Psychological Essentialism and the Structure of Concepts

Philosophy Compass 17 (5):e12823 (2022)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Psychological essentialism is the hypothesis that humans represent some categories as having an underlying essence that unifies members of a category and is causally responsible for their typical attributes and behaviors. Throughout the past several decades, psychological essentialism has emerged as an extremely active area of research in cognitive science. More recently, it has also attracted attention from philosophers, who put the empirical results to use in many different philosophical areas, ranging from philosophy of mind and cognitive science to social philosophy. This article aims to give philosophers who are new to the topic an overview of the key empirical findings surrounding psychological essentialism, and some of the ways the hypothesis and its related findings have been discussed, extended, and applied in philosophical research.

Similar books and articles

Artifacts and Essentialism.Susan A. Gelman - 2013 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4 (3):449-463.
Teleological Essentialism: Generalized.David Rose & Shaun Nichols - 2020 - Cognitive Science 44 (3):e12818.
The essence of essentialism.George E. Newman & Joshua Knobe - 2019 - Mind and Language 34 (5):585-605.
Naturalizing Kinds.Muhammad Ali Khalidi - 2013 - In Bana Bashour Hans Muller (ed.), Contemporary Philosophical Naturalism and its Implications. Routledge. pp. 115.
Essentialism, Externalism, and Human Nature.M. J. Cain - 2012 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 70:29-51.
New Essentialism in Biology.Olivier Rieppel - 2010 - Philosophy of Science 77 (5):662-673.
On the functional orgins of essentialism.H. Clark Barrett - 2001 - Mind and Society 2 (1):1-30.
On the functional origins of essentialism.H. Clark Barrett - 2001 - [Journal (Paginated)] (in Press) 2 (1):1-30.
The metaphysics of natural kinds.Alexander Bird - 2018 - Synthese 195 (4):1397-1426.


Added to PP

276 (#74,245)

6 months
61 (#78,526)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Eleonore Neufeld
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Citations of this work

Engineering Social Concepts: Feasibility and Causal Models.Eleonore Neufeld - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
Engineering virtue: constructionist virtue ethics.Jakob Ohlhorst - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
Engineering Social Concepts: Labels and the Science of Categorization.Eleonore Neufeld - forthcoming - In Sally Haslanger, Karen Jones, Greg Restall, Francois Schroeter & Laura Schroeter (eds.), Mind, Language, and Social Hierarchy: Constructing a Shared Social World. Oxford University Press.
Asymmetry Effects in Generic and Quantified Generalizations.Kevin Reuter, Eleonore Neufeld & Guillermo Del Pinal - 2023 - Proceedings of the 45Th Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society 45:1-6.

View all 8 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

The meaning of 'meaning'.Hilary Putnam - 1975 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193.
Doing without concepts.Edouard Machery - 2009 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The Construction of Human Kinds.Ron Mallon - 2016 - Oxford: Oxford University Press UK.

View all 63 references / Add more references