1st Edition

The Routledge Handbook of Essence in Philosophy

Edited By Kathrin Koslicki, Michael J. Raven Copyright 2024
    532 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Essences have been assigned important but controversial explanatory roles in philosophical, scientific, and social theorizing. Is it possible for the same organism to be first a caterpillar and then a butterfly? Is it impossible for a human being to transform into an insect like Gregor Samsa does in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis? Is it impossible for Lot’s wife to survive being turned into a pillar of salt? Traditionally, essences (or natures) have been thought to help answer such central questions about existence, identity, persistence, and modality. These questions are not only of great philosophical interest, they also are of great interest to society at large.

    This Handbook surveys the state of the art on essence. Core issues about essence are discussed in 33 chapters, all of them written exclusively for this volume by leading experts. They are organized into the following four major parts, each with its own introduction that provides a summary and comparison of the part’s chapters:

    • History
    • Essence and Essentialisms: Themes and Variations
    • Applications
    • Anti-Essentialist Challenges.

    The volume is accessible enough for students while also providing enough details to make it a valuable reference for researchers.

    While the notion of essence has been targeted for sustained criticisms since antiquity, recent work has renewed interest in the topic. This Handbook explains and synthesizes much of this current interest, placing essence within its historical context and drawing connections to many contemporary areas of philosophy as well as to scholarly work in other disciplines. With cross-references in each chapter and a comprehensive index, The Routledge Handbook of Essence in Philosophy is a useful resource and essential reading for anyone, whether in or out of academic philosophy, seeking clarification on one of philosophy’s most distinctive and notorious notions.

    Introduction Kathrin Koslicki and Michael J. Raven

    Part 1: History

    1. Ancient Marko Malink

    2. Medieval Gloria Frost

    3. Modern Anat Schechtman

    4. Pragmatism Andrew Howat

    5. Contemporary (Phenomenological Tradition) Kevin Mulligan

    6. Contemporary (Analytic Tradition) Robert Michels

    Part 2: Essence and Essentialisms: Themes and Variations

    7. Modal Conceptions of Essence Alessandro Torza

    8. Non-Modal Conceptions of Essence Fabrice Correia

    9. Essences of Individuals Marco Marabello

    10. Natural Kind Essentialsm Tuomas E. Tahko

    11. Origin Essentialism Teresa Robertson Ishii

    12. Scientific Essentialism Travis Dumsday

    13. Dispositional Essentialism Ka Ho Lam

    14. The Epistemology of Essence Antonella Mallozzi

    15. Language of Essence Katherine Ritchie

    16. Logic of Essence Jon Erling Litland

    Part 3: Applications

    17. Artifacts, Artworks, and Social Objects Asya Passinsky

    18. Biological Species Ingo Brigandt

    19. Identity, Persistence, and Individuation Maria Scarpati

    20. Essence, Grounding, and Explanation David Mark Kovacs

    21. The "Reduction" of Necessity to Non-Modal Essence Kathrin Koslicki

    22. Persons Annina Loets

    23. Psychiatric Kinds Danielle Brown

    24. Race Ron Mallon

    25. Sex and Gender Esther Rosario

    26. Social Justice Natalie Stoljar

    27. Unity Charlotte Witt

    28. Ethical Value Stavroula Glezakos and Julie Tannenbaum

    Part 4: Anti-Essentialist Challenges

    29. Quine on Essence Kit Fine

    30. Conventionalism Jonathan Livingstone-Banks and Alan Sidelle

    31. Social Construction Aaron M. Griffith

    32. Conferralism Anand Jaypraksash Vaidya and Michael Wallner

    33. Wittgenstein Arata Hamawaki



    Kathrin Koslicki is Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the University of Neuchâtel. Koslicki’s research interests in philosophy lie mainly in metaphysics, the philosophy of language and ancient Greek philosophy, particularly Aristotle. In her two books (The Structure of Objects, Oxford UP, 2008; and Form, Matter, Substance, Oxford UP, 2018), she defends a neo-Aristotelian analysis of concrete particular objects as compounds of matter (hulē) and form (morphē).

    Michael J. Raven is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Victoria and Affiliate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Washington. He is a co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of the journal Metaphysics, and also a co-founder and steering committee member of the Metaphysics Collaborative.