Ideas from 'Real Essentialism' by David S. Oderberg [2007], by Theme Structure

[found in 'Real Essentialism' by Oderberg,David S. [Routledge 2009,978-0-415-87212-6]].

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2. Reason / D. Definition / 5. Genus and Differentia
Definition distinguishes one kind from another, and individuation picks out members of the kind
                        Full Idea: To define something just means to set forth its limits in such a way that one can distinguish it from all other things of a different kind. To distinguish it from all other things of the same kind belongs to the theory of 'individuation'.
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 1.4)
                        A reaction: I take Aristotle to have included individuation as part of his understanding of definition. Are tigers a kind, or are fierce tigers a kind, and is my tiger one-of-a-kind?
'Animal' is a genus and 'rational' is a specific difference
                        Full Idea: The standard classification holds that 'animal' is a genus and 'rational' is a specific difference.
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 3.5)
                        A reaction: My understanding of 'difference' would take it down to the level of the individual, so the question is - which did Aristotle believe in. Not all commentators agree with Oderberg, and Wedin thinks the individual substance is paramount.
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 3. Nature of Numbers / a. Numbers
The Aristotelian view is that numbers depend on (and are abstracted from) other things
                        Full Idea: The Aristotelian account of numbers is that their existence depends on the existence of things that are not numbers, ..since numbers are abstractions from the existence of things.
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 1.2)
                        A reaction: This is the deeply unfashionable view to which I am attached. The problem is the status of transfinite, complex etc numbers. They look like fictions to me.
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 3. Being / a. Nature of Being
Being is substantial/accidental, complete/incomplete, necessary/contingent, possible, relative, intrinsic..
                        Full Idea: Being is heterogeneous: there is substantial being, accidental being, complete being, incomplete being, necessary being, contingent being, possible being, absolute being, relative being, intrinsic being, extrinsic being, and so on.
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 5.3)
                        A reaction: Dependent being? Oderberg is giving the modern scholastic view. Personally I take 'being' to be univocal, even if it can be qualified in all sorts of ways. I don't believe we actually have any grasp at all of different ways to exist.
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 13. Tropes / b. Critique of tropes
If tropes are in space and time, in what sense are they abstract?
                        Full Idea: If tropes are in space and time, in what sense are they abstract?
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 4.5)
                        A reaction: I take this to be a conclusive objection to claims for any such thing to be abstract. See, for example, Dummett's claim that the Equator is an abstract object.
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 4. Powers as Essence
We need to distinguish the essential from the non-essential powers
                        Full Idea: We need a theory of essence to help us distinguish between the powers that do and do not belong to the essence of a thing.
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 6.3)
                        A reaction: I take this to be a very good reason for searching for the essence of things, though the need to distinguish does not guarantee that there really is something to distinguish. Maybe powers just come and go. A power is essential in you but not in me?
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 2. Substance / e. Substance critique
Empiricists gave up 'substance', as unknowable substratum, or reducible to a bundle
                        Full Idea: The demise of 'substance' was wholly due to mistaken notions, mainly from the empiricists, by which it was conceived either as an unknowable featureless substratum, or as dispensable in favour of some or other bundle theory.
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 4.4)
                        A reaction: There seems to be a view that the notion of substance is essential to explaining how we understand the world. I am inclined to think that if we accept the notion of essence we can totally dispense with the notion of substance.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 1. Essences of Objects
Essences are real, about being, knowable, definable and classifiable
                        Full Idea: Real essences are objectively real, they concern being, they are knowable, they are definable, and they are classifiable.
                        From: report of David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 1.4) by PG - Db (ideas)
                        A reaction: This is a lovely summary (spread over two pages) of what essentialism is all about. It might be added that they are about unity and identity. The fact that they are intrinsically classifiable seems to mislead some people into a confused view.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 3. Individual Essences
Nominalism is consistent with individual but not with universal essences
                        Full Idea: Nominalism is consistent with belief in individual essences, but real essentialism postulates essences as universals (quiddities). Nominalists are nearly always empiricists, though the converse may not be the case.
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 2.1)
                        A reaction: This is where I part company with Oderberg. I want to argue that the nominalist/individualist view is more in tune with what Aristotle believed (though he spotted a dilemma here). Only individual essences explain individual behaviour.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 6. Essence as Unifier
Essentialism is the main account of the unity of objects
                        Full Idea: Real essentialism, more than any other ontological theory, stresses and seeks to explain the unity of objects.
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 1.3)
                        A reaction: A key piece in the jigsaw I am beginning to assemble. If explanation is the aim, and essence the key to explanation, then explaining unity is the part of it that connects with other metaphysics, about identity and so on. 'Units' breed numbers.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 8. Essence as Explanatory
Essence is not explanatory but constitutive
                        Full Idea: Essence is not reducible to explanatory relations, ...and fundamentally the role of essence is not explanatory but constitutive.
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 3.1)
                        A reaction: Effectively, this asserts essence as part of 'pure' metaphysics, but I like impure metaphysics, as the best explanation of the things we can know. Hence we can speculate about constitution only by means of explanation. Constitution is active.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 9. Essence and Properties
Properties are not part of an essence, but they flow from it
                        Full Idea: A substance is constituted by its essence, and properties are a species of accident. No property of a thing is part of a thing's essence, though properties flow from the essence.
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 7.2)
                        A reaction: I'm not sure I understand this. How can you know of something which has no properties? I'm wondering if the whole notion of a 'property' should be eliminated from good metaphysics.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 15. Against Essentialism
Could we replace essence with collections of powers?
                        Full Idea: Why not do away with talk of essences and replace it with talk of powers pure and simple, or reduce essences to collections of powers? But then what unites the powers, and could a power be lost, and is there entailment between the powers?
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 6.3)
                        A reaction: [He cites Bennett and Hacker 2003 for this view] The point would seem to be that in addition to the powers, there are also identity and unity and kind-membership to be explained. Oderberg says the powers flow from the essence.
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 8. Leibniz's Law
Leibniz's Law is an essentialist truth
                        Full Idea: Leibniz's Law is an essentialist truth.
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 1.1)
                        A reaction: That is, if two things must have identical properties because they are the same thing, this is because those properties are essential to the thing. Otherwise two things could be the same, even though one of them lacked a non-identifying property.
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 4. Potentiality
Bodies have act and potency, the latter explaining new kinds of existence
                        Full Idea: The fundamental thesis of real essentialism is that every finite material body has a twofold composition, being a compound of act and potency. ...Reality can take on new kinds of existence because there is a principle of potentiality inherent in reality.
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 4.1)
                        A reaction: I take from this remark that the 'powers' discussed by Molnar and other scientific essentialists is roughly the same as 'potentiality' identified by Aristotle.
10. Modality / E. Possible worlds / 1. Possible Worlds / e. Against possible worlds
Realism about possible worlds is circular, since it needs a criterion of 'possible'
                        Full Idea: Any realist theory of possible worlds will be circular in its attempt to illuminate modality, for there has to be some criterion of what counts as a possible world.
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 1.1)
                        A reaction: Seems right. At the very least, if we are going to rule out contradictory worlds as impossible (and is there a more obvious criterion?), we already need to understand 'impossible' in order to state that rule.
10. Modality / E. Possible worlds / 3. Transworld Objects / a. Transworld identity
Necessity of identity seems trivial, because it leaves out the real essence
                        Full Idea: The necessity of identity carries the appearance of triviality, because it is the eviscerated contemporary essentialist form of a foundational real essentialist truth to the effect that every object has its own nature.
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 1.1)
                        A reaction: I like this. Writers like Mackie and Forbes have to put the 'trivial' aspects of essence to one side, without ever seeing why there is such a problem. Real substantial essences have necessity of identity as a side-effect.
10. Modality / E. Possible worlds / 3. Transworld Objects / b. Rigid designation
Rigid designation has at least three essentialist presuppositions
                        Full Idea: The rigid designator approach to essentialism has essentialist assumptions. ..The necessity of identity is built into the very conception of a rigid designator,..and Leibniz's Law is presupposed...and necessity of origin presupposes sufficiency of origin.
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 1.1)
                        A reaction: [compressed. He cites Salmon 1981:196 for the last point] This sounds right. You feel happy to 'rigidly designate' something precisely because you think there is something definite and stable which can be designated.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 3. Natural Function
Essence is the source of a thing's characteristic behaviour
                        Full Idea: In the traditional terminology, function follows essence. Essence just is the principle from which flows the characteristic behaviour of a thing.
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 2.1)
                        A reaction: Hence essence must be identified if the behaviour is to be explained, and a successful identification of essence is the terminus of our explanations. But the essences must go down to the micro-level. Explain non-characteristic behaviour?
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / e. The One
What makes Parmenidean reality a One rather than a Many?
                        Full Idea: Even if there were no multiplicity in unity - only a Parmenidean 'block' - still the question would arise as to what gave the amorphous lump its unity; by virtue of what would it be one rather than many?
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 3.1)
                        A reaction: Which is prior, division or unification? If it was divided, he would ask what divided it. One of them must be primitive, so why not unity? If one big Unity is primitive, why could not lots of unities be primitive? Etc.
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / a. Scientific essentialism
The real essentialist is not merely a scientist
                        Full Idea: It is incorrect to hold that the job of the real essentialist just is the job of the scientist.
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 1.3)
                        A reaction: Presumably scientific essentialism, while being firmly a branch of metaphysics, is meant to clarify the activities of science, and thereby be of some practical use. You can't beat knowing what it is you are trying to do.
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / e. Anti scientific essentialism
The reductionism found in scientific essentialism is mistaken
                        Full Idea: The reductionism found in scientific essentialism is mistaken.
                        From: David S. Oderberg (Real Essentialism [2007], 1.4)
                        A reaction: Oderberg's point is that essence doesn't just occur at the bottom of the hierarchy of kinds, but can exist on a macro-level, and need not be a concealed structure, as we see in the essence of a pile of stones.