Volume 50, Issue 3, Fall 2020
Timothy J. Nulty
Predication, Intentionality and Relative Essentialism
Relative essentialism is the novel metaphysical theory that there can be multiple objects occupying the same space at the same time each with its own de re modal truths. Relative essentialism is motivated by Davidson’s semantics and his denial that nature itself is divided into a privileged domain of objects. Relative essentialism was first presented by Samuel C. Wheeler. I argue that Wheeler’s approach to the Davidsonian program needs to be elaborated in terms of various types of preconceptual intentional relations. This elaboration is already largely implicit in Davidson’s own later work and in Wheeler’s relaunching of Davidsonian metaphysics. More specifically, I argue that relative essentialism is ultimately founded not on predication narrowly construed but on intentionality broadly construed. Following Wheeler’s suggestion, comparisons are made between relative essentialism and work within the phenomenological tradition.