David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 40 (4):296-301 (2009)
The hunt for a biologically respectable definition for the folk concept of innateness is still on. I defend Ariew’s Canalization account of innateness against the criticisms of Griffiths and Machery, but highlight the remaining flaws in this proposal. I develop a new analysis based on the notion of environmental induction. A trait is innate, I argue, iff it is not environmentally induced. I augment this definition with a novel analysis of environmental induction that draws on the contrastive nature of causal explanation. Whether a trait is environmentally induced, I argue, depends on a context sensitive contrast class. I argue that a “Noninduction” analysis of innateness allows the concept an explanatory role in biology. I show how my proposal co-opts the successes of the Canalization account whilst avoiding its pitfalls, and I account for why biologists associate a range of disparate properties with innateness.
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