• Banno
    23.5k
    Well, we might have to leave this as moot, since what you see as advantageous is what I see as deleterious.

    But to the topic of this thread, what sort of place do you see here for essence?
  • Banno
    23.5k
    A name is always attached to some thing.
    In order to use a name the thing to which it is attached must be identifiable.
    The identification of things occurs via description.*
    Therefore, names presuppose description.
    Leontiskos

    I think all three assumptions problematic. For the sake of simplicity, I've been focusing on the third, using Donnellan's argument. I thought that clear.

    We could address the others, but I'm not intent on writing a thesis here.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.1k
    But to the topic of this thread, what sort of place do you see here for essence?Banno

    Great question but it just opens up the door for writing a thesis on metaphysics and epistemology. And as you just said here:

    I'm not intent on writing a thesis here.Banno

    Essence brings up ideas of realism versus idealism, empiricism versus social constructivism, necessity and contingency, and all the rest. It basically forces more than an easy answer that requires putting a lot of puzzle pieces together.

    That being said, I'd have to think on it.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    sure. Just to reiterate, I have not come across a version of essence that is of much use, but I’m happy to gives consideration to any that’s proffered. I’m hoping for something a bit more useful than “what makes a thing what it is“
  • unenlightened
    8.8k
    I have not come across a version of essence that is of much use, but I’m happy to gives consideration to any that’s proffered. I’m hoping for something a bit more useful than “what makes a thing what it is“Banno

    The essence of a thing is the rigidity with with which we designate it.
    the essence of :—
    Frodo is the ring bearer.
    King Arthur is the legendary hero of an imaginary magical realm on the pattern of Britain.
    Thales is that he fell down a well and thought everything was water, and was one of the founders of Greek philosophy.
    Lavender is the fragrance.
    unenlightened is his willingness to make up shit on the fly.

    I imagine some tedious archeologist finding the remains of a real king called Arthur, and his wife Guinevere, and some record of his reign that did not include quests or saving damsels in distress or the Holy Grail, or the round table. "Oh, that King Arthur, no one is interested in him." I would say, as if allowing that names are not always unique, while maintaining the rigidity of my designation.
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    The argument is pretty straight forward. Suppose that it turned out that nothing we thought we knew about Thales were true; that he did not think all was water, did not fall into a well and did not say "know thyself". Who is it that the previous sentence is about? Well, it is about Thales. But if, "in order to use a name the thing to which it is attached must be identifiable", we now have no way of identifying Thales, which would imply that the sentence is not about Thales.Banno

    But this is a confusion of a name with an individual, and it hinges on that mistaken assumption that the referent of a name must be an existing individual. Specifically, "the previous sentence is about" <concept-Thales>, or in Anscombe's Medieval language, a formally assigned name. Following her usage, I will talk about formal names and real names.

    Again, there are two things attached to the name 'Thales' in the class that the novice takes on ancient philosophy. One is the formal name, which is fit to function in the dialectical philosophical narrative. The other is the real name, which specifically depends on a person who actually existed in the past. I really do think these referents overlap (although there is a primacy of the formal name in the context of the philosophy class because the non-existence of Thales will not impede the purpose of the philosophy class). But if you like we can be pedantic and keep the two designations separate. In that case the non-existence of Thales would undermine the real name but not the formal name. The identification of the formal name depends on a conceptual scheme vis-a-vis the received view about the dialectical history of philosophy. The identification of the real name depends on historical investigation. In both cases the referent is identifiable.* In the latter case the legitimacy of the name will depend on the historical investigations (ergo, it is ostensive).

    I'm sorry that you haver been unable to identify the argument.Banno

    It seems that I identified it just fine and addressed it earlier in the thread. To reiterate, he is wrong when he claims that the non-existence of Thales entails that 'Thales' has no referent; and he is wrong that a name must have an existent referent. Apparently Anscombe came to just the same conclusions in response to a very similar view.

    Donnellan is apparently being tripped up by the fact that mistakes are possible, or that there is such a thing as an ostensive name (or that a name can be applied to a historical hypothesis). This apparently relates to @schopenhauer1's point about the errors which occur when logic attempts to dominate language. I will leave this to the side for now.


    * Note that it is very different to say that "We don't know whether Thales existed," versus, "We don't know what the real name 'Thales' means or references." It ostensibly refers to a real historical person, and sufficient historical data will allow us to verify or falsify his historicity.
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    I am not aware of anything in which Anscombe directly addresses Donnellan and Kripke. IF you come across something, I'd be most interested.Banno

    Yes, I also like Anscombe. I did run across an article relating to Kripke, albeit relating to his sceptical argument. It is in the same volume, and is named, "Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language."

    (There was another article or typescript she wrote on Kripke, but I would have to look to find it again.)
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    The essence of a thing is the rigidity with with which we designate it.
    the essence of :—
    Frodo is the ring bearer.
    King Arthur is the legendary hero of an imaginary magical realm on the pattern of Britain.
    Thales is that he fell down a well and thought everything was water, and was one of the founders of Greek philosophy.
    Lavender is the fragrance.
    unenlightened is his willingness to make up shit on the fly.

    I imagine some tedious archeologist finding the remains of a real king called Arthur, and his wife Guinevere, and some record of his reign that did not include quests or saving damsels in distress or the Holy Grail, or the round table. "Oh, that King Arthur, no one is interested in him." I would say, as if allowing that names are not always unique, while maintaining the rigidity of my designation.
    unenlightened

    This is not bad as far as it goes. The key here is that there is a big difference between saying, "But how do you know that that definition captures this essence," and saying, "But it has no essence at all." There seems to be a lot of conflation between these two questions, where skeptics drawn to the first fall into the second. Whether the preserving quality of salt belongs to its essence is a coherent question; whether salt has an essence at all is not a coherent question. Or so I say. For once we admit that salt and sugar are different, they must be different in virtue of some real quality. They must be different in virtue of what they are; their what-ness; their quiddity; their essence.

    I would say, as if allowing that names are not always unique, while maintaining the rigidity of my designation.unenlightened

    The other important thing here is intention, and this is a place where modern philosophy is characteristically poor. Names with the same token obviously do not all have the same designation, else every name "John" would point to the same man. The referent of a name is therefore tied to the intention of the speaker, and I believe we must interpret names according to intention (including "formal" names—hence the unraveling of Donnellan's conundrum). It is first in the intention where the name is attached to the description (or as Anscombe calls it, the "identifying predicate").
  • Banno
    23.5k
    But this is a confusion of a name with an individual,Leontiskos
    Really? If Thales did not fall down the well, that is a truth about Thales, not about his name.

    You'd have to fill this out somewhat.

    And it's not that Thales doesn't exist - but that he exists, and yet none of the things we understood to be true of him are actually true. Suppose it is true that nothing we thought we know about Thales were actually true of him. That would be a fact about Thales. And this despite the unavailability of a description that is true of him.
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k


    The difficulty is that your argument simultaneously requires that the name identify and not-identify Thales:

    The argument is pretty straight forward. Suppose that it turned out that nothing we thought we knew about Thales were true; that he did not think all was water, did not fall into a well... Who is it that the previous sentence is about? Well, it is about Thales.Banno

    So let's look at these three properties of the (formal) name 'Thales':

    1. 'Thales' existed and lived in ancient times.
    2. 'Thales' believed that all is water.
    3. 'Thales' fell into a well.

    Why do you think the sentence is about Thales on the basis that (1) is true and (2) and (3) are false? How do those truth assignments ensure that the sentence is about Thales? Your privileging of the existence-predicate (1) seems arbitrary. I see no reason to believe that such a speaker would be talking about a man named 'Thales' who lived in ancient times but did not believe that all is water and did not fall into a well. In fact I think we can be confident that is not who (or what) he is talking about.

    But if, "in order to use a name the thing to which it is attached must be identifiable", we now have no way of identifying Thales, which would imply that the sentence is not about Thales.Banno

    For the sake of simplicity, I've been focusing on the third...Banno

    If there is no way of identifying Thales, then of course the name cannot be used. The speaker who uses the name necessarily has a description in mind. This is the same false assumption that you gave earlier:

    A novice who asks "Who is Thales?" does not have at hand a description of Thales, and yet they are asking about Thales.Banno

    But the novice does have a description of 'Thales'. If they had no description they would not be able to ask the question. Specifically, if they did not believe that 'Thales' described an ancient philosopher, they would not be able to ask the question. "Thales was an ancient philosopher" is a description, as is (1).

    Suppose, ex hypothesi, that the novice has no description of 'Thales'. If this were so, then what in the world do you propose they would be asking about when they ask about 'Thales'? In that case they could not be asking about a man, because if they were asking about a man then 'Thales' would have a description. They could not be asking about a previously existing thing, because if they were asking about a previously existing thing then they would have a description. They could not be asking about a name from their textbook, because if they were asking about a name from their textbook then they would have a description, etc.

    So again, you are contradicting yourself in simultaneously holding that the novice has no description of 'Thales' and nevertheless uses the name in a meaningful sense.

    In this passage Locke shows that he supposes it to be understandable what individuals are called Wewena, Chuckery and Cousheda without its yet being determined whether these are proper names of men or what. To point and say ‘That is Wewena—and I mean that “Wewena” is the proper name of that’ should prompt the question ‘That what is Wewena?’ Or, what comes to the same thing: ‘And how am I to go on using the name Wewena?’ Locke writes as if an intelligible reply would be ‘so long as it is the same individual’. And hence the question which often concerns philosophers: ‘What is an individual? What is a particular?’ — Elizabeth Anscombe, On Russell's Theory of Descriptions
  • Banno
    23.5k
    Obvious question begging on your part. You claim the name cannot work without a description, so you say that the name hasn't worked; but it has. Meh.
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k


    You claim that a novice asks about Thales while having no description of Thales. I pointed out why you are wrong and I gave a number of different arguments to that effect. In response you provide nothing at all.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    I don't see that you have understood the argument. Your supposed reply begs the question by supposing that "Thales" sans description does not refer to Thales. And yet, "What if every description we have of Thales were wrong?" is clearly a question about Thales. You are apparently willing to deny this, in order to preserve your view.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    An alternative version. Suppose that the only thing we know about Thales is that he fell into a well. On the descriptivist account, "Thales" and "The fellow who fell into a well" are synonymous, then on your view "The fellow who fell into a well" is what we mean by "Thales"

    Now suppose that it wasn't Thales, but his friend Fred who fell into the well. So "The fellow who fell into the well" actually refers to "Fred".

    It follows that all this time, while you thought you were talking about Thales, you were actually talking about Fred.

    The alternative, which is now a commonplace, is that names do not refer in virtue of some associated description.

    Edit: I hope it clear that in this case Thales certainly exists, but we do not have to hand a description that sets him apart, he has no "essence", so it seems, and yet we can still talk about him.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    So what?

    Well, it comes from Kripke because he is the bloke who developed a working semantics for modality.

    Modality is the part of logic that deals with "what if..." and the like. Kripke's solution is Possible World Semantics. Part of that semantics is that proper names refer to the very same individual in each possible world in which it exists. A consequence of this is that one might specify a possible world in which the characteristics that supposedly set out the essence of that individual do not apply. Nevertheless, what they do not apply to is that same individual.

    The argument from error being used here is a plain English account of that sort of argument.

    Possible World Semantics gives a way of dealing with modalities that enables us to clarify quite a bit of what was obscure in earlier types of modal logic, especially that which did not progress far beyond De re and De dicto.

    Not unlike the clarity that Frege and Russell brought to the ambiguity of "is" by separating out quantification, identity and predication - ∃(x), x=x and f(x). There are folk not so far from this thread who have not been able to follow this, with dire consequences.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.1k
    Part of that semantics is that proper names refer to the very same individual in each possible world in which it exists. A consequence of this is that one might specify a possible world in which the characteristics that supposedly set out the essence of that individual do not apply.Banno

    Part of the problem there is what counts as an “individual”? Russell was caught up with the referent. What happens if it was found the referent was fictitious? Kripke would move to say that it’s the causal dubbing (and it’s development that is traced back I guess) that is “real” in all possible worlds I would think and not the individual itself. But this provides for an oddly causal based realism, where only causality picks out essence (of individuals) and not individuals themselves. Something then seems off there. It’s upgrading causality to a high status.
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    Your supposed reply begs the question by supposing that "Thales" sans description does not refer to Thales. And yet, "What if every description we have of Thales were wrong?" is clearly a question about Thales.Banno

    The reason I am not begging the question is because I am giving arguments. Arguments such as the following require a response:

    Suppose, ex hypothesi, that the novice has no description of 'Thales'. If this were so, then what in the world do you propose they would be asking about when they ask about 'Thales'? In that case they could not be asking about a man, because if they were asking about a man then 'Thales' would have a description. They could not be asking about a previously existing thing, because if they were asking about a previously existing thing then they would have a description. They could not be asking about a name from their textbook, because if they were asking about a name from their textbook then they would have a description, etc.Leontiskos

    Suppose that the only thing we know about Thales is that he fell into a well. On the descriptivist account, "Thales" and "The fellow who fell into a well" are synonymous, then on your view "The fellow who fell into a well" is what we mean by "Thales"Banno

    If the definition of Thales is stipulated to be "the man who fell into the well," then Fred is Thales. We have then given Fred a second name. If the definition of Thales is stipulated to be "the man who fell into a well and who is referred to as 'Thales'," then on your account Thales does not exist, because no one matches that definition. Hence my point about predicates (1), (2), and (3). You don't seem to have a clear account of which parts of the description are thought to be necessary and which are not.

    I hope it clear that in this case Thales certainly exists, but we do not have to hand a description that sets him apart, he has no "essence", so it seems, and yet we can still talk about him.Banno

    But it seems very obvious that when we use a name we are talking about something, and that if we don't know what we are talking about then we can't use the name in any meaningful sense. You don't seem to be taking this fact of experience into account. It can't simply be ignored.

    The deeper problem is that your specifications are mistaken. When someone talks about Thales they are not defining him as "the man who fell into the well" (i.e. they are not assigning that as the one necessary property of Thales (along with existence)). If they were doing this then Thales would just be Fred. When someone talks about Thales they have a large number of predicates in mind, some of which are necessary and some of which are not. If historical existence is a necessary predicate then it is a real name; if not it is a formal name. To simplify and avoid the debate of the OP, we can simply say that the nominal definition aligns with the necessary predicates.

    But first things first, you must specify which are necessary and which are not, instead of making wily assumptions on that score. Mistakes about necessary predicates will be decisive in undermining the speaker's intention; while mistakes about non-necessary predicates will not be. The kind of mistake will depend on the kind of predicate, as assigned in the speaker's intention. (E.g. Whether a name is formal or real will depend on what the speaker intends with respect to the existence-predicate.)

    A consequence of this is that one might specify a possible world in which the characteristics that supposedly set out the essence of that individual do not apply. Nevertheless, what they do not apply to is that same individual.Banno

    If Kripke thinks that an individual can be identified without a description then he is hopelessly confused. On my reading he does not think this, but it is apparently an implication you wish to draw out.
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    I just did a quick search for Kripke on naming, to refresh myself. Google returned some class notes on the topic, which I skimmed (link).

    [Kripke's] argument counts against the view that the meanings of names are given by their associated descriptions, but not against the view that the reference of a name is fixed by its associated descriptions.Nd.Edu Lecture Notes on Kripke

    From the skim it seems that Kripke wants to say that proper names and definite descriptions do not have the same meaning (and this is something I have acknowledged multiple times). He tries to provide a causal alternative to "description," and his alternative seems problematic and unimpressive.

    He also seems to think that the name and the description come apart in a very significant sense, and on this I disagree. If the reference of a name is fixed by its associated description, then the claim that the name and its description can come far apart involves the claim that the name and its reference can come far apart, which I think is mistaken.

    The most recent thing I have read on Kripke (by philosophers who I actually take to be authoritative) spells out his misunderstanding of intention, and I can't help but wonder if the same flawed view of intention is on display in this realm (link). He apparently wants to talk about names in an objective way, apart from the subjective intentions of the speakers who are using the names. If so, this is a mistake similar to the one I <pointed out earlier>.

    It may also be worth noting that I am not using "description" in any specialized sense, and that Banno introduced this term, not me. I would want to say that, primarily, names are associated with objects of perception, and that the rigidity of names pertains (primarily) to the uniqueness of such perceptions. This is why I think my example about identical twins is much more interesting than Donnellan's example about Thales. Names which are not associated with perception-"descriptions" are derivative in relation to this more primary use of names.
  • Moliere
    4.1k
    Moliere began a discussion of essences with the example of hammers. This is a strange move from the perspective of an Aristotelian, because hammers have no real essence. A hammer is a derivative being, a human artifact. Hammers should always be studied in relation to humans, because their existence is dependent upon humans.Leontiskos

    The discussion has moved to other considerations, but I have some thoughts here.

    Aristotle is conceptually rich, so this is very much a guess in the dark:

    Perhaps individual human activity, like hammering, is strange in Aristotle because he offers an ontology that has a kind of cause that accounts for the change of individuals over time such that they're still the same object while undergoing change because of the kind of object they are --- teleology. The hammer doesn't fit very well because it's not a biological entity or a natural kind -- its teleology is directed by an individual, and so its purpose is relative to the ends of not even a species but of an individual of the species. All tools are such that they are always relative to some other being's usage, and so they don't have a teleology at all -- they don't have an activity that their kind strives towards which makes them what they are.

    It seems your account must have named objects without real essences alongside what has essences -- and maybe what you say here has something to do with why Heidegger used the example of hammering in putting the question of the meaning of being back on the table for philosophical investigation.

    If hammers don't have essences, then what does? And on what basis are we to exclude tools from having being (or, perhaps they have being, but no essence?)?
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k


    Yes, great points. I think what you say is fairly accurate.

    If hammers don't have essences, then what does? And on what basis are we to exclude tools from having being (or, perhaps they have being, but no essence?)?Moliere

    Yes, for the Aristotelian they would have being but no essence.

    I'm a bit pressed for time today, but for Aristotle the fundamental issue is that a kangaroo has an essence whereas a hammer does not, and this is because only the first is a cohesive thing (substance) with its own proper mode of being and acting (and this also includes teleological considerations). A hammer is an aggregate of substances thrown together for a human purpose.

    A simpler example would be a horse-and-rider. A horse-and-rider is not a substance, and it has no essence. Instead it is a composite of two substances (a horse and a human rider). We can talk about the essence of a horse-and-rider in an analogical way, as if it were just a single thing, but technically this is not quite right.

    I am not opposed to talking about the "essence" of a hammer or the "essence" of a named individual, just so long as we do not forget that for Aristotle there are no such essences. More broadly, it makes sense for the Aristotelian to say that the human has being in a more primary sense than the hammer does; or that the name attached to a perceptual 'description' is more primary than the name attached to the conceptual 'description' (and that the latter should take its cue from the former). Such a distinction may seem quite odd to the modern mind, but it may also be at the root of some of these issues.
  • Moliere
    4.1k
    I'm a bit pressed for time today, but for Aristotle the fundamental issue is that a kangaroo has an essence whereas a hammer does not, and this is because only the first is a cohesive thing (substance) with its own proper mode of being and acting (and this also includes teleological considerations). A hammer is an aggregate of substances thrown together for a human purpose.

    A simpler example would be a horse-and-rider. A horse-and-rider is not a substance, and it has no essence. Instead it is a composite of two substances (a horse and a human rider). We can talk about the essence of a horse-and-rider in an analogical way, as if it were just a single thing, but technically this is not quite right.

    I am not opposed to talking about the "essence" of a hammer or the "essence" of a named individual, just so long as we do not forget that for Aristotle there are no such essences. More broadly, it makes sense for the Aristotelian to say that the human has being in a more primary sense than the hammer does; or that the name attached to a perceptual 'description' is more primary than the name attached to the conceptual 'description' (and that the latter should take its cue from the former). Such a distinction may seem quite odd to the modern mind, but it may also be at the root of some of these issues.
    Leontiskos

    I think that it's worth asking, in that case, what is the criterion of quiddity, what-it-is-ness, such that we can have names with and names without an essence? What's the criteria by which you judge an individual to have an essence? I take it your beliefs are Aristotelian-inspired, but since you're also saying "for Aristotle" it seems you may also be thinking about your account as different.

    From what I read of you it comes down to whether something is a substance or is composed of substances. I'm not sure exactly how to parse that -- I put teleology as a criteria because I understand activity to be central to the essence of beings in Aristotle, and teleology is the kind of cause which is self-caused towards something -- so an olive is a seed with a teleology of becoming-tree, where its material cause is its is its plant-like embryonic structure, efficient cause would be water, soil, and nutrients, and formal cause would be the owner who planted the olives (or, in the wild, the form within the mind of God who thinks the seed-to-tree into being)

    I'm going back to the four causes because it seems to me that hammers have a definition, and so I would have said that a hammer has an essence on that basis from my understanding of Aristotle's notion of essence. But you're saying that it doesn't, so I'm starting to rely upon my understanding of Aristotle's physics as a basis for differentiating what truly has a substance from that which is merely composed of substances. It seems to me that the lack of a teleological cause might be a basis for making this claim -- basically anything which is a natural kind would participate in all four causes. (the strange thing here being that the basic materials participate in teleology by having a proper place to be in the stack... which clearly goes against how we understand matter to operate today)
  • Banno
    23.5k
    A couple of things.

    In PI§66 Wittgenstein, in considering the nature of games, asks us not to theorise but instead to look at how the word "game" is actually being used. We're in a not dissimilar place here, thinking "there must be something that serves to pick out the individual in question..."

    But an individual can be "pick out" even in cases where the description is wrong - consider another example from Donnellan, someone at a party asking "Who is the man with the martini?" and receiving the correct reply, despite the drink not being a martini. The description may be wrong and yet still serve to elicit the correct response.

    SEP lists three possible ways of fixing a referent, in addition to descriptions, and points out that they are not mutually exclusive. Some combination might well give the best account.

    What is clear is that rejecting the idea that all references are fixed by descriptions does not tie one to the view that no references are fixed by description, nor to causal theories of reference.

    In fending off the arguments, is obliged to take extreme measures. Hence "If the definition of Thales is stipulated to be "the man who fell into the well," then Fred is Thales". His approach cannot envision, let alone articulate, the possibility that Thales did not fall into the well, because for him "Thales" is exactly "He who fell into the well". I hope others will accept that "Thales might not have fallen into the well" is a clear enough English sentence that might even have been true.

    Aristotle was a fine philosopher, "conceptually rich" as says, and well worth reading, especially on topics such as ethics. But his logic has been superseded. Leontiskos has attached himself to the descriptivist view, and thus to the supposed utility of Aristotelian logic he holds dear. He has taken the next, predictable step, when Kripke shows your argument to problematic, attack the character and authority of Kripke ().

    Notice that the Kit Fine article (this is a thread about an article by Kit Fine...) does not reject Kripke's account; Fine is too good a logician to engage in anything so perilous. Instead he accepts the modal approach but tries to defend essences by accounting for them using definitions instead of necessity.

    Anyway, given that the discussion has moved away from the Fine article I might leave this topic where it is.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    By way of relaunching the discussion of the Fine article, I might offer the following rough summary. Kit Fine pretty much accepts that the modal account of essences does not turn out well for those who look to Aristotle. His solution is to claim that the modal account of essences diverges from Aristotelian account, which he says is to be given in terms of definitions rather than necessary characteristics.

    He is not offering a criticism of modal logic, but accepting it's results while claiming that Aristotle is talking about something else.... definitions.

    I have not understood how essences as definitions differs in salient ways from essences in terms of necessary properties. Isn't a definition a set of necessary and sufficient properties?

    I figure there must be something in FIne's account I am missing, and hence this thread is in part an effort to elicit the missing piece.
  • fdrake
    6k
    One way into it.

    Moore's account of essence is modal. A property P is partially constitutive of A's essence if the following implication holds: Necessarily (If x = A, then P( x ) ). That is, if x = A then P( x ) in all possible worlds.

    Fine construes this as saying too much. As whatever constitutes the essence of A must characterise what it means to be it, not what being identical to it implies. An illustration of that distinction, what this means "A implies B, A, therefore B" and what "not A or B, A, therefore B" mean differ despite being semantically equivalent in propositional logic. You know that because the use of a modus ponens (the first) is distinct from the use of a disjunctive syllogism (the second) - NB, I am not talking about the use as theorems in propositional logic, I am talking about their use in a holistic sense that includes what the propositional logic encodes about our broader practices of reasoning. Like they have separate presentations, wikipedia pages etc.

    This distinction manifests in the fact that the use of the modus ponens does not entail the use of the disjunctive syllogism, even though the two are interderivable in propositional logic. What gives there? It's an observation of a difference in practical language use, practical understanding, of the terms which is not reflected in the modal account.

    That failure seems to come from the material implication holding over multiple worlds failing to capture the informal aspects of the connection of identity and necessitation insofar as it characterises their use. In other words, what it means for a being to be an A is different from what being an A must materially imply. And that derives from a context insensitivity in the logic whereas the essence of a thing demarcates a context it arises in and ought be understood as part of. That understanding the essence of a thing requires attending to the context an understanding of its nature imbues.

    A dictionary definition is thus a bit closer to an essence than the modal account, since it tries to "minimally" specify the use of a term without all the subordinate variations that use engenders. Like listing all tautologies which it may materially imply.

    Thus, rather than a metaphysical extravagance, a more definitional concept of essence is attuned to the practicalities of language use in a manner a modal logical characterisation must be blind to.

    Ultimately that blindness comes from severing the connection between the target of the definition and how it seamlessly dwells in the world - beyond the words, its essence. What it means to count as a bachelor is different from what it means for a bachelor to count as an unmarried man.
  • Banno
    23.5k
    Thank you.

    So reflecting this back, Fine shows that there are necessary truths (the singleton) that are not true of the essence of Socrates, and so that the set of necessary truths is not identical to, or constitutive of, the essences. A dictionary definition might set out the characteristics that serve to differentiate an individual from other individuals - the "what makes it what it is", and these would be some subgroup of the necessary characteristics?

    So the essence is some, but not all, of the necessary characteristics of the individual in question? And it can be given as a definition?
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    It seems to me that the lack of a teleological cause might be a basis for making this claim -- basically anything which is a natural kind would participate in all four causes.Moliere

    You can definitely think about it in terms of teleology. That may be the easiest way to do it. I was just trying to point out that Aristotle doesn't think about it solely in those terms, although it does play a significant part.

    So if we think about it in terms of teleology (final cause), then we can see that a hammer or a horse-and-rider does not have a final cause. It is not ordered to anything in particular. It will not "go in some direction" left to itself. It seems to me that this is a perfectly good starting point for thinking about substances. An olive and an olive tree, on the other hand, do have final causes. The most obvious final cause of an olive is its orderedness towards an olive tree.

    I'm going back to the four causes because it seems to me that hammers have a definition, and so I would have said that a hammer has an essence on that basis from my understanding of Aristotle's notion of essence.Moliere

    It is true that if something has an essence then it has a definition. Trouble is, we are using "definition" in a loose sense (and therefore we are also using "essence" in a loose sense). Such loose usage is fine as far as it goes, but it does make things confusing if you are trying to grasp Aristotle. For Aristotle if we wish to speak strictly then the hammer has neither an essence nor a definition.

    If we want to speak more strictly then we could talk about an understanding of a hammer. One who uses a hammer has an understanding of it and a conception of it, even if they are unable to set out that understanding in a formal description.

    (the strange thing here being that the basic materials participate in teleology by having a proper place to be in the stack... which clearly goes against how we understand matter to operate today)Moliere

    You would have to say more on this.

    I take it your beliefs are Aristotelian-inspired, but since you're also saying "for Aristotle" it seems you may also be thinking about your account as different.Moliere

    Yes, I am trying to stick closer to Aristotle in this conversation than I am wont to do in my general philosophical inquiry. I don't think I actually disagree with him on these topics, however. A large part of it is that we are deviating from Aristotelian usage, and I am trying to accommodate the different usage.
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    Thus, rather than a metaphysical extravagance, a more definitional concept of essence is attuned to the practicalities of language use in a manner a modal logical characterisation must be blind to.

    Ultimately that blindness comes from severing the connection between the target of the definition and how it seamlessly dwells in the world - beyond the words, its essence. What it means to count as a bachelor is different from what it means for a bachelor to count as an unmarried man.
    fdrake

    Thanks, great post. Related:

    There is nothing archaic or 'metaphysical' about the doctrine of real essences: that doctrine merely supposes that among the properties of substances and stuffs some are explanatorily basic, others explanatorily derivative.Introduction to Posterior Analytics, by Jonathan Barnes, p. xiii
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    In fending off the arguments, ↪Leontiskos is obliged to take extreme measures. Hence "If the definition of Thales is stipulated to be "the man who fell into the well," then Fred is Thales". His approach cannot envision, let alone articulate, the possibility that Thales did not fall into the well, because for him "Thales" is exactly "He who fell into the well". I hope others will accept that "Thales might not have fallen into the well" is a clear enough English sentence that might even have been true.Banno

    But you missed the point, which is that your construals are the ones requiring extreme measures. We don't generally stipulate definitions in the way you are presupposing, and so my antecedent is abnormal precisely because it reflects your approach ("If the definition is stipulated to be...").

    Specifically, I was replying to your claim:

    Suppose that the only thing we know about Thales is that he fell into a well. On the descriptivist account, "Thales" and "The fellow who fell into a well" are synonymous, then on your view "The fellow who fell into a well" is what we mean by "Thales"Banno

    This is completely wrong on my view, but if we accept it then Thales is Fred.* When I say, "The only thing I know about Thales is that he fell into a well," I am not committing myself to your synonym, nor am I committing myself to the view that "The fellow who fell into a well" is what we mean by "Thales". I think these claims of yours are altogether strange and wrongheaded. You seem to be significantly misunderstanding the meaning and intention behind the phrase of a novice, such as, "Isn't Thales the one who fell into a well?"

    But his logic has been superseded. Leontiskos has attached himself to the descriptivist view, and thus to the supposed utility of Aristotelian logic he holds dear. He has taken the next, predictable step, when Kripke shows your argument to problematic, attack the character and authority of Kripke (↪Leontiskos).Banno

    First, when you talk about descriptivism you are talking about Russell. You (and Kripke) are arguing against a phantom that I do not hold to.

    Second, my point about Kripke is that I accept his authority no more than you accept Aristotle's. So when you cite him and simply expect to receive assent, you should check yourself. I have no respect for Kripke (and Frank's recent thread attests to the reason why). Neither do I have any special disrespect for him, and as I pointed out, the view you are here attributing to him doesn't even seem to be his. But the deeper point is that if you think Kripke is right then you have to argue for him. You don't get to merely cite him. I am doing the same with Aristotle.


    *
    Reveal
    I said the exact same thing in my original post, and I am starting to wonder whether you are even reading my posts carefully:

    The deeper problem is that your specifications are mistaken. When someone talks about Thales they are not defining him as "the man who fell into the well" (i.e. they are not assigning that as the one necessary property of Thales (along with existence)). If they were doing this then Thales would just be Fred. When someone talks about Thales they have a large number of predicates in mind, some of which are necessary and some of which are not...Leontiskos
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    Because in every thing, that which pertains to its essence is distinct from its proper accident: thus in man it is one thing that he is a mortal rational animal, and another that he is a risible animal. We must therefore consider that every delight is a proper accident resulting from happiness, or from some part of happiness; since the reason that a man is delighted is that he has some fitting good, either in reality, or in hope, or at least in memory.Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I.II.Q2.A6



    Well, I sometimes suspect that the capacity to giggle might be more common than the capacity for rationality.Banno

    One way to cash this out is to say that risibility or the ability to learn grammar supervene on rationality, and it is rationality that belongs to the essence because it is explanatorily fundamental. Thus a human being is not defined as "A risible animal" or "An animal capable of learning grammar," but rather, "A rational animal." This contains and explains the others.

    Aquinas claims that, in a similar way, delight supervenes on happiness, for happiness is essentially the possession of a fitting good and not the possession of delight, and yet delight always follows upon and attends happiness such that they appear indistinguishable.

    I should point out yet again that it is one thing to disagree with some real definition and another to disagree with essentialism itself. The latter is much more contentious and difficult, and would seem to involve the claim that no properties are explanatorily prior or posterior.
  • fdrake
    6k
    Fine shows that there are necessary truths (the singleton) that are not true of the essence of Socrates, and so that the set of necessary truths is not identical to, or constitutive of, the essences.Banno

    I think that's about right. If you think about an essence of a thing as set of properties, a candidate set must be identical to that "essence set" to count as that thing's essence. I think what Fine is illustrating is that sets of the form: {Properties P such that Necessarily(x = A entails P( x ))} are too large. Since they contain tautologies and the singleton, etc.

    I think he's gesturing toward a bit more than that though. That discussion on the "source" of a "necessity" also suggests he has a qualitatively different account of necessity as a modality for expressing essence to the possible worlds one discussed in the article, and which you're using as a lens on his view.

    If no modal account of essence is possible, then this is important for our understanding of the metaphysics of identity. For it shows that even when all questions of necessity have been resolved, questions of their source will remain. The example shows further that these questions will not always be unproblematic; they may raise real issues. Thus the subject should not be taken to be constituted, either in principle or practice, by its claims of necessity. — Fine, Essence and Modality

    So it seems that he believes there's some subset of the necessary (possible worlds sense) truths which are necessary (essential) to an entity's being. The "source" of these essential necessities seems to be the being's nature, as opposed to qualities like the singleton Socrates set, which derive from the whole possible world Socrates is in and the underlying logic which links statements within that world.

    Attending to the "source" might limit those extraneous derive-ables and baseline assumptions, so that in specifying the necessary (essential) properties of Socrates, we'd then express Socrates' essence. In a similar manner that the authors of a dictionary exclude the set containing a bachelor from their definition of "bachelor" by expressing the essential characteristics of bachelorhood - what it means to count as a bachelor.

    So I think he's firing shots at the combination of Moore's account and the modal modelling device of quantifying over possible worlds together in being used to flesh out essence. Seemingly Fine did come up with an alternative semantics for necessity, more relevant to his construal of essence, at a later date.
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