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

es·sen′tial·ist adj.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


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
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(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.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


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
-Ologies & -Isms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Vizenor objects to a reductive, essentialist reading of Indian literature:
Sturgeon looks to address the unfairness of labelling as "essentialist" certain feminist variants, especially ecofeminism, in order to dismiss them from the ranks of legitimate feminisms, even though, she admits, they are in part, or in some versions, "essentialist." She argues and demonstrates, however, that the "essentialism" of ecofeminism has been strategically effective in mounting a political opposition against other sexist environmentalist adversaries at different times.
Theresa Man Ling Lee's interesting book takes up the claim, which she attributes to postmodernist political theory, that there is a necessary connection between a nondemocratic politics and an essentialist or foundationalist conception of truth; and that a democratic politics necessitates an antifoundationalist notion of truth, and, therefore, a rejection of the Enlightenment and liberal traditions.
She deftly debunks the neo-Orientalist thesis as based on essentialist cultural assumptions.
One revealing sentence contrasts the 'constructed rather than the essentialist, the diverse rather than the monolithic nature of these formations' (p.
For those who decry the limits of essentialist assumptions about gender traits, here is a world in which no such assumptions hold, in any way, shape, or form.
The view that a phenomenon can be defined in terms of necessary and jointly sufficient properties is usually regarded as a form of essentialism, and it seems to me that Shusterman, at least implicitly, employs such a notion of essentialism in his article.[5) For when he (rightly) denies that he regards anti-essentialism as a defining criterion of analytic aesthetics he expresses his protest by saying that he 'never asserted anything so extreme or essentialist' (A 390).
Discussions of what terms "really mean" are the essentialist arguments of philosophers, and we agree with Stanovich that advances in our field require clarity in operational rather than essential definitions.
Many readers will find Bartels's use of terms such as |imperialist' and |colonialist' anachronistic for this period, and reservations may be expressed over blanket categories such as |alien', which elide important differences; there are essentialist labels, too, which reduce variety to ideology.
Viewing it as constructivist, the author considers what race is through four concepts: the traditional, essentialist, hierarchical racialist concept that contends that races are based on biology and can be ranked as superior or inferior; the minimalist concept of race that focuses on differences in physical features corresponding to differences in geographical ancestry; the populationist concept that characterizes races as groups of populations belonging to biological lines of descent; and the concept of socialrace, or social groups that are taken to be racialist races.
He talks about the underlying principles that guide the mindset of an essentialist. First is individual choice, each one of us has free will, the right to choose how to spend our energy and time and life, I would add.
First, the paper discusses the form of such inferences, and concludes that the essentialist inference is not a purely formal matter: it is not true that any statement possessing the form shared by principles of individuation is itself a principle of individuation, and hence there is no valid inference based purely on that form.