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As far as I know, there is excellent scientific proof that the human mind is not a tabula rasa if by that you mean there is no innate human nature at all. There most certainly is and must be. Steven Pinker's a Blank Slate is a good refutation of tabula rasa.

We don't have any 'innate knowledge' but we have a nature. This and a few other things is why I don't consider myself a 'proper' objectivist. :worry:

Philosophically speaking, Rand is probably correct, there is no innate knowledge, but I think what is mixed up here is innate knowledge and innate nature. :dough:

Rand's entire system of epistemology and theory of universals is based on the proposition that man is born with cognitive capacities, abilities and most importantly, limitations. Genes do not carry knowledge, they carry inherited traits. Traits are not knowledge, and genes that may effect our mental lives are more dispositional than anything. They are capacities we have to a certain mental process or action, but they are not knowledge.

We form concepts in particular manners. The way we class objects is certainly natural and based in neurobiology, but that does not imply innate knowledge. Steven Pinker is a famous Psychologist who fails to grasp this simple fact.

A non-human consciousness may be distinct in how it gathers knowledge in some way, but the essence of tabula rasa is that it must be gained by some kind of experience. I think this can be applied across the board from the nature of the concept "knowledge" as we know it.

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Having read some of the arguments in this thread against Tabula Rasa, I'm reminded of something I used to try and discuss here. I don't think I had conceptualized what I wanted to say very well at the time, and I'm hoping that someone might be able to help me out now that I have a better grasp of it.

The formation of concepts is commonly understood to involve an integration of the evidence of the five senses. What I had at one time tried to argue was that there were additional, innate, senses that ought to be included in the understanding of concept formation.

I should say that I thought that these were of the same quality as the five traditional senses, and treated the same by the mind - they are merely received differently.

For example, I will consider homosexuality. One might be aware of their homosexuality via innate evidence, but such self-awareness would necessarily employ a concept of homosexuality that integrates concepts of sexuality, gender, self, others, etc. In other words, homosexual self-awareness is hardly innate. Instead, certain feelings and sensations contribute to the concept of homosexuality, and these might be innate. But are they? Is sexual desire not the integration of internally sensed 'touch (or feel)' with other notions of desire and wanting? This reduces the 'innateness' of homosexual self-awareness back down to the five senses.

In the case of hunger, this is more easily true. Hunger is the direct sensation of phisiological changes in the body. Thus 'touch' must be defined more broadly as 'feel' - implying a physical sensation strictly.

But what about mental sensations? That is, phisiological changes in the brain that affect its ability to think. Not being an expert I only speculate based on amateur knowledge, but can the brain force attention to concepts? I will give a rough example. The memory of taking a hit of heroine triggers a chemical reaction that focuses the mind on heroine. This is easily explained. It is not the concept that triggers the reaction, but the memory of the sensation specifically. By this understanding, even highly powerful, internal, seemingly-innate, and possibly highly emotional reactions in the mind can be tied to concepts via sensations.

The only other category by which one might argue against Tabula Rasa would be that of layered consciousness. By having layered consciousness, you could have the pschyo-epistemological framework of the conscious mind be incompatible with that of the subconscious. Thus the subconscious could override the knowledge of the conscious mind and give the appearance of innate concepts.

A perfect example is the 'murder' argument that was put forward. The conscious mind might deduce that in a given situation murder would be an appropriate action, but the subconcious (because of learned fear of punishment as a small child) overrides this deduction. Thus the mind appears to have innate knowledge that overrides objective knowledge.

Yet again, at some level, knowledge depends on some sort of sensory input.

Taking my scientific arguments as nothing more than philosophical experiments, would you say I am correct in my basic understanding of the validity of Tabula Rasa as it applies to man's conceptual knowledge?

And further more, could Objectivism at large benefit by acknowledging the physiologically innate - or rather, does it acknowledge this? To give an example of the nuance of this, in my attempt to illustrate what I am describing, consider hunger.

I am inclined to accept man's knowledge that he must eat as conceptual - yes - but nonetheless derived from an innate response. In other words, man can learn that not eating will kill him, and can objectively conclude that eating is moral, but that most to all men first learn that they must eat from the physiological response of the body that provides an uncomfortable sensation due to hunger.

To qualify, this response is a sensation of the body that is integrated into a concept of hunger. Moreover, while the sensation cannot provoke an innate conceptual response it can provoke an innate physical response. An example would be a reflex, as in the kicking of the leg upon the receiving of hammer on knee. These reflexes can educate man - teach him concepts - of certain innate things. They can be powerful (pain, addiction, sexual desire) in overriding conscious decision making (I refer not to acts but to discrete actions). But man can also overcome them.

That a person would become a suicide bomber is clear evidence that the most powerful of instincts - survival - is not conceptually innate, though it might be something-else-innate (often these bombers use drugs to overcome fear, but that only bolsters my point).

Thus you have the phenomenon which commonly lead people to intuitively accept the reality of a 'mind-body' dichotomy. But what we really see is a 'concept-percept' dichotomy.

What I am arguing, then, is that the body can produce internal percepts that can in some cases trick or override the conceptual. What it cannot do, however, is influence the concepts non-objectively.

When the vestibular system is activated in a consistent manner over a period of time, often the sensations it produces (spinning) disappear. The body does not tell the mind that it should no longer conceptually believe it is spinning, rather, one mere sensation is removed. Pilots are often 'tricked' by this phenomenon, but instruments were invented to help solve this problem. The conceptual, therefore, is not influenced by anything 'innate' in the body. Thus Tabula Rasa cannot be discredited by all of these various arguements that paint nuanced or subtle percepts as magical fully-integrated concepts.

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