SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programm - Vortrag

The Metaphysic of Constitutive Standards
(Metaphysics/Ontology, Englisch)

Constitutive standards are properties representing norms for something to be realized in its nature, although such a thing may fail to meet the standard and thus not be good at being what it is. However, so far it has not been clear how to understand the metaphysical status of such norms. Jeremy Fix in "Two Sorts of Constitutivism" (2021), makes a case for the possibility of contingent essential properties to account for the metaphysical status of constitutive standards. According to Fix, contingent essential properties are properties that are essential to a genus because they (partially) explain its nature in a basic way, although can be lacked by particulars belonging to it. For example, having four chambers would be a contingent essential property of the genus HUMAN HEART which partially explains what a human heart is, and it is part of the requirements to be good at being a human heart (p.14). For that reason, that property can be considered a standard for particulars of such a genus, which can be possessed or not by them. A three-chambered heart is still a heart, although a faulty one because it does not possess a contingent essential property serving as a standard.

Fix's argument relies on the following strategy: essential properties are assigned fundamentally to genera and not to their particulars. For that reason, something belonging to a genus can have a "non-actualized" essence or nature. However, I will argue in this presentation that Fix does not make clear a criterion for particulars to belong to a genus, and this is an important problem for his approach. I will show that one rather reasonable criterion, which I will call "Possesionism", undermines the existence of contingent essential properties. According to Possesionism, when something lacks an essential property that constitutes the nature of the genus, it simply does not belong to that genus. Thus, Possesionism supports the idea that there is no room for properties essential to a genus that can be lacked by its particulars. In other words, it implies that there cannot be such a thing like contingent essential properties. I will argue that Posessionism is able to resist some possible objections and opposite views.


Fix, J. (2021). "Two Sorts of Constitutivism", Analytic Philosophy 62 (1): 1-20

Chair: Youssef Aguisoul
Zeit: 14:00-14:30, 07. September 2022 (Mittwoch)
Ort: SR 1.006

Yohan Molina
(Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Chile)

Testability and Meaning deco