[MaFLa] ToPHSS lecture: The Essentialist Fallacy: Critical Theory and Naturalism by Rebekka Hufendiek

Zsofia Jeney-Domingues Jeney-DominguesZs at ceu.edu
Thu Feb 16 15:53:22 CET 2017

The Department of Philosophy at Central European University (CEU) in Budapest cordially invites you to the lecture

The Essentialist Fallacy: Critical Theory and Naturalism<https://philosophy.ceu.edu/events/2017-02-21/tophss-lecture-essentialist-fallacy-critical-theory-and-naturalism>

by Rebekka Hufendiek (Basel)
on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 from 1:30pm to 3:10pm in room N15 106

The talk is part of the project "Topics in the Philosophy of the Humanities and Social Sciences" (ToPHSS), supported by the CEU Humanities Initiative, and is open to the public.

ToPHSS aims to cross boundaries between disciplines of the humanities and social sciences concerned with 'the human', that is with human beings, humanity, society, culture, history, and more. It focuses on methodological and ontological issues, in particular on those concerned with contested categories of the humanities and social sciences, and of those primarily on the categories of human, individual and person.


There is a strong tendency in critical theory to criticize naturalist takes on human features for describing them as biologically determined and thereby fixed. It is a central part of the ideological dimension of the nature-nurture debate that describing a feature as a result of nurture or social construction is associated with the features being changeable, and describing features as changeable is associated with progressive positions about what we are and what we could be. In this talk I argue that it is just as wrong to think of biological features as fixed or unchangeable as it is to think of social features as changeable and under our control. I call the identification of biological traits with essential and unchangeable properties the essentialist fallacy. The essentialist fallacy can also occur in reverse form, where social properties are identified with contingent and malleable properties. I argue that the essentialist fallacy owes its seductive power to a long history in critical theory that aims to unveil what seems to us like a natural eternal order as a contingent product of social history that we can change. I suggest that while critical engagement with the ideological implications of scientific or naturalist takes on human features is highly relevant, the (often implicit) assumption should be dropped that there would be any interesting ideological implication in describing a feature as biologically or socially determined per se.

Upcoming ToPHSS lecture series:

February 28, 1:30-3:10 (N15, 106) David Ludwig (Amsterdam): "Why Race is Still Socially Constructed"

March 07, 1:30-3:10 (N15, 101) Eszter Timár (Budapest): "Celebrating Biodeconstruction"

For abstracts, see https://philosophy.ceu.edu/tophss

- funded by the CEU Humanities Initiative, organized by Maria Kronfeldner (CEU, Philosophy)

Maria Kronfeldner
Associate Professor
Department of Philosophy
CEU, Budapest
Email: kronfeldnerm at ceu.edu<mailto:kronfeldnerm at ceu.edu>
Web: https://people.ceu.edu/maria_kronfeldner

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