Essentialization as a Distinct Form of Abductive Reasoning

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Abstract

Essentialism is often criticized for producing biased behavior. Because it is a view through which people attempt to grasp the essence of things, it appears contradictory that essentialism might result in distortions of reality. Somewhere within essentialist cognitive processes there must be mistakes or omissions that fail to capture reality correctly. In this article, I treat essentialization as an abductive reasoning process, as a hypothesis, that explains particular characteristics of people on the basis of category membership alone. Besides essentialization, essentialist reasoning can also include deductive and inductive processes that aim at elaborating and testing initial hypotheses. Therefore, essentialist beliefs can be built by essentialization and hypotheses alone or they can be the product of more elaborate reasoning. The relationship of essentialization and general essentialist reasoning to truth and knowledge is discussed.

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