DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-N040-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved November 30, 2023, from

2. Bare particulars

Aristotle agreed with Plato that knowledge – science – is concerned with things which are necessary and hence permanent. Yet for Aristotle this did not exclude knowledge of particulars. Admittedly, each particular is subject to generation and corruption; nonetheless, each particular does have certain essential properties in virtue of which it belongs to a species and genus. And although individuals are transient, species are permanent. Individuals can be subjects of knowledge, thanks to their possession of essential properties (see Aristotle §§14–15).

Aristotelian essentialism is often disavowed by philosophers but, arguably, essentialist assumptions are pervasive in our thinking at both a common-sense and a philosophical level. The essentialist holds that each particular has certain properties which it cannot lose except by ceasing to exist, and which it could not have lacked from the start except by never having come into being. The contrary doctrine is sometimes called the doctrine of ‘bare particulars’ – that particulars do not have essential properties. Although essentialism is regularly disparaged by philosophers, so is the contrary doctrine of bare particulars. The rejection of both together would require a radical elimination of the very idea of any but merely verbal necessities or possibilities, as in Quine (1953).

Citing this article:
Bigelow, John C.. Bare particulars. Particulars, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-N040-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2023 Routledge.

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