Nativism in Cognitive Science


  • Richard Samuels

  • Earlier versions of this paper were presented at London University, Temple University, Washington University, the University of Sheffield and the ISHPPSB conference held in Oaxaca, Mexico. I am grateful for the many helpful suggestions that were offered on these occasions. Special thanks are due to Andre Ariew, Peter Carruthers, Andy Clark, Steve Downes, Peter Godfrey-Smith, Paul Griffiths, Stephen Gross, Dominic Murphy, David Owens, David Papineau, Sarah Patterson, Jessie Prinz, Jenny Saul, Gabriel Segal and Scott Sturgeon. I would also like to thank Mike Bishop, Gene Buckley, Fiona Cowie, Tim Crane, Steve Downes, Gary Hatfield, Ed Kako, Joel Pust, Tom Ricketts, Jonathan Sutton, Stephen Stich and an anonymous referee at Mind & Language for valuable comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

Address for correspondence: Department of Philosophy, King’s College London, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS, UK.


Abstract Though nativist hypotheses have played a pivotal role in the development of cognitive science, it remains exceedingly obscure how they—and the debates in which they figure—ought to be understood. The central aim of this paper is to provide an account which addresses this concern and in so doing: a) makes sense of the roles that nativist theorizing plays in cognitive science and, moreover, b), explains why it really matters to the contemporary study of cognition. I conclude by outlining a range of further implications of this account for current debate in cognitive science.