Thanks for reading. I generally agree with your assessment of the genealogy of essentialism. That said, I’m hesitant to include science at the conclusion of the list. Though science definitely did derive a great deal from Greek philosophy and the monotheistic cultures in which it first flowered, I think science undermines rather than reinforces essentialism. Evolution and ecology are, I believe, very direct assaults on the idea that people, groups or objects have essences. The neurosciences are increasingly getting in on the act too.

Of course scientists are human too, and so are also vulnerable to our tendency to see an essence functioning in our heads (or elsewhere) as the rest of us. We can reach the point where we intellectually grasp the concept that mental processes are the product of physical activity, but it’s never going to feel like it given these physical processes are part of the human experience and so cannot be objectively examined by the person (subject) doing the thinking/feeling. Also, science typically values parsimony. It can be easy to mistake a parsimonious theory for an essentialist one.

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US citizen residing in British Columbia, Canada. Degrees include anthropology and environmental studies. Activism, politics, science, nature.

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