Tuesday, 19 February 2008
Innateness and Science
Robert Northcott, U. of Missouri-St. Louis, Philosophy
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning
Abstract: Notwithstanding its centrality to many controversies in both science and public policy, can the notion of innateness really carry any scientific weight? Against several critiques, I argue that it can. In particular, I propose a new relational account that embeds the notion in influential recent work on causal explanation. One advantage of this account is that it enables us to capture the central motivating ideas of previous definitions while avoiding their weaknesses and counterexamples. But perhaps a greater advantage is that it at last becomes clear exactly why the notion of innateness is so useful to science in the first place, and not merely something arbitrary, insubstantive or redundant.