Innate ideas as a naturalistic source of metaphysical knowledge

Biology and Philosophy 20 (4):791-814 (2005)
This article starts from the assumption that there are various innate contributions to our view of the world and explores the epistemological implications that follow from this. Specifically, it explores the idea that if certain components of our worldview have an evolutionary origin, this implies that these aspects accurately depict the world. The simple version of the argument for this conclusion is that if an aspect of mind is innate, it must be useful, and the most parsimonious explanation for its usefulness is that it accurately depicts the world. There are a number of important criticisms of this argument. These include the idea that evolutionary justifications are circular, that evolved mental content and principles are not necessarily accurate, and that, if the argument is taken seriously, it has some highly dubious consequences. These criticisms necessitate various qualifications to the initial argument. Nonetheless, it is argued that, in some cases, important conclusions can be drawn about the world from an analysis of evolved contributions to our view of the world. An evolutionary approach cannot provide an ultimate justification for any belief; however, in certain circumstances, it supports the conclusion that a given belief is a reasonable first approximation. To the extent that innate content and principles pertain to topics in metaphysics, they can be viewed as a naturalistic source of metaphysical knowledge.
Keywords Evolutionary epistemology  Evolutionary psychology  Innate ideas  Justification  Metaphysics  Naturalism  Rationalism
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10539-004-6835-7
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 23,209
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

View all 22 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

View all 7 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Shaun Nichols (2005). Innateness and Moral Psychology. In Peter Carruthers, Stephen Laurence & Stephen Stich (eds.), The Innate Mind: Structure and Contents. New York: Oxford University Press New York 353--369.
Jason Turner (2009). The Incompatibility of Free Will and Naturalism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (4):565-587.
Stephen P. Stich (ed.) (1975). Innate Ideas. University of California Press.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

71 ( #66,973 of 1,940,986 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

14 ( #62,203 of 1,940,986 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.