Also found in: Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.


The philosophical tenet that objects and classes of objects have essential and not merely accidental characteristics.

es·sen′tial·ist adj.


1. (Philosophy) philosophy one of a number of related doctrines which hold that there are necessary properties of things, that these are logically prior to the existence of the individuals which instantiate them, and that their classification depends upon their satisfaction of sets of necessary conditions
2. (Education) the doctrine that education should concentrate on teaching basic skills and encouraging intellectual self-discipline
esˈsentialist n


(əˈsɛn ʃəˌlɪz əm)

an educational doctrine advocating the teaching of culturally important concepts, ideals, and skills to all students, regardless of individual ability, needs, etc. Compare progressivism.
es•sen′tial•ist, n., adj.


1. a philosophical theory asserting that metaphysical essences are real and intuitively accessible.
2. a philosophical theory giving priority to the inward nature, true substance, or constitution of something over its existence. Cf. existentialism.essentialist, n.essentialistic, adj.
See also: Philosophy
References in periodicals archive ?
But you don't need to insist on any particular distinctive formal features to arrive at the mistaken essentialism that they and Sloan and so many others have fallen into.
In the context of a critique of postmodernism, MacKinnon argues against both relativism and essentialism.
The article illustrates how feminist theory has worked through these tensions in maintaining a practical politics of change and transformation while avoiding the problems of universalism, essentialism and privilege.
He also makes connections between Buddhism and race, noting that "for Johnson, the only way to liberate oneself from essentialism is to accept the illusory nature of the race and rejoice in its emptiness" (22).
As an alternative, the author argues for a cosmopolitanism that transcends essentialism and social fragmentation to accommodate differences without polarizing communities and marginalizing individuals.
This is akin to notions of Essentialism and Perennialism.
Yet overall the biennial managed to avoid the potential dangers of geographical essentialism or limited parochialism by diversifying its conception of its site--and this was a sign of the exhibition's complex ambitions: The organizers posited Istanbul as a relay between locality and globality, where globalization was encountered as a lived process mediating between a real place and the forces that move through it, between one's actual location and the discourses that determine or are inflected by it.
In his analysis of economic, anthropological, and sociological traditions, he rejects theoretical essentialism and instead posits the formulation of identity based on historical developments, namely the early modern transformation of feudal hierarchies into decentralized urban lordships.
The most significant weakness of this text is its lingering essentialism.
It is a book that challenges the post-Enlightenment "humanist" criticism of Renaissance texts, arguing that humanist essentialism de-historicizes those texts by viewing tragedy, in particular, as a genre that either transcends the structures of power and the historical moment or as a device of ideological affirmation.
Sorisio accurately claims that "[b]y examining these authors' corporeal depictions, we begin to understand that essentialism, or knowledge claimed through the body, became both an obstacle in people's efforts to attain full access to the literary and political spheres and a tool to deploy cautiously when advantageous" (7).
Cover and O'Leary-Hawthorne call Sleigh's interpretation moderate essentialism/sin and style their own strong essentialism as fining philosophical space between moderate essentialism and superessentialism.