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A Metaphysics of Psychopathology$
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Peter Zachar

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027045

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027045.001.0001

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Psychological and Scientific Essentialism

Psychological and Scientific Essentialism

Chapter:
4 (p.54) (p.55) Psychological and Scientific Essentialism
Source:
A Metaphysics of Psychopathology
Author(s):

Peter Zachar

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262027045.003.0004

A key feature of essentialism is the belief that discovering the inherent natures of things will lead to a classification system that carves nature at the joints. Some developmental psychologists claim that that essentialist thinking constitutes a cognitive bias. Not only does this bias emerge surprisingly early in our development, it continues on into adulthood as psychological essentialism. Whether we inherit such a cognitive bias, however, is independent of the philosophical justification of metaphysical essentialism. Recently, metaphysical essentialism has been powerfully defended by proponents of a new scientific essentialism. Hillary Putnam was an important early advocate for scientific essentialism. His subsequent pragmatist-inspired rejection of essentialist metaphysics emphasizes the various ways that we actively elaborate upon and structure experience in order to acquire factual knowledge that serves our interests and goals.

Keywords:   Essentialism, essentialist bias, psychological essentialism, Hilary Putnam, pragmatism

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