I offer a concise critique of a recurring line of reasoning advanced by Joseph LaPorte and Samir Okasha that all modern species concepts render the view that biological organisms essentially belong to their species empirically untenable. The argument, I claim, trades on a crucial modal ambiguity that collapses the de re/de dicto distinction. Contra their claim that the continued adherence of such a view on behalf of contemporary metaphysicians stems from the latter’s ignorance of developments in modern biology, the modal ambiguity reveals the need to retrain in modal metaphysics.
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Plantinga, A.1974. The Nature of Necessity. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Search in Google Scholar
Wiggins, D.1980. Sameness and Substance. Cambridge:Harvard University Press.Search in Google Scholar
It is important to note the distinction between what I am calling “de re biological essentialism” – essentialism about individual biological organisms – and essentialism about biological kinds. As stated, the topic of this note is the former.
See Plantinga (1974, 18–26).
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