Abstract for López de Sa’s talk

In her recent book, The Metaphysics of Gender (OUP 2011), Charlotte Witt argues that gender is (unification) essential to the social individuals we are, which in turn implies that the woman is a new individual, over and above the rest of individuals, including the person (and the human organism). On the face of it, the main consideration on offer seems to instantiate a familiar modal pattern of inference for statements of non-identity: roughly, the statue is non-identical to the piece of clay given that the latter could exist even if the former were destroyed. Following other critics, I contend that the consideration falls short of vindicating such uniessentialism proper, as the relevant intuitions only suffice for the weaker view I call soft essentialism—a certain feature can be essential to the F only in the sense of being essential in order for something to be F. More recently, Witt (2012) has clarified that the consideration was meant to be normative, not modal. I argue that even if one accepts that norms are constitutive of social reality, the normative consideration similarly fails, as it is still compatible with women being (identical to) people.