Philosophy Research Seminar: Dr Frederique Janssen-Lauret and Ajinkya Deshmukh
|Dates:||13 October 2021|
|Times:||15:15 - 16:50|
|What is it:||Seminar|
|Organiser:||School of Social Sciences|
This seminar will be taking place on campus, and in person, at Roscoe 2.3. If you are unable to come to campus, a zoom option will be available - please contact Dr Stephen Ingram to request the relevant zoom info.
- Caste, Material Origins, and Anti-Essentialism
- We argue that Indian speakers' discourse about caste represents a counter-example to the popular Kripkean essentiality of material origins. Material-origin essentialists contend not only that persons have the property of coming from the two particular gametes they actually came from essentially, but also that competent ordinary-language speakers find this intuitively compelling and consider statements which contradict it as either confused or clearly necessarily false. It follows they would predict that speakers the world over treat genetically-determined properties (species, biological sex, inherited disabilities) as essential, while treating characteristics such as class, religion, and caste as accidental, because it is intuitively obvious that the latter have no genetic basis. We adduce evidence from Indian speakers' discourse, both ordinary-language remarks about caste and published literature about the nature of caste, to falsify this prediction. Some Indian speakers treat caste as biologically essential, others treat caste as a temporary property of the person while treating the person herself as essentially mental, not as essentially the product of two gametes. We argue that although biological caste essentialism does not stand up to scrutiny, the second view, of persons as mental entities, is clearly coherent and not obviously necessarily false. We consider two alternatives to Kripkean material-origin essentialism which account for Indian speakers' discourse. One is mental essentialism, according to which persons are essentially mental and only accidentally embodied or biological. Versions of this view exist in both the Indian and Western traditions. But we argue against it in favour of a modally inconstant anti-essentialism, according to which what properties count as essential to an object and what properties count as accidental is not fixed but varies according to a given inquiry.
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