Dialogue

Articles

The World Essence

John Bigelowa1

a1 Simon Fraser and La Trobe Universities

Recently, Brian Ellis came up with a neat and novel idea about laws of nature, which at first I misunderstood. Then I participated, with Brian Ellis and Caroline Lierse, in writing a joint paper, “The World as One of a Kind: Natural Necessity and Laws of Nature” (Ellis, Bigelow and Lierse, forthcoming). In this paper, the Ellis idea was formulated in a different way from that in which I had originally interpreted it. Little weight was placed on possible worlds or individual essences. Much weight rested on natural kinds. I thought Ellis to be suggesting that laws of nature attribute essential properties to one grand individual, The World. In fact, Ellis is hostile towards individual essences for any individuals at all, including The World. He is comfortable only with essential properties of kinds, rather than individuals. The Ellis conjecture was that laws of nature attribute essential properties to the natural kind of which the actual world is one (and presumably the only) member.