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Aristotle on Meaning and Essence$
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David Charles

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199256730

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/019925673X.001.0001

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Aristotle's Essentialism

Aristotle's Essentialism

(p.348) 13 Aristotle's Essentialism
Aristotle on Meaning and Essence

David Charles (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Aristotle's account of essences is distinct from that offered by Platonists (who do not give such a central role to causal explanation) and by scientific realists (for whom definitions are solely dependent on real‐world patterns of causal explanation). Further, while Aristotle's essences are part of the fabric of reality, they can be grasped only by those with certain definitional and explanatory practices. Thus, his account differs from (amongst others) that of the Platonist (for whom essences can be discovered by any mind, independently of its definitional practices). Standard criticisms of Aristotle's essentialism (such as those that are to be found in the writings of John Locke or W.V.O. Quine) are, I argue, misdirected against a Platonist Aristotle of legend and do not successfully engage with Aristotle's own account.

Keywords:   active intellect, Aristotle, biological kinds, causal explanation, essence, intelligibility, Locke, master craftsman, Platonism, Quine, scientific realism

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