The Innate Mind: Culture and Cognition

The Innate Mind: Culture and Cognition

The Innate Mind: Culture and Cognition

The Innate Mind: Culture and Cognition

Excerpt

Humans are cultural creatures. From before birth to beyond death our culture provides an indispensable part of who we are, what we were, and who and what we will become. Humans are also biological animals, and our biological nature provides an equally indispensable element of our past, present, and future. Recognition and reconciliation of these facts has proved no easy task, and debate between those who defend a cultural understanding of our humanness and those who defend a biological understanding has been long and rancorous. Yet, as the twenty-first century begins to unfold, it is increasingly clear that both our cultural and our animal natures are necessary elements in any plausible account of what human beings are.

This volume is the second in a three-volume series aimed at giving a state-ofthe-art overview of research in the nativist tradition. The first volume, The Innate Mind: Structure and Contents (Carruthers, Laurence, & Stich, 2005) explored what is known about the likely overall architecture of the innate mind and some of its specific features. In this volume, the focus is on the relations between culture and the innate mind. The essays that follow investigate such questions as: To what extent are mature cognitive capacities a reflection of particular cultures and to what extent are they a product of innate elements? How do innate elements interact with culture to achieve mature cognitive capacities? How do minds generate and shape cultures? How are cultures processed by minds? How, in sum, should we understand the relations between our cultural and our biological selves? In the final section of this introduction, we have assembled brief summaries of each of the essays here. Before getting to those, however, we will set out a bit of the historical background of the research traditions represented in this volume. We will then sketch, in broad strokes, some of the ways in which researchers in these traditions have attempted to exploit features of the innate mind to explain cultural phenomena. It goes without saying that there are substantive theoretical, empirical, and methodological differences among those who might take themselves to be sympathetic with broadly nativist approaches to these issues. What follows is not intended to summarize a set of views all such theorists would endorse, but rather to set out the . . .

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