In this article I discuss the issue of the reference of Locke’s term nominal essence as employed in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding with regard to the domain of Lockean natural reality. I show it is hard to reconcile the textual evidence with any easy solution in terms of the strict identification of Lockean nominal essences either with abstract ideas alone or with the qualities of things alone, and suggest an alternative interpretation consisting in the textually-supported recognition that in his general theory of classification quoad nos, Locke operates with two different complementary concepts of essence, viz. the essence of a species, and the specific essence of an individual; that while the former is located within the domain of abstract ideas, the latter is eventually located within the domain of qualities; that Locke’s general notion of nominal essence can be integrated into both these conceptions; and that, as a consequence, it is possible to read Locke as operating with two complementary concepts of nominal essence located in different ontological domains, which reading best satisfies the intepretative principle of charity in the face of the problematical textual basis.
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