Date: November 11, 2020 03:00pm -4:30pm

Location: online

Title: The Essence of Psychological Essentialism

Speaker: Joshua Knobe


People appear to understand the social world in terms of essences. This notion plays a key role in the way that people ordinarily think about social categories (gender categories, religious categories, etc.) and also in the way that people think about individuals (the person you truly are deep down inside). But how exactly do people ascribe these essences? I present a series of new studies suggesting that people’s judgments of essence can be affected in surprising ways with value judgments. These results provide support for the hypothesis that people’s ordinary notion of essence is not a purely value-free scientific notion but a notion that is infused through and through with values.


Joshua Knobe is a professor at Yale University, appointed both in the program in cognitive science and in the department of philosophy. Most of his research is in the field of experimental philosophy. He has published extensively both in psychology journals and in philosophy journals.