At first sight, the word 'intrinsic' appears to be a virtual - or even literal - synonym of the word 'essential'. Indeed it's tempting to use the latter - rather than former - word. However, as often happens in philosophy, there are indeed slight differences between the two ontological categories. Or, at the very least, there are different definitions of the words 'intrinsic property' and 'essential property'. Nonetheless, it can still be said that the two categories are very closely related. Or, to put that another way, this “sign-substitution” (to use Derrida's term) of 'intrinsic' for 'essential' would never have happened if essentialism and anti-essentialism had never been such important parts of the Western philosophical tradition.
In any case, some metaphysicians tell us that there's a difference between properties which objects have independently of any external factors acting upon them (i.e., intrinsic properties) and properties which are deemed to be the way they regardless of what's external to them (i.e., essential properties). Despite saying that, can't that account of intrinsic properties also be applied to essential properties? Can't we also say that essential properties are those properties which are independent of any - or all - external factors?
David Lewis on Intrinsic Properties
iii) Therefore get rid of the distinction between intrinsic & extrinsic properties entirely.
iii) Then the ontological reality of objects itself may be questioned.
Shape as an Intrinsic Property
- 'Rearrangement of Particles: Reply to Lowe' (1988), Analysis (48: 65–72).