characteristic?? Don't you think they are the same (me & my friends we arguing about this) :tongue2:
Are you talking about the difference between Universal and Particular? Or is this more a question of whether "essence" (the word) is used in the same way as "important characteristic" in our vocabulary?
There's certainly a difference in the way I use the two words. "Essence" is used to denote the set of characteristics that must obtain to qualify any given object as a specific type. For instance, the essence of a rock is that it is a solid, continuous single object composed of mineral conglomerates, most of the time mixtures of ionic compounds, but sometimes single metalloids. Each of those things is a characteristic of a rock, but only the sum total of them make up the rock's "essence." Actually, essence is a term that I generally avoid using if I can, because of the historical association with the "forms" of Plato/Aristotle and the subsequent entanglement with Christian scholasticism.
Good post, LYN. To add Wittgenstein's perspective (and I don't want to be considered just a Wittgenstein-parrot, but you've already covered my other views fairly well, with your post): The "essence" of something might simply be its family resemblance to other things like it.
Example: The language-games all have some things in common with other language-games, but they don't have one singular thing that is common to all of them. Therefore, the search for an "essence of language", in LYN's framework, would be somewhat futile. However, these similarities that they share among each other make up the "family resemblances" of Wittgenstein's philosophy on language, and can thus be considered something akin to language's "essence".