I see essentialism everywhere I look now. It just seems to be pervasive. It's one of these ways of seeing the world. People say, oh, it might just be association, but association strikes me as inadequate as an explanation as to why some things seem to have this property. Of course, Paul Rozin'’s work on moral contamination and contagion, again, I think speaks to this idea there are things which you can contaminate with evil, for example, just by wearing a killer's cardigan, things like that. So as I say, I see it everywhere. I'm hoping to continue that kind of work. So that's an example of a philosophical kind of question, or certainly a philosophical domain that I think does lend itself to the empirical studies and, who knows, that might actually turn out to have some application as far as marketers are concerned.
There are actual real colleagues, Susan Gelman and Paul Bloom and George Newman is the psychologist who's now in the Economics School at Yale. We're planning on doing some research looking at advertising and looking at what aspects of it conform to this essentialist principle. I've done some work with my graduate students showing that children have intuitions about ownership of objects. If somebody has put some craftsmanship into it, for example, if you've got some clay and I've got some clay and I take your clay and make something, and if I said, "Who owns it?" an adult would try and probably evaluate that ownership on the basis of how much effort went into it, and also who owned the original material. But young children spontaneously say, well, irrespective of who owned the material, it's actually the person who changed and transformed it. The ownership transfers to the person of the craftsmanship.
Although the believed that the true nature of the universe was perfect, they attributed the observed imperfections to man's limited perception. For , this meant that there had to be two different realities: the "essential" and the "perceived". Plato's dialectical protégé (384-322 B.C.) applied the term "essence" to the one common characteristic that all things belonging to a particular category have in common and without which they could not be members of that category; hence, the idea of as the essence of man. This notion carried over into all facets of reality, including species of living creatures. For contemporary essentialists, however, the characteristic that all existents have in common is , and this potentiality defines the "uncreated" Essence.