Project: Essences, Identities and Individuals

Lay summary:

Consider an individual – for instance, yourself. Major philosophical issues among which
individuation and the ontology of individuals face metaphysicians with such questions as: what
makes it the case that you are you, and you are different from every other individual – e.g., from
me? What condition, or what collection of conditions, is both necessary and sufficient for being
identical with you, hence different from any other individual?

This project deals with Haecceitism, a view according to which the identity of individuals is
primitive, both intra- and transworldly. According to a haecceitist, given an individual x, it is
possible that no collection of purely qualitative conditions is both necessary and jointly sufficient
for being identical with x. However, this is not yet a definition: the notion of qualitative needs to be
characterized first. In fact, the debate about Haecceitism in analytic metaphysics, started by
Robert Adams and David Kaplan some decades ago, has not expired yet, and a great part of it still
consists in attempts to properly define the very doctrine at issue.

Our project will prove innovative in several ways. It will address the lack of a clear-cut
definition of the notion of individual in the debate about Haecceitism – a problem that seems to
have been ignored so far. The definition of qualitative that haecceitists usually assume critically
depend on that notion; by bridging such a gap, we will help reaching a proper understanding of
Haecceitism. In the latter concern, we will advance a proposal that was never explicitly defended
before: we will suggest that Haecceitism can adequately be characterized as the claim that it is not
the case that, necessarily, individuals have qualitative individual essences. So construed, the view
has interesting consequences on any account of essentialism and modality de re. This project will
also help solving a problem that earlier conceptions have left open: the question whether a
Kripkean approach to modal talk entails Haecceitism. Finally, notions of ontological dependence
and of identity-dependence in particular will play a main role in our work; this will open the way
to dialogue with current research about fundamentality and grounding.

Funding Institution:

Swiss National Science Foundation.

Project number: 100012_159472

Principal investigator:

Fabrice Correia