Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What's wrong with essences anyway?

There are at least three answers to this.

One is that the naïve and/or philosophical reification of individuated entities is the misconception to which the twelve links of samsāric existence adhere. I intend to get to this much later.

Another is the pragmatist objection to essences which revolves around the manifest futility of essentialist metaphysics since its Aristotelian inception.

A third is evolution. As far as I have thought it through, if we take seriously the idea of cosmological evolution then any worldly* presence of essence becomes untenable because any given referent has the entire history of the evolved universe, up to and including its present state, as its conditions. Take these away as circumstantial, relational properties, as an essentialist must, and what essential property in this world can one possibly be left with? For surely an essence cannot be said to evolve, or emerge in any way, without violating the requirement that it be nonrelational with respect to time, i.e., that it be eternal.

* I say "worldly" because I suppose one may argue that the essences of all possible things already exist in some kind of atemporal transcendental realm.

No comments: