Essentialism & Connectivism

Keith Hamon, Communications & Society, May 24, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Keith Hamon ties himself in knots trying to reconcile essentialism and connectivism. And I don't think he helps himself adding DNA to the mix. "Richard Cartwright has defined essentialism as 'the view that, for any specific kind of entity, there is a set of … attributes all of which are necessary to its identity and function.'" But there are many things for which essentialism is false. As Wittgenstein famously argues, consider the definition of 'game'. There's nothing essential to being a game. For every property you can think of - competition, rules, points - there are exceptions. Or consider membership in a family. People in a family resemble each other, but there is no one trait that their all share. What makes them a family is that they are connected, not that they share some essential trait. In many ways, connection replaces essentialism, and does not need to account for it.

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