, Volume 75, Issue 1, pp 85–111 | Cite as

Essence and Properties

  • David S. OderbergEmail author
Original Article


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.


Natural Kind Essential Property Logical Truth Dispositional Property Bare Substratum 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I am grateful to the referees for their detailed comments on an earlier version of this paper. I would also like to thank audiences at the University of Leipzig and at the Prague conference ‘Metaphysics: Aristotelian, Scholastic, Analytic’, to whom prior versions of this paper were delivered.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of ReadingReadingUK

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