, Volume 75, Issue 1, pp 85-111
Date: 10 Apr 2011

Essence and Properties

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Abstract

The distinction between the essence of an object and its properties has been obscured in contemporary discussion of essentialism. Locke held that the properties of an object are exclusively those features that ‘flow’ from its essence. Here he follows the Aristotelian theory, leaving aside Locke’s own scepticism about the knowability of essence. I defend the need to distinguish sharply between essence and properties, arguing that essence must be given by form and that properties flow from form. I give a precise definition of what the term of art ‘flow’ amounts to, and apply the distinction to various kinds of taxonomic issues.