Essentialism as employed in the philosophical literature refers to the notion that there is an underlying reality or true nature that, although unobservable, gives rise to true identity and is responsible for the similarities that category members share. While essentialism as a philosophical understanding appears to be largely untrue, it so happens that most people are intuitive essentialists. Essentialism provides a convenient way to make sense of the world, and this way of thinking is especially evident in how people understand issues of identity and causality; that is, what makes something what it is and how it came to be that thing. Essentialism, as a form of common thinking, can be found in ordinary belief systems, language, and cultural practices and captures a “doggedly realist ...

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