Against Teleological Essentialism

Eleonore Neufeld

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review


In two recent papers, Rose and Nichols present evidence in favor of the view that humans represent category essences in terms of a telos, such as honey-making, and not in terms of scientific essences, such as bee DNA. Here, I challenge their interpretation of the evidence and show that it is directly predicted by the main theory they seek to undermine. I argue that their results can be explained as instances of diagnostic reasoning about scientific essences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12961
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Causal model theory
  • Causally structured concepts
  • Diagnostic reasoning
  • Psychological essentialism
  • Scientific essentialism
  • Teleological essentialism
  • Telos

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence


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