Nature/Nurture – A Philosophical Analysis
Published Online: 15 DEC 2009
Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. All rights reserved.
How to Cite
Ariew, A. 2009. Nature/Nurture – A Philosophical Analysis. eLS. .
- Published Online: 15 DEC 2009
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The debate about whether some attribute is ‘by nature’ or ‘by nurture’ has a long history and it covers numerous topics. For instance, Socrates proposed that our ideas of complex concepts come from memories that are innate within us. Even today thinkers believe that some of our ideas are part of our nature rather than our nurture. This theory has social and policy implications. If intellectual quotient (IQ) is a fixed part of nature, is it worthwhile to contribute tax dollars to improve one's nurturing environment? Or, more generally, some think that understanding human nature might affect how we ought to live. Influenced by Darwin and developments in genetics, the nature/nurture debate has reduced to a debate about whether our attributes are ‘genetic’ or ‘environmental’. Yet, the implications of the genetic theories of human nature are not obvious since genes alone do not produce any attributes.
‘Nativists’ employ ‘poverty of stimulus’ arguments to demonstrate that an idea or cognitive ability could not have been learned.
‘Empiricists’ believe that our beliefs about the world come from our perceptual connection to the world and not from our natures.
IQ is likely to be influenced by nurturing environments.
Likely, there is no such thing as the singular good life; rather there are numerous valid conceptions of the good life.
The gene/environment dichotomy is false but that does not mean we cannot distinguish between robust and plastic developmental events.