates}. This, however, is highly implausible: it is no part of what Socrates is that he should be a member of any set whatsoever.

    So, why shouldn't the response to this be simply 'so much the worse for "set theory"?'
  • Joshs
    5.1k
    As one who appreciates and practices later Wittgenstein philosophy, I am particularly suspicious of 1 and 2. And 3 looks like a pill for what some may say is a medication to treat “Wittgensteinian brainwashing”.Richard B

    Yes, I was thinking something similar. Fine begins the essay with “ The concept of essence has played an important role in the history and development of philosophy; and in no branch of the discipline is its importance more manifest than in metaphysics.”

    The key elements of his paper, essence, identity and property, are precisely what the later Wittgenstein shows to be confused concepts.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.3k
    But that seems unwieldily. It does not seem to be part of what Socrates is, that he be a member of such a set.Banno

    I think that this is an idealist principle which accounts for the assumed fact that an object is a creation of the human mind. The act of individualization, which distinguishes an object from its environment (Moore's internal/external mentioned in the article, for example), and properly gives an object its existence as an object, is a perceptual act. Therefore this act must be accounted for as a necessary part of the object.

    Consider the following:
    It is not critical to the example that appeal be made to an abstract entity. Consider two objects whose natures are unconnected, say Socrates and the Eiffel Tower. Then it is necessary that Socrates and the Tower be distinct. But it is not essential to Socrates that he be distinct from the Tower; for there is nothing in his nature which connects him in any special way to it. — Kit Fine, Essence and Modality

    In reality, in order that we understand Socrates to be "an object" ("object" implying a sort of self-contained wholeness, it is necessary that we do understand how Socrates is separated from the Eiffel Tower. External is just as "essential" as internal. Keeping this in mind, the prior statement is revealed as untrue:

    Strange as the literature on personal identity may be, it has never been suggested that in order to understand the nature of a person one must know to which sets he belongs. There is nothing in the nature of a person, if I may put it this way, which demands that he belongs to this or that set or which even demands that there be any sets. — Kit Fine, Essence and Modality

    To understand the nature of a person we must know what sets the person off from the rest. This is the basis of the commonly touted claim, that to know what something is requires knowing what it is not.

    So, if we remove the realist assumption of independent existence of the object, along with the law of identity, which recognizes the object's independent existence, and assume that the object's existence is dependent on being perceived (Berkeleyan idealism), we can represent this in the way you describe. The existence of the object called "Socrates" is dependent on the individualization and naming of something called "Socrates". Therefore having a set of things called "Socrates" is prior to, and a necessary condition of having a thing called Socrates".

    The ontology here would be that things are not found by us, in the world, they are constructed by us. And in construction we produce the blueprint then create the object to match the blueprint. As you see, this ontology lends itself well to the idea that we can create an object (mathematical object for example) with a definition. But it opens up a gap as to how we are supposed to understand the real, or 'true' object. Platonism would say that the objects (even if composed of a definition) are real, eternal truths, which are discovered by us, while an anti-realist would say that the definitions are arbitrary, and there is no real grounding to our individualization and defining of objects.

    The further issue addressed by the article is the one-way nature of necessity. If we make the set prior to the individual then the set is necessary for the individual, and if we make the individual prior to the set, then it appears like the individual is necessary for the set. In each case, reversal of the necessity cannot be carried out because the posterior is contingent. This allows that the introduction of a null set will provide for special powers, or potency. The null set assumes no base necessity, and allows necessity to flow in either direction.

    Here are the two directions, start with a definition, and produce an object, or start from an object and produce a description:

    We have seen that there exists a certain analogy between defining a term and giving the essence of an object; for the one results in a sentence which is true in virtue of the meaning of the term, while the other results in a proposition which is true in virtue of the identity of the object. — Kit Fine, Essence and Modality

    The problem with the latter, is that it requires the assumption of an existing object with an identity (it requires the law of identity for support. Furthermore, we can produce imaginary objects which act as the basis for a set, without reference to an empirical object. So starting from the object, with an assumed identity, is somewhat faulty. Once we remove the necessity of the object (and the law of identity), as not a true necessity, then the latter becomes the same as the former, and the flow of necessity appears to be only from the definition to the object.

    What is not covered by the author, which might resolve some of the issues brought up, is that when we assume a null set we are allowed to say what constitutes "an object". Then we can say either the object is supported by an empirical description, or the object is supported by a definition, allowing for both empirical objects and mathematical objects.
  • Banno
    22.9k
    , , Thanks for taking a look.
    Of course, if you do not think that things have an essence, then you may not be interested in deciding whether essences are to do with definitions or necessities.

    So, why shouldn't the response to this be simply 'so much the worse for "set theory"?'Wayfarer

    There doesn't seem to be much amiss with talk of the set {Socrates}, and so if either essence or set theory must go, it seems essence is the one.

    , your account does not match my reading of the article. but from experience I suspect that were I to attempt to address this you would simply double down, so I'll leave you to your own devices.
  • Banno
    22.9k


    I've struggled with the discussion of definitions, starting at the bottom of p. 8.

    'All bachelors are unmarried men' can be used to define either "bachelor" or "Unmarried" and "man", so there is an ambiguity inherent in the equation used to set out a definition. Fine rejects a holistic approach. too fast for my liking; presumably a rejection of Quine's first dogma.

    After all, we do manage to learn the use of novel words from such definitions, so there must be some way in which they work. But is that sufficient to "revitalise" analyticity? I genuinely do not see what the argument is here.

    That is, I cannot see how synonymy can be used to provide the meaning of a term, and hence it's essence, since any statement of synonymy must depend on our already having the meaning of the. terms involved. Providing definitions does not get started on providing meaning.

    So what is an appropriate specification of the meaning? The only satisfactory answer appears to be that the specification should make clear what the meaning (essentially) is; it should provide us, that is to say, with some account of the meaning's essence. Thus we find again that in giving a definition we are giving an essence - though not now of the word itself, but of its meaning. — p.11

    The circularity of this does not seem to make any progress towards the analysis of meaning.
  • Wayfarer
    20.4k
    I've been reading the IEP entry on Kit Fine. In it, there's a summary of the discussion in the paper. Note this paragraph, which I've already mentioned. I'm trying to understand the logic.

    One of Fine’s distinctive contributions to rehabilitating essence was to argue against the modal conception of it (1994b). To do so, Fine introduced what is now a famous example. Consider the singleton set {Socrates} (the set whose sole member is Socrates). It is necessary that, if this set exists, then it has Socrates as a member. And so, by the modal conception, the set essentially has Socrates as a member. But, Fine argues, on plausible assumptions, it is also necessary that Socrates is a member of {Socrates}. And so, by the modal conception, it follows that Socrates is essentially a member of {Socrates}. This, however, is highly implausible: it is no part of what Socrates is that he should be a member of any set whatsoever.IEP

    I am puzzled about the meaning of 'modal logic', so I asked ChatGPT, which came up with:

    Modal logic is a type of formal logic that studies reasoning about necessity and possibility. It is used to formalize reasoning about the modalities "it is necessary that" and "it is possible that." Modal logic is often used in philosophy to study issues related to knowledge, time, and causation. Some important concepts in modal logic include the notion of a possible world and the concept of a modal operator, which is used to indicate necessity or possibility.

    So, applying that definition to the IEP excerpt. The experession 'by modal conception' is used to denote logical necessity (is this right?) So, if this set exists, then by necessity it has Socrates as a member. But it's not essential to Socrates that he is member of any set.

    I'm struggling to understand why this is significant. After all, Socrates is ostensibly a real being, it could be any person whatever. But 'a set' is a concept. When he asks 'does this set exist', the question I would pose is, 'does any set exist?' - at least, does it exist in the same sense that a real person (e.g. Socrates) exists. This is why it seems a rather artificial example, but I could be missing something basic about it.
  • Caldwell
    1.3k
    'All bachelors are unmarried men' can be used to define either "bachelor" or "Unmarried" and "man", so there is an ambiguity inherent in the equation used to set out a definition. Fine rejects a holistic approach. too fast for my liking; presumably a rejection of Quine's first dogma.Banno
    His point is, the terms "unmarried" and "man" cannot be used to define "bachelor". In that sentence, only "bachelor" can be analytic, but not "unmarried" and "man" -- remember the parts of a proposition? Or do you remember "concepts"?

    But if we say "unmarried man" to define "bachelor", then we relativise the analyticity, (not "revitalise" as you seem to say), which he has no problem doing.

    That is, I cannot see how synonymy can be used to provide the meaning of a term, and hence it's essence, since any statement of synonymy must depend on our already having the meaning of the. terms involved. Providing definitions does not get started on providing meaning.Banno
    Then don't use synonyms. Define the concept or describe an object and you achieve the meaning of a word or essence of an object.

    Here's the last line:
    If I am right, there is more to the idea of real definition than is commonly conceded. For the activities of specifying the meaning of a word and of stating what an object is are essentially the same; and hence each of them has an equal right to be regarded as a form of definition*
  • Caldwell
    1.3k
    I'm struggling to understand why this is significant. After all, Socrates is ostensibly a real being, it could be any person whatever. But 'a set' is a concept. When he asks 'does this set exist', the question I would pose is, 'does any set exist?' - at least, does it exist in the same sense that a real person (e.g. Socrates) exists. This is why it seems a rather artificial example, but I could be missing something basic about it.Wayfarer
    See the last line I posted above.
  • Banno
    22.9k
    not "revitalise"Caldwell

    Oh, shit. I've been staring at the screen too long. I had it down as an attempt to "revitalise" essentialism post-Quine. :roll:
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.3k
    I suspect that were I to attempt to address this you would simply double down, so I'll leave you to your own devices.Banno

    Isn't that the point of such a discussion, to explore the interpretations of others? If I don't "double down" (which really means explain why I interpret things the way I do) you would have no hope of any further understanding of my interpretation. If you simply want to ignore interpretations which do not jibe with yours, denying the relevance and implications of these interpretations, restricting yourself to an investigation of the implications of your own interpretation, then why do you even need to discuss the article? Can you not simply work out its implications on your own?
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