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The Real Challenge of Locke's Critique of Nativism
Dr. Raffaella De Rosa
Thursday, December 09, 2010, 12:00pm - 07:00pm
Rutgers University, Department of Philosophy
This paper offers a new interpretation of Locke's challenge to the doctrine of innateness. I disagree with recent claims that Locke's arguments undermine nativism. But I also argue that this conclusion does not diminish their lasting contribution to the old and new debate over concept acquisition. Their lasting contribution consists in raising awareness-- among among nativists of all times -- of the necessity to be clear about the nature of the hidden structure of thought. More precisely, why is this hidden structure specified in intentional as opposed to non-intentional terms? And what are the motivations underlying each specification? This is the real challenge of Locke's critique of nativism. I reach these conclusions by first laying out the varieties of dispositional nativism that Locke was attacking; by discussing the basic structure of Locke's arguments and, finally, by assessing their strengths and weaknesses.