A trivial example may help to illustrate the distinction. It is an essential property of bachelors that they are unmarried, but it is an accidental property of bachelors that they have brown hair. This is because it is logically impossible to find a married bachelor anywhere in this or any other possible world, and therefore the property of being unmarried is a necessary or essential part of being a bachelor. On the other hand, brown hair is a contingent or accidental property of bachelors since some bachelors have brown hair and others do not. Even if for some reason all the unmarried men with non-brown hair were killed, and every single existent bachelor had brown hair, the property of having brown hair would still be accidental, since it is the case that in some possible world, a bachelor could have hair of another color.
Aristotle addressed 10 different categories in his ontology, which could include categorization of different types of accidental properties.
^ Metaphysics: Books Zeta and Eta http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/aristotle/section6.rhtml
^ Aristotle on Non-Contradiction, and the role of Aristotelian Essentialism http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-noncontradiction/
^ Predication and Ontology: The Categories http://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/433/catlec.htm
In philosophy, an accident is a property that its bearer has contingently—that is, a property which its bearer could have failed to have (without having failed to exist), had things been different.
Accidentalproperties are defined by contrast to essential properties—properties which their bearer could not have failed to have without having failed to exist (or at least to exist as what it is).
Thus, for example, the high value of gold in the jewelry market is an accident of gold: if humans did not exist, or did not make jewelry, or found gold ugly, then gold would not have a high value in the jewelry market, but it would still be gold.
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