Hardwiring: innateness in the age of the brain

Biology and Philosophy 32 (6):1047-1082 (2017)
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Abstract

“Hardwired” is a term commonly used to describe the properties of certain behaviors or brain regions. As its usage has increased exponentially in the past 50 years, both in popular media and the scholarly literature, the concept appears to have gained a cloak of respectability in scientific discourse. However, its specific meaning is difficult to pinpoint. In this paper, I examine how “hardwired” has been used in the psychological and neuroscientific literature. The analysis reveals two major themes: one centers on certain purported characteristics of behaviors or brain regions, such as fixedness; the other places these and other characteristics within an evolutionary framework. Overall, the analysis reveals a degree of overlap between “hardwiring” and the folk biology concept of innateness. Various complications arise from such overlap, casting doubts on the usefulness and legitimacy of “hardwired” in scientific discourse.

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