SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Intrinsic Modalism and the Modalist Suspect Strategy
(Metaphysics and Ontology, )

A Classical Modalism (CM) is the thesis that some object x has some property P essentially if and only if it has that property necessarily. It seems fair to say that (CM) has lost most of its appeal due to Kit Fine (1994)'s infamous counterexamples. (CM)'s lovers, however, have refused to throw in the towel and succumb to Fine's challenges. Indeed, amended versions of modalism able to overcome Fine's challenges are legions. In this paper, I focus on a recent proposal (Denby 2014, Bovey 2020) that I call Intrinsic Modalism (IM) and I argue that it fails to deliver a satisfactory theory of essences. (IM) holds that an essential property of an object is a property that is both necessary and intrinsic. Although (IM) is a clever development of (CM) and it is able to cope with Fine's counterexamples, I argue that its success depends on a peculiar strategy to which the friend of (IM) recurs: the Modalist Suspect Strategy (MSS). The gist of (MSS) consists in two components: (i) a modalist analysis of essentiality that the (MSS)'s proponents wish to support, in this case (IM); and (ii) a certain class of contexts, which one would normally take to consists in essentialist claims, which clashes with proposed analysis. In particular, (IM) faces problems with a class of contexts such as claims about origins, natural kinds, sortals, and artifacts. Without recurring to (MSS), (IM)'s friend opens itself to a battery of counterexamples. The (MSS)'s friend, then, either (1) denies that those contexts consist in essentialist claims or (2) she tries to give an analysis of those contexts compatible with (i). I argue that these two possibilities are unacceptable, although for different reasons. First, (1) is clearly an ad hoc solution and thus it should be avoided by any means. Second, (2) violates the principle of neutrality of a theory of essence (NTE) which holds that a theory of essences should not be biased toward some or other metaphysical account. This, in brief, is what makes (MSS) suspect. Since (MSS) is methodologically suspect, it counts as a strike against any theory that uses it. (IM) is committed to (MSS), therefore, (IM) should be avoided.

Chair: Blazej Mzyk
Time: 19:30-20:00, 09 September 2021 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.003
Remark: (Online Talk)

Marco Marabello 
(University of Neuchatel, )

Testability and Meaning deco