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Essence and Lowe’s Regress

Organon F, 2018, vol. 25, No 3, pp. 410-428.
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Some philosophers believe that entities have essences. What are we to make of the view that essences are themselves entities? E.J. Lowe has put forward an infinite regress argument against it. In this paper I challenge that argument. First, drawing on work by J.W. Wieland, I give a general condition for the obtaining of a vicious infinite regress. I then argue that in Lowe’s case the condition is not met. In making my case, I mainly (but not exclusively) consider definitionalist accounts of essence. I make a requirement to which definitionalists such as Lowe are committed and which, I venture, should also be palatable to non-naïve modalists. I call it the Relevance Principle. The defence trades on it, as well as on the distinction, due to K. Fine, between mediate and immediate essence.

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