A response to Chisholm’s paradox
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Essentialists suppose that for every individual, if that individual exists at any possible world, then necessarily that individual exemplifies some non-trivial qualitative property essential to it, as such. Anti-essentialists deny this. One important argument leveled by some anti-essentialists against essentialism takes the form of a thought experiment, one originally introduced by Chisholm (Nous 1(1):1–8, 1967), sometimes referred to as Chisholm’s Paradox (CP). In this essay, I defend essentialism against CP. I begin by presenting the argument and showing how it leads to a contradiction of the essentialist thesis. I then consider one of the most popular solutions to CP to date, that given by Salmon (Midwest Stud Philos 11:75–120, 1986, Philos Rev 98(1):3–34, 1989, Philos Top 21(2):187–197, 1993). Next, I critique Salmon’s proposal and show that it is an insufficient response on behalf of the essentialist. And finally, I propose a novel solution to the paradox and discuss why it is that many metaphysicians in the past have found CP plausible, despite being fallacious.
KeywordsChisholm’s paradox Modal paradox Essentialism Anti-essentialism S4 modal logic Tolerance principle Sorites paradox
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