David Oderberg’s Real Essentialism is an extended defence of the traditional Aristotelian idea that everything has an essence. Chapter one is a critique of what Oderberg calls ‘contemporary essentialism’, accounts of essentialism that attempt to analyse essence in terms of notions such as possibility and necessity. In Chapter two, Oderberg addresses criticisms of essentialism that originate with Quine, Popper, and Wittgenstein. Chapter three focuses on the epistemology of essence, arguing that we can come to know the real essences of things even though they may not be directly observable.

Chapter four marks the section of the book wherein Oderberg presents his account of the structure of essence. This account is situated within a metaphysical framework of hylomorphism, the view (roughly) that all material objects consist of form (or actuality) and matter (or potentiality). Chapters five and six explore the connections between essence, existence,...

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