What's Within?

What's Within? : Nativism Reconsidered

3.33 (3 ratings by Goodreads)
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3.33 (3 ratings by Goodreads)
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This powerfully iconoclastic book reconsiders the influential nativist position toward the mind. Nativists assert that some concepts, beliefs, or capacities are innate or inborn: native to the mind rather than acquired. Fiona Cowie argues that this view is mistaken, demonstrating that nativism is an unstable amalgam of two quite different-and probably inconsistent-theses about the mind.

Unlike empiricists, who postulate domain-neutral learning strategies, nativists insist that some learning tasks require special kinds of skills, and that these skills are hard-wired into our brains at birth. This "faculties hypothesis" finds its modern expression in the views of Noam Chomsky. Cowie, marshaling recent empirical evidence from developmental psychology, psycholinguistics, computer science, and linguistics, provides a crisp and timely critique of Chomsky's nativism and in its place
defends a moderately nativist approach to language acquisition. She also takes on the view articulated by nativists such as philosopher Jerry Fodor that learning, particularly concept acquisition, is a mysterious process. Cowie challenges this explanatory pessimism, and argues convincingly that
concept acquisition is psychologically explicable. What's Within? is a clear and provocative milestone in the study of the human mind.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 352 pages
  • 164 x 242 x 28mm | 680g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New
  • 5 line drawings
  • 0195123840
  • 9780195123845
  • 2,900,581

Review quote

What's Within? is one of the best recent books urging the resurgence of empiricism and should be given the kind of attention it deserves * Australasian Journal of Philosophy *
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About Fiona Cowie

Fiona Cowie is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the California Institute of Technology. Born in Sydney, Australia, she received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 1994.
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