Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Essence and Ontological Dependence

This is my term paper from my independent study last quarter on ontological dependence. I will say beforehand that I did not have enough time to make it great, and there is a lot more I could have said. However, I believe it contains a relatively good summary of Kit Fine's position, and I think the stuff toward the end about causation is somewhat original (albeit sketchy). So hopefully someone will find it interesting and useful.

I.  Introduction – Examples and What We Want

In many areas of philosophy, as well as common discourse, it is normal to say that one thing depends on another. Moreoever, one of these uses of the word 'depends' is a distinctly ontological sense, as opposed to, say, a notion of epistemological dependence or logical dependence. I will use the term 'dependence' throughout this essay to stand for this particularly ontological notion, unless otherwise stated. So for instance, we might say that a composite depends on its constituents. Or we might say a smile depends on the mouth of which it is a smile. Or that a hole depends on the thing which it is a hole in. This is a philosophical datum and the only reason one would deny it or feign incomprehension seems to be hard-headedness.