Talk:Essentialism

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Biological essentialismEdit

The paragraph here is grossly simplistic and in my view false. The medieval naturalists were not slavish followers of Aristotle - Frederick II in fact criticises Aristotle on natural history (which had only just been translated by Michael Scot), and none of the literature refers to the causal or generative essences of biological species at any time from the classical period until after Darwin. The myth appears to have arisen some time around the centenary of the Origin, in 1959, based on a passing comment in H. W. Joseph's Introduction to Logic in 1916.

There was, and still is, a taxonomic essentialism, in which the defining characters of a species or higher taxon are listed in describing it, but that is not the sort of essentialism attacked in the essentialism story. Types were always "more or less", and what was held to be essential to a species was the ability of the organisms to generate more like them. Morphology was only ever used for identification. I would go so far as to say that biological essentialism doesn't arise until, at the earliest, the 1890s, and probably, due to the ambiguity of the so-called essentialists' writings, not until the mid-1930s (Agnes Arber and H. R. Thompson). In short, it is based on a historical misreading.

Moreover, Aristotle was not a fixist. He accepted new species through hybridisation. Fixism arose in the mid-17th century with John Ray, and it was always based on pitey and doctrine rather than any philosophical foundation.

Later note:

I now think there never was any kind of constitutive essentialism in biology (it was always a matter of identification or diagnosis). I argue this in my book, coming out this year. Obviously as thi sis my own research I can't put it on this page, but when it is out, someone else might like to address it.

The book is Species: A history of the idea from University of California Press 2009. John Wilkins (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 01:25, 25 July 2009 (UTC).


The following sentence is an abomination, and almost impossible to make sense of:

"Mary P. Winsor, Ron Amundson and Staffan Müller-Wille have each argued that in fact the usual suspects (such as Linnaeus and the Ideal Morphologists) were very far from being essentialists, and it appears that the so-called "essentialism story" (or "myth") in biology is a result of conflating the views expressed by philosophers from Aristotle onwards through to John Stuart Mill and William Whewell in the immediately pre-Darwinian period, using biological examples, with the use of terms in biology like species."

Would someone who can make sense of it please edit it into 2 - 3 intelligible sentences. Thank youJustinleif (talk) 18:14, 22 September 2010 (UTC)

In biology and other natural sciences, essentialism provided the rationale for taxonomy at least until the time of Charles Darwin;[4]

google scholar shows only 4 citations of [4] and I have found opposing data in

As such, I intend to revise what is said in reference to taxonomy and essentialism. I provide citations not as a gauge of credibility but so that anyone who wishes may scroll through the articles citing the original, to see all the other articles expressing agreement with the original.

I similarly intent to revise the section 'In biology':

  • Incorrect use of reference [25]
  • To remind about the existence of all the historic proponents of Pangenesis and Orthogenesis

and thus downplay the prevalence of the idea

that before evolution was developed as a scientific theory, there existed an essentialist view of biology that posited all species to be unchanging throughout time.

I welcome anyone who denies what I intend to add is true to present credible refutation.Kuiet (talk) 04:54, 16 February 2020 (UTC)

Essentialism in society and politics NPOVEdit

After reading this largely unreferenced section I got a sense it somehow sounds similar to the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory.. are Im wrong?

I sort of subtly criticizes "Contemporary proponents of identity politics", "feminism", "gay rights", and "racial equality activists" for being inconsistent by adhering anyway to an essentialist viewpoint. The section also relativices the concept while as far as my knowledge essentialism is largely outdatet and superceeded in modern politics (if we are going to believe a statement of 52 Swedish anthropologists in the academia)[1]. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Lappspira (talkcontribs) 23:17, 24 July 2015 (UTC)

Section "In Mathematics"Edit

I'm puzzled by this section. As far as I'm aware, the term "essentialism" is not used in mathematics or in the philosophy of math -- at least there's no reference to it in the philosophy of mathematics article. There is only one reference in the section (to an article by Folland), and Folland doesn't use the word. Can anyone clarify whether or not this section really belongs? Thanks.--NightHeron (talk) 23:47, 13 March 2018 (UTC)

Absent any justification for keeping the section, I've removed it. The source does not say anything about essentialism in math or the philosophy of math, so this section doesn't belong, per WP:OR. NightHeron (talk) 01:15, 11 November 2019 (UTC)

Section "In Politics"Edit

Once again a new section is being added without any reference that uses the term "essentialism". An editor might believe that it's reasonable to use the word in this connection, but wikipedia policies such as WP:OR and WP:VER clearly say that this is not an adequate basis for including the section. Otherwise we'd see new sections on "In Religion" (because an editor finds a quote saying "You can't say you're a Christian if you're in favor of..."), on "In Sports" (because an editor finds a quote saying "You can't say you're a Yankees fan if you're not excited about..."), on "In Scholarship" (because an editor finds a quote saying "You can't say you're a true scholar if you use the methodology of..."), and so on forever. That's why this section should be removed. Thanks. NightHeron (talk) 02:44, 22 May 2019 (UTC)

Originally called, In Politics, I renamed a new, potential section for this article Karl Popper, Historicism and Methodological Essentialism. It's in my Sandbox, and I'd hoped you might check it out, NightHeron. Worth adding? Speck22 (talk) 02:08, 15 November 2019 (UTC)
@Speck22: Your sandbox summary of Popper is interesting to read, but I have several concerns: (1) it might be "original research" on your part (see WP:OR), in the sense that you're interpreting as well as summarizing Popper; (2) it gives undue emphasis to a single philosopher whose views should not be privileged over the views of others (see WP:UNDUE); and (3) there must be many who strongly disagree with Popper (after all, blaming social scientists for totalitarianism is a bit extreme), so if you give Popper's views you should balance it with the views of those who disagree with him. NightHeron (talk) 03:41, 15 November 2019 (UTC)
@NightHeron: Got it and thank you. As I have time, I'll do the following: To point 1, I'll find at least one secondary source to summarize/interpret. To point 2, I'll find valid criticism. To point 3, I disagree with Popper! I'm reading him so I can critique him. But if I can satisfy point 2, that should also satisfy point 3. If not, then I'll find a stronger criticism.
My goal was simply to establish that there is a genuine use of genuine essentialism in serious political theory. I think I'm pretty close there, but until I deal with your concerns, it's not up to snuff. Will let you know when I've got something worth your time. Thanks again! Speck22 (talk) 16:29, 15 November 2019 (UTC)
@Speck22: Sure, I'll be happy to give feedback. Just let me know when you're ready. NightHeron (talk) 17:03, 15 November 2019 (UTC)

Note #9 is this articleEdit

I looked up the unlinked ref to the last sentence of the philosophy section: Among contemporary essentialists, what all existing things have in common is the power to exist, which defines their "uncreated" Essence. I found a PDF of Levina's course description/syllabus[1]. The section on essentialism starts on page 20 and is mostly identical to the In Philosophy section. For this reason, I hesitate to link the note in the main page.

The PDF includes these additional readings:

Baker, L.R., 2007, The Metaphysics of Everyday Life: An Essay in Practical Realism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Amie L. Thomasson (2007). Ordinary Objects. Oxford University Press.

Speck22 (talk) 06:06, 10 November 2019 (UTC)

@Speck22:, well done; thanks for noticing this. It appears to be very likely (Earwig: 88.1%) that the In Philosophy section (permalink) is a copyright violation of https://www.hse.ru/data/2013/10/14/1280892305/RealMetaphys_Program_2013.pdf.
I've tagged the section {{copypaste}} for now; probably the section should be blanked, pending further investigation. The copy-paste involves at least one IP (128.205.145.13; e.g.: rev 294739130) and at least one registered user (Will Ockham (talk · contribs); e.g.: this edit). Adding User:Diannaa. Mathglot (talk) 07:42, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
That page is dated Spring 2013, at which point we already had the content. They copied from us rather than the other way around. — Diannaa 🍁 (talk) 11:11, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
Thanks, Diannaa, didn’t think of that. Also, some of the language seemed pretty technical, so maybe I subconsciously discarded that possibility. I might try poking around, to see if portions of it might have been taken from a different source, although with no "likely suspects" I’m not quite sure how to do that. (I’ll check Stanford’s Plato site, but other than that I have no leads. Thanks, Mathglot (talk) 01:02, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
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