What Ever Happened to Anti-Essentialism?


  • Graham McFee Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Brighton, UK and Professor, Department of Philosophy, California State University Fullerton, USA.




Waismann, Weitz, Kennick, Anti-essentialism


How should one explain the relative disappearance of a major preoccupation of English-speaking Analytical Philosophy in the late 1950s/early 1960s: an anti-essentialist response to the question, ‘What is art?’, typified in papers by Kennick and Weitz? Minimally, anti-essentialism denies the widely-held assumption that something must be in common between all the instances where (in our case) the term “[fine] art” or the concept art is rightly ascribed, in virtue of which all are called ‘art’; a stronger version urges that, in fact, there is no essence to (our example) art.


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