Recent years have seen an explosion of interest in metaphysical explanation, and philosophers have fixed on the notion of ground as the conceptual tool with which such explanation should be investigated. I will argue that this focus on ground is myopic and that some metaphysical explanations that involve the essences of things cannot be understood in terms of ground. Such ‘essentialist’ explanation is of interest, not only for its ubiquity in philosophy, but for its being in a sense an ultimate form of explanation. I give an account of the sense in which such explanation is ultimate and support it by defending what I call the inessentiality of essence. I close by suggesting that this principle is the key to understanding why essentialist explanations can seem so satisfying.
KeywordsEssence Explanation Ground Ultimacy
My thanks to Brookes Brown, Shamik Dasgupta, Louis deRosset, Kit Fine, Dan Fogal, Matthew Hanser, Kathrin Koslicki, Enoch Lambert, Jon Litland, Penelope Mackie, Barry Maguire, Carla Merino-Rajme, Asya Passinsky, Mike Raven, Jeff Russell, Ted Sider, Michael Strevens, Steve Swartzer, Peter Tan, to anonymous referees, and to audiences at the CUNY Graduate Center, the APA Pacific Division and the University of Helsinki.
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