European Philosophers: Nature vs Nurture

Psychologists still disagree about the relative contributions of nature and nurture in the development of an individual. European philosophers explore their ideas on nature vs nurture.

During the time of the European Enlightenment “the thinkers” of this era began a debate concerning nature vs nurture that is still be debated today. One has to wonder did they know this was a subject that would never really be settled. It just seems to get pulled and picked at more and more with each research that is performed. So we can thank the founders of empiricism for giving us so much to think about and consider 4 to 5 centuries later.

During the 17th century the doctrine of empiricism was later formulated by John Locke. He argued that the mind is a tabula rasa (blank slate) on which experiences (nurture) leave their marks. Such empiricism denies that humans have innate (natural) ideas or that anything is knowable without having a previous experience. Others before him and since him still believe in the “blank slate” theory. The key words that should be looked at is innate ideas. Because no one can argue how an infant just seems to know to use the sucking response from the moments of life. But still the debate is like a see-saw, one minute one can be up on the nature side, down on the nurture, and then give it a day or so of readings and a person is up on the nurture and down on the nature.

Evidence has been done that effectively supports both sides of nature vs nurture. When attempting to prove either one, researchers often turn to maternal twins who were separated at birth to give evidence that nature plays a huge role in how the person develops. Even within this type of research they have their own debate going. That debate consists of beliefs that learning experiences begin within the womb and this explains why separated twins still share similar traits. The research will also look to twins who were not separated at birth in order to support the findings of the twins separated at birth. Then throw into the whole equation the findings about personality traits and a “whole new can of worms has been opened”.

“Mother Nature has plainly not entrusted the determination of our intellectual capacities to the blind fate of a gene or genes; she gave us parents, learning, language, culture and education to program ourselves with.”(Ripley, 1999). This statement made it very clear which side Ripley was on. Even though he began with parents, I don’t feel like he was in any way suggesting nature played much of a part the shaping of an individual. He was only suggesting parents, which encompasses more that “mother and father”, is one of the many tools that is used to shape the individual after birth.

I am in no way trying to “straddle” the fence on this subject, but I believe both contribute to the complete personality of a person. They research done with the twins being separate at birth makes it hard to believe that nature doesn’t play a huge role in the development of a person. But then again through my professional work and just general observation of people, I feel compelled to state that a person’s personality is certainly shaped by the experiences, good or bad, they engage in during their life. And I in no way feel it’s a 50/50 contribution. Therefore I will take this stand–

“To support by belief that we should look at nature AND nurture instead of seeing it as nature VS nurture,I have added this quote by the famous psychologist Donald Hebb, who was said to have once answered a journalist’s question of “which, nature or nurture, contributes more to personality?” by asking in response, “which contributes more to the area of a rectangle, its length or its width?”

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One Response to “European Philosophers: Nature vs Nurture”
  1. Camellia Shahmoradi Says...

    On May 3, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    this article was very interesting.

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