Innateness and science

Abstract

Although a huge range of definitions has accumulated in the philosophy, biology and psychology literatures, no consensus has been reached on exactly what innateness amounts to. This has helped fuel an increasing skepticism, one that views the concept as anachronistic and actually harmful to science. Yet it remains central to many life sciences, and to several public policy issues too. So it is correspondingly urgent that its philosophical underpinnings be properly cleaned up. In this paper, I present a new approach that endorses a role in science for innateness while also accommodating many of the skeptical concerns. The key to squaring the circle is to import influential recent work on causal explanation. My thesis is that ascriptions of innateness are best seen as explanatory claims. The account that results has three main original features: 1) Innateness is a pragmatic, relational concept. Every trait may be either innate or non-innate, depending on explanatory context. 2) There is an important distinction between innate traits and innate dispositions. 3) Innateness is useful to science as a higher-level predicate that licenses interventions. It is thereby also clarified what ascriptions of innateness do not tell us.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 74,213

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

  • Only published works are available at libraries.

Similar books and articles

What is Innateness?Paul E. Griffiths - 2001 - The Monist 85 (1):70-85.
Innateness as an Explanatory Concept.David Wendler - 1996 - Biology and Philosophy 11 (1):89-116.
Innateness.Steven Gross & Georges Rey - forthcoming - In Eric Margolis, Richard Samuels & Stephen Stich (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Cognitive Science. Oxford University Press.
Innateness as Closed Process Invariance.Ron Mallon & Jonathan M. Weinberg - 2006 - Philosophy of Science 73 (3):323-344.
Nativism: In Defense of a Biological Understanding.John M. Collins - 2005 - Philosophical Psychology 18 (2):157-177.
Innateness and Domain Specificity.Muhammad Ali Khalidi - 2001 - Philosophical Studies 105 (2):191-210.
Irretrievably Confused? Innateness in Explanatory Context.Jonathan Birch - 2009 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 40 (4):296-301.

Analytics

Added to PP
2009-01-28

Downloads
50 (#232,211)

6 months
1 (#414,449)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Robert Northcott
Birkbeck, University of London

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references