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Locke's Metaphysics$
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Matthew Stuart

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199645114

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199645114.001.0001

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(p.141) 4 Essence
Locke's Metaphysics

Matthew Stuart

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins by explaining Locke's distinction between real and nominal essence, and a further distinction between relative real essences and total real essences. Next it examines Locke's claim that the sorts of things are the workmanship of the understanding. Locke puts forward a bold version of that claim, but also sketches a more modest fall-back position. Locke's arguments against essentialism are discussed, and it is shown that his rejection of essentialism does not preclude him from saying that there are natural kinds and also that our ideas of kinds can be improved.

Keywords:   real essence, nominal essence, essentialism, natural kinds

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