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nativism include positions that identify intuitively more central abilities,
such as metarepresentation (Perner) or theory construction (Gopnik), as
Disciplining the Individual and the Mind

underlying the theory of mind. Moreover, I am inclined to think that this
dimension is subsumable under or derivable from the internal richness
thesis insofar as stronger nativist views tend to view the thesis as having a
greater range of applicability to cognition than do weaker nativist views.
Although it is conceptual open space to hold the internal richness thesis
about just “upstream” structures, and not those together with sensory-
perceptual structures, as a matter of fact no one holds such a view. Thus,
all views that apply the thesis more widely also apply them to central
cognitive processes.
My view of Cowie™s proposal is similar. Recognizing the distinctness of
a “universal grammar” dimension to the nativism debate over language
may be useful “ for example, in distinguishing Chomskyan nativism from
lexical functional grammar. Yet it is unclear how such a distinct dimen-
sion helps elucidate such debates in all areas of language, such as that
over the acquisition of the semantics of words, or more importantly, be-
yond language and in other cognitive domains where the combinatorial,
generative role that universal grammar plays in language is less signif-
icant. For example, in cognitive development, there is a focus on the
principles that govern infants™ recognitional and behavioral interactions
with physical objects “ naive physics “ and on those that govern their in-
teractions with persons “ naive psychology and naive sociology. Yet such
principles constitute a grammar or a syntax in only a metaphorical or
extended sense. The problem of how to apply this dimension to other
nativist and empiricist views is exacerbated once we turn from cognitive
to noncognitive domains.
In summary, while further dimensions may shed light on nativism in
speci¬c contexts, they do not appear to have the generality that make
them useful in understanding nativist views more generally. We can see
this more clearly by turning from the cognitive to the biological domain.

8 nativism about cognition and biology
The renewed attention that the concept of innateness has received of late
within the cognitive sciences, typi¬ed by the authors I have thus far dis-
cussed or mentioned, is marked by a near-exclusive preoccupation with
what it means for a cognitive or linguistic structure or process to be in-
nate, and arguments for thinking that many such structures and processes
are innate. This focus neglects the other primary domain in which the
concept of innateness has been deployed, that of the biological sciences.
As I suggested in Chapter 1, an additional virtue of the two-dimensional
Nativism on My Mind 69

account is that it sheds some light on nativism debates within this domain,
and so reveals an af¬nity between the largely disjoint cognitive and bio-
logical literatures. Here I shall focus on the two areas of biology to which
nativism “ under the heading of innateness “ has been perhaps most cen-
tral. I shall expand on my compressed remarks about inheritance and
development from Chapter 1 and will also brie¬‚y consider innateness in
behavioral ecology. Rather than talk of strong antinativist views here as
empiricist, which would sound idiosyncratic, I shall refer to such views as
strong externalism about organismic development.24
There has been some skepticism about whether the notion of innate-
ness any longer plays a useful role within either of these areas of biologi-
cal science. For example, the biologist Patrick Bateson has distinguished
seven different things that “innate” means when applied to behavioral
phenotypes in the study of animal behavior, and suggested that only con-
fusion arises from continuing to use “innate” to mark all of these corre-
spondingly distinct contrasts. The philosopher of biology Paul Grif¬ths
has said that in “molecular developmental biology innateness seems as
antiquated a theoretical construct as instinct and equally peripheral to
any account of gene regulation or morphogenesis,” and has claimed that
since there is no univocal sense in which biologists speak of a trait as
being innate, we should retire talk of innateness.25
These views of Bateson and Grif¬ths do, I think, provide reason to
be skeptical about traditional one-dimensional analyses of innateness in
biology, including recent analyses in terms of canalization and genera-
tive entrenchment. But I also think that the two-dimensional approach
shows why Bateson and Grif¬ths are perhaps overly pessimistic about the
prospects for making sense of innateness in the biological sciences.26
While both the internal richness thesis and the external minimalism
thesis are formulated with respect to cognitive phenomena, processes,
and abilities, it is a trivial matter to apply them both to biological struc-
tures and processes. In Chapter 1, I pointed out that within genetics and
developmental biology questions of the innateness of any given trait are
often cast in terms of the role and conception of genes in organismic de-
velopment. The dominant view here accepts genes as being at the core of
the rich, internal structure that guides organismic development, with the
environment subsequently playing some kind of secondary causal role.
Both classical and molecular genetics, both cast since the 1940s largely in
terms of the complex metaphor of a genetic program “ blueprints, codes,
instructions, reading frames, executive controls “ adopt this view of or-
ganismic development in general, and as such represent strongly nativist
Disciplining the Individual and the Mind

views of this process. Genes code for phenotypes “ the traits are “in the
genes” “ and organismic development is the unfolding of this preformed
structure in the genetic code. But as a global view of development, such a
view has been challenged in whole and in part, and the two-dimensional
view of nativism captures much of the character of such challenges.27
While no one denies the existence of intracellular units, genes, both
their role in organismic development and the relationship between
“genetic” and “environmental” causes of development have been con-
tested. For example, as I said in Chapter 1, Richard Lewontin has re-
jected the idea that genes are the primary agents of development, as well
as the claim that genetic and environmental “factors” can be partitioned
in ways so as to meaningfully inform us about the causes of particular
developmental changes. In effect he rejects both the internal richness
and the external minimalism theses, and his views represent a strong ex-
ternalist position within genetics and developmental biology. Thus, the
two-dimensional view captures both strong nativist and strong externalist
positions in genetics and development. But it is important to see that, as
is the case with cognition, the two-dimensional analysis also provides for
the representation of less extreme views of genetics and development.
For example, some developmental biologists, such as Brian Goodwin,
share Lewontin™s skepticism about the roles ascribed to genes as agents
of development, and have argued for the primacy of other internal fac-
tors, such as morphogenetic ¬elds, as such agents. In seeing develop-
ment as endogenously driven, however, Goodwin accepts the external
minimalism thesis. What he rejects is the particulate view of the engines
of development entailed by the internal richness thesis. Rather than a
gene-centered developmental biology, Goodwin advocates a revival of
what he calls a rational morphology, with a primary role for developmental
constraints and morphogenetic ¬elds in explaining development. This is
one way to depart from both strong nativist and strong externalist views
of organismic development.28
Proponents of developmental systems theory, by contrast, maintain that
the agents of development are developmental systems. Developmental sys-
tems are series of processes that use a range of developmental resources,
including genes, chromatin markers, and organelles within the organ-
ism. Those developmental systems theorists, such as Eva Jablonka and
Marion Lamb, who emphasize cellular, epigenetic inheritance systems
have some af¬nity with Goodwin™s rational morphology insofar as they
identify nongenetic, internal causes of development. But others, such as
Susan Oyama and Russell Gray, take there to be an important symmetry
Nativism on My Mind 71

External Minimalism Thesis



Classical and Developmental Systems E Internal
Molecular Genetics Theory
S Richness


Rational Morphology Radical Interactionism N

¬gure 3.3. Nativism, Genetics, and Development

between developmental resources that lie within and beyond the bound-
ary of the organism, and so view developmental systems as often extending
beyond that boundary. Such views reject the external minimalism thesis,
and often share much with Lewontin™s criticisms of gene-centered views
that predominate within molecular genetics. Figure 3.3 shows how the
two-dimensional analysis applies to this range of positions about nativism
and development.29
I have so far been suggesting that the two-dimensional view of na-
tivism sheds some light on the “logical geography” of recent views within
genetics and developmental biology. The basic idea of this view “ to
treat internal structural richness and external causal role as indepen-
dent dimensions “ is particularly apt for genetics and development within
the biological domain. This is because much of the debate over innate-
ness within biology has turned on questioning traditional dichotomies “
innate versus acquired, genetic versus environmental “ that deny their
These two dimensions also subsume many of the characterizations
that have been given of innate traits in behavioral ecology. For example,
consider the seven senses that Patrick Bateson detects in uses of “innate”
in describing animal behaviors. Innate behaviors have been claimed to be
those that are (a) present at birth, (b) not learned, (c) adapted over the
Disciplining the Individual and the Mind

course of evolution, (d) unchanging through development, (e) shared
by all members of the species, (f) part of a distinctly organized system of
behavior driven from within, (g) caused by a genetic difference when two
organisms differ with respect to them. Bateson points out that there are
many cases in which these criteria come apart and argues that this limits
the usefulness of the concept of innateness within behavioral ecology.
If we view these, however, not as criteria for innateness but as seven
evidential bases for ascriptions of innateness in a given case, then I think
the two-dimensional approach is well placed to explain their appeal. Of
these, (a) and (b) are readily explained as a result of the external min-
imalism thesis, and (f) and (g) by acceptance of the internal richness
thesis. The remaining three, (c), (d), and (e), could be explained by
either or both theses. Likewise, the idea of innate traits as those that are
developmentally ¬xed and so relatively insensitive to environmental vari-
ation (canalized), or those that are “generatively entrenched,” can be
understood in terms of the external minimalism thesis. In short, the two-
dimensional approach to nativism within biology makes sense not only
of the major positions that have been held within genetics and devel-
opmental biology, but also explains the sorts of characterization of, and
evidence for, claims of innateness in particular cases within behavioral

9 conceptual analysis and nativism
Identi¬able nativist views have been with us for a long time, and they are
likely right about at least some of our cognitive structures and abilities,
just as they are right about some of our bodily phenotypes and behaviors.
The two-dimensional approach to the debate over nativism developed
in this chapter allows us to pinpoint what nativists are claiming about
cognition, and how one might go part of the way toward accepting the
strongest nativist views and so accommodate their insights without simply
assimilating cognitive development to bodily growth.
I also argued in the previous chapter, however, that the “short history,
long past” view of the debate over nativism should not blind us to the
signi¬cant differences between what has been central to that debate dur-
ing distinct historical periods. In particular, there are several important
discontinuities between traditional rationalism and empiricism and con-
temporary nativist and nonnativist views. The two-dimensional approach
aims to capture something important about the contemporary debate,
and I think we do less justice to that goal by either insisting on or implicitly
Nativism on My Mind 73

assuming a continuity thesis that is insensitive to the distinctive preoccu-
pations of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century thinkers.
It has been part of my plaint over an extended period of time that
philosophers (as well as zealous cognitive psychologists, linguists, and
computer scientists) should learn to say “some.” In philosophy we too
often yearn for something close to a standard conceptual analysis of a
concept or term in attempting to understand what is a corresponding
complicated and messy reality. If we view one-dimensional accounts of
nativism about the mind as suffering from the inability to “say ˜some,™”
and from focusing largely or exclusively on nativism about the mind,
then it is a fair question to ask how well the two-dimensional analysis
itself scores on both of these fronts.
The two-dimensional view is an analysis of sorts, but one aimed primar-
ily at understanding the debate over nativism, rather than our “ordinary”
concept of innateness (if there be such), and that is primarily descriptive
rather than normative or revisionary. Although I have responded brie¬‚y
to a few “higher dimensional” accounts of the debate, and attempted to
show how further or other dimensions that have been proposed are, in
some sense, derivative from the two-dimensional approach, it seems to
me less signi¬cant whether one is right here than it is to be right about
the need to move beyond one-dimensional accounts. This is in part be-
cause nativist views are enmeshed with a variety of other views about
cognition “ about its evolution, about its relationship to culture, about its
demarcation from both the noncognitive and the nonpsychological. And
where one™s nativism ends and such other views begin seems dif¬cult to
pronounce on, and unwise to build on.
One ¬nal point. One implication of the two-dimensional view is that
strong nativist views will likely be defensible for a more limited range of
traits than have often been thought of as innate. But this is neither because
there are more traits for which strong antinativism or externalism hold,
nor because “innate” is a term that has outlived its usefulness. Rather,
the two-dimensional view requires that we consider both internal and
external dimensions to the acquisition and development of any given
trait. Often enough, we will have to be satis¬ed with a view of acquisition
and development that departs from strong forms of both nativism and
part two


Philosophical Foundations

1 making sense of the individualism-externalism


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