Philosophy

Research Article

Science and Essence

Quassim Cassama1

a1 Oriel College, Oxford

Abstract

The terminology of ‘essence’ and ‘accident’, which it is customary to trace back to Aristotle, has been given a new lease of life by recent writing on logic and metaphysics. Aristotle's notion of ‘essence’ is notoriously difficult and obscure, but the works of Putnam1 on natural kinds, Kripke2 on naming and Wiggins3 on identity may be seen as providing a new rationale, with a distinctive scientific twist, for talk of essences. This revival in the fortunes of essentialism merits closer examination, for whilst it may be that modern versions of essentialism have avoided some of the difficulties of Aristotle's account, they have imported others which may prove no less intractable.