Innateness and the brain

Biology and Philosophy 18 (1):13-40 (2003)
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The philosophical innateness debate has long relied onpsychological evidence. For a century, however, a parallel debate hastaken place within neuroscience. In this paper, I consider theimplications of this neuroscience debate for the philosophicalinnateness debate. By combining the tools of theoretical neurobiologyand learning theory, I introduce the ``problem of development'' that alladaptive systems must solve, and suggest how responses to this problemcan demarcate a number of innateness proposals. From this perspective, Isuggest that the majority of natural systems are in fact innate. Lastly,I consider the acquistion strategies implemented by the human brain andsuggest that there is a rigorous way of characterizing these ``neuralconstructivist'' strategies as not being strongly innate. Alternatives toinnateness are thus both rigorously definable and empirically supported.



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Steven R. Quartz
California Institute of Technology

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