Nature and nurture in cognition

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 53 (2):251-272 (2002)
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Abstract

This paper advocates a dispositional account of innate cognitive capacities, which has an illustrious history from Plato to Chomsky. The "triggering model" of innateness, first made explicit by Stich ([1975]), explicates the notion in terms of the relative informational content of the stimulus (input) and the competence (output). The advantage of this model of innateness is that it does not make a problematic reference to normal conditions and avoids relativizing innate traits to specific populations, as biological models of innateness are forced to do. Relativization can be avoided in the case of cognitive capacities precisely because informational content is involved. Even though one cannot measure output relative to input in a precise way, there are indirect and approximate ways of assessing the degree of innateness of a specific cognitive capacity.

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Muhammad Ali Khalidi
CUNY Graduate Center

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