Quine, Davidson, Relative Essentialism and the Question of Being

Samuel C. Wheeler 1
  • 1 University of Connecticut,, Connecticut, United States of America

Abstract

Relative essentialism, the view that multiple objects about which there are distinct de re modal truths can occupy the same space at the same time, is a metaphysical view that dissolves a number of metaphysical issues. The present essay constructs and defends relative essentialism and argues that it is implicit in some of the ideas of W. V. Quine and Donald Davidson. Davidson’s published views about individuation and sameness can accommodate the common-sense insights about change and persistence of Aristotle and Kripke. Aristotle and Kripke have to give up unmediated direct reference resting on a unique correct articulation of reality into entities. Davidson has to acknowledge a distinction between descriptions giving accidental and those giving essential features of an object. Quine and Davidson were in a position to be a relative essentialist, but were over-impressed by supervenience. The relative essentialist view of beings developed from Quine and Davidson strongly suggests the Heideggerian distinction between beings and Being, and is the perspective from which analytic philosophy can engage that topic. Relative essentialism also connects analytic philosophy to Derrida’s thinking about differance.

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