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Abstract

Recently, several philosophers have defended what might be called ‘neo-essentialism’ about natural kinds. Their views purport to improve upon the traditional essentialism of Kripke and Putnam by rejecting the claim that essences must be comprised of intrinsic properties. I argue that this so-called break from traditional essentialism is not a break at all, because the widespread interpretation of Putnam according to which he takes essences to be intrinsic is mistaken. Putnam makes no claim to the effect that essences of natural kinds must be intrinsic, and offers at least one example of a natural kind whose essence is non-intrinsic. I conclude that his traditional essentialism has been misinterpreted, and consequently that neo-essentialism is not so ‘neo’ after all.