Maria Scarpati

Haecceitism as a Theory of Individual Essences

Thesis defended at the University of Neuchâtel, on July 11, 2019, and carried out in cotutelle under the supervision of Professors Fabrice Correia (University of Geneva) and Olivier Massin (University of Neuchâtel).

Résumé :

Maria Scarpati’s thesis deals with the debate that opposes two metaphysical views: Haecceitism and anti-Haecceitism. Roughly speaking, according to anti-Haecceitists everything about reality is determined by the qualitative character of reality itself, while Haecceitists deny that this is the case.

The thesis has two main goals. The first is to formulate and defend a novel way to understand the two views in question. The second is to defend a form of Haecceitism that the author calls ‘Austere Haecceitism’.

The first goal is pursued by taking the typical rationale behind anti-Haecceitism as guide. This rationale has it that if Haecceitism is true then cases of primitive identity can possibly arise and that said cases are for some relevant reason unacceptable.

Scarpati argues that a proper form of anti-Haecceitism about the Ks (i.e., the things of a certain class) must rule it out that any of the Ks possibly has primitive thisness. Since if something fails to have primitive thisness it must have what Scarpati calls a ‘qualitative minimal individual essence’, anti-Haecceitism about the Ks in her sense entails that every K has a qualitative minimal individual essence. This entails, in turn, that the Ks respect a strong version of PII, the Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles.

The final part of the thesis is devoted to Scarpati’s case against anti-Haecceitism and for Austere Haecceitism.

Against some attempts to reject both Haecceitism and PII, Scarpati contends that (i.) a proper framing of the present debate must indeed characterize anti-Haecceitism as a view that claims that at least the fundamental entities must fail to have primitive thisness, and (ii.) anti-Haecceitism about the Ks is indeed committed to the claim that such things respect strong PII. She then provides reasons to think that such a commitment should be regarded as a serious drawback of that view.

Austere Haecceitism about the Ks is then characterized as a view that holds that some Ks have no qualitative minimal individual essence and that no K has a haecceity. Scarpati defends the claim that Austere Haecceitism is true about at least some Ks. Moreover, she holds that some such entities have strongly primitive thisness. That is, their being the very things they are does not consist in and is not determined by anything else at all. After recollecting the main tenets of her view, Scarpati defends them and the tenets of a weaker form of Austere Haecceitism, which they include, from some objections that may be raised against it.