David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Essentialism in philosophy is the position that things, especially kinds of things, have essences, or sets of properties, that all members of the kind must have, and the combination of which only members of the kind do, in fact, have. It is usually thought to derive from classical Greek philosophy and in particular from Aristotle’s notion of “what it is to be” something. In biology, it has been claimed that pre-evolutionary views of living kinds, or as they are sometimes called, “natu-ral kinds”, are essentialist. This static view of living things presumes that no tran-sition is possible in time or form between kinds, and that variation is regarded as accidental or inessential noise rather than important information about taxa. In contrast it is held that Darwinian, and post-Darwinian, biology relies upon varia-tion as important and inevitable properties of taxa, and that taxa are not, therefore, kinds but historical individuals. Recent attempts have been made to undercut this account, and to reinstitute essentialism in biological kind terms. Others argue that essentialism has not ever been a historical reality in biology and its predecessors. In this chapter, I shall outline the many meanings of the notion of essentialism in psychology and social science as well as science, and discuss pro- and anti-essentialist views, and some recent historical revisionism. It turns out that nobody was essentialist to speak of in the sense that is antievolutionary in biology, and that much confusion rests on treating the one word, “essence” as meaning a single notion when in fact there are many. I shall also discuss the philosophical implica-tions of essentialism, and what that means one way or the other for evolutionary biology. Teaching about evolution relies upon narratives of change in the ways the living world is conceived by biologists. This is a core narrative issue.
|Keywords||Essentialism Natural Kinds Biology|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library||
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
Denis M. Walsh (2006). Evolutionary Essentialism. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (2):425-448.
John S. Wilkins (2013). Biological Essentialism and the Tidal Change of Natural Kinds. Science and Education 22 (2):221-240.
Marc Ereshefsky (2010). What's Wrong with the New Biological Essentialism. Philosophy of Science 77 (5):674-685.
Bence Nanay (2011). Three Ways of Resisting Essentialism About Natural Kinds. In J. K. Campbell & M. H. Slater (eds.), Carving Nature at its Joints. Topics in Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. 8. MIT Press 175--97.
Samir Okasha (2002). Darwinian Metaphysics: Species and the Question of Essentialism. Synthese 131 (2):191-213.
John S. Wilkins (2010). What is a Species? Essences and Generation. Theory in Biosciences 129:141-148.
H. Clark Barrett (2001). On the Functional Origins of Essentialism. [Journal (Paginated)] (in Press) 2 (1):1-30.
Makmiller Pedroso (2012). Essentialism, History, and Biological Taxa. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 43 (1):182-190.
Neil E. Williams (2011). Putnam's Traditional Neo-Essentialism. Philosophical Quarterly 61 (242):151 - 170.
Alexander Bird (2009). Essences and Natural Kinds. In Robin Le Poidevin (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Metaphysics. Routledge 497--506.
Travis Dumsday (2012). A New Argument For Intrinsic Biological Essentialism. Philosophical Quarterly 62 (248):486-504.
David N. Stamos (2005). Pre-Darwinian Taxonomy and Essentialism – a Reply to Mary Winsor. Biology and Philosophy 20 (1):79-96.
Travis Dumsday (2010). Natural Kinds and the Problem of Complex Essences. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (4):619-634.
Evan Fales (1982). Natural Kinds and Freaks of Nature. Philosophy of Science 49 (1):67-90.
Added to index2012-08-20
Total downloads1,174 ( #103 of 1,725,627 )
Recent downloads (6 months)234 ( #447 of 1,725,627 )
How can I increase my downloads?