In this article I introduce a certain kind of anti-realist account of what makes a property essential to an object and defend it against likely objections. This account, which I call a ‘conferralist’ account, shares some of the attractive features of other anti-realist accounts, such as conventionalism and expressivism, but I believe, not their respective drawbacks.
KeywordsEssentialism Conferralism Realism Properties Conventionalism
Many people have read previous versions of this article or discussed with me the ideas in it, although none of them should be blamed for the views expressed here—in fact, many of them disagree quite strongly with me—or any remaining shortcomings. I would like to thank Alex Byrne, Andy Egan, Iris Einheuser, Nathaniel Goldberg, Elizabeth Harman, Sarah McGrath, Ishani Maitra, Mary Kate McGowen, Laurie Paul, Adina Roskies, Robert Stalnaker, Christopher Sturr, Catherine Wearing, Ralph Wedgwood, Jessica Wilson, and Stephen Yablo. I owe a particular debt to Jennifer Church, Catherine Elgin, Sally Haslanger, Rebecca McLennan, and Judith Jarvis Thomson.
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