Innateness and Domain Specificity

Philosophical Studies 105 (2):191-210 (2001)
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There is a widespread assumption in cognitive science that there is anintrinsic link between the phenomena of innateness and domain specificity. Many authors seem to hold that given the properties of these two phenomena, it follows that innate mental states are domain-specific, or that domain-specific states are innate. My aim in this paper is to argue that there are no convincing grounds for asserting either claim. After introducing the notions of innateness and domain specificity, I consider some possible arguments for the conclusion that innate cognitive states are domain-specific, or vice versa. Having shown that these arguments do not succeed, I attempt to explicate what I take to be the connection between innateness and domain specificity. I argue that it is simply easier to determine whether and to what extent domain-specific cognitive capacities are innate. That is,the relation between innateness and domain specificity is evidential or epistemic, rather than intrinsic.

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Muhammad Ali Khalidi
CUNY Graduate Center


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