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Metaphysics / Psychology

Essence and Existence

This post is part of the series Being and Essence

Other posts in this series:

  1. Names, Particulars and Universals
  2. Against Universals
  3. Essence and Existence (Current)

I have shown that there are two problems with universals and particulars. If there were a way to distinguish between individuals and universals, then there would be a solution to these problems. The distinction between an existence and an essence is such a thing. Each individual has a distinct existence but a universal has a common essence.

Universals are any thing that has a name. For example, redness, humanity and oneness are all universals. Each of these things are different from each other because of what they are. The name for ” what it is” is essence. So the essence of redness is the color red, the essence of oneness is unity and the essence of humanity is rational animality. Each of these essences is different from each other, but every instance of an essence is the same essence.

Particulars are named with ” this” , ” that” or by pointing. So my apple is different from your apple, even if they have the same essence. This difference is their existence. That something is that it exists is normally different from what it is. Even though my apple and your apple are the same thing because they are both apples, they are different things because they have different existences. I can destroy my apple, and yours remains unharmed. The existence of my apple is not a feature of my apple. The existence of my apple just is my apple existing right now.

The previous problem with universals can now be resolved. The redness of a painting and a box are the same because they have the same essence. The redness of the painting is different from the redness of the box because each one has a different existence. What is true of redness is true of all universals, and all named things. Anything that is named, is unique as a particular because its existence is unique. It is the same universal because each instance of that universal has the same essence as any other instance.

The previous problem with particulars can also be resolved. There is no feature or history that makes one particular unique. So Stephen is not unique because he has a particular history, has a unique genetic code or because of any other feature. He is unique because his existence is different from absolutely everyone else’ s existence. If he were to have an identical twin, then each one would have a different existence. That is the only thing that is different from every other thing that no other thing could ever share with him.

Since the previous problems with particulars and universals are solved, it is natural for further problems to arise. There are several areas to examine. One of them is various essences. Categorizing them and determining which is most fundamental if any is a next step. Another area is the difference between essence and existence. Particulars must have both, but how are they related to each other? A final area is the nature of existence itself.

I will begin with the categorization of essence. Next I will discuss different universals and the relationships between them.

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