Original Paper


, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 19-30

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Relevance and Relationalism

  • Mark YoungAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Faculty of Humanities, University of Bergen Email author 


This paper will provide support for relationalism; the claim that the identity of objects is constituted by the totality of their relations to other things in the world. I will consider how Kit Fine’s criticisms of essentialism within modal logic not only highlight the inability of modal logic to account for essential properties but also arouse suspicion surrounding the possibility of nonrelational properties. I will claim that Fine’s criticisms, together with concerns surrounding Hempel’s paradox, show that it is not possible to provide a satisfactory account of certain properties in abstraction from their place within a wider context. Next, we will shift attention to natural kinds and consider the notion that relevance plays in metaphysical accounts of identity, by examining Peter Geach’s notion of relative identity. I will argue that the intensional relation between subject and object must be included in a satisfactory account of metaphysical identity.


Relevance Relationalism Holism Anti-essentialism