1st Edition

Innateness and Cognition

By M. J. Cain Copyright 2021
    246 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    246 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The question of innateness, or nativism, is one of the most heated problems in philosophy, reaching as far back as Plato but generating fierce debates in contemporary philosophy and cognitive science. Which aspects of the human mind are innate and which are the products of experience? Do we have any innate concepts or knowledge or are all the contents of the mind acquired by means of learning?

    Innateness and Cognition is a much-needed overview of this important problem. Through addressing the following topics M.J. Cain argues for a nativist perspective which, nevertheless, finds an important role for culture and social learning in cognitive development:

    • the nature of innateness
    • the coherence and explanatory value of the concept of innateness
    • the acquisition of concepts and the role of learning in conceptual development
    • domain specific knowledge, including the 'massive modularity' thesis and the theory of core knowledge domains
    • cognitive development relating the theory of mind and mathematics
    • the relationship between biological and cultural evolution and their respective roles in cognitive development
    • language and innateness, particularly Chomsky's linguistic nativism and challenges to this
    • morality, moral judgment, and innateness.

    Innateness and Cognition is an excellent resource for those researching and studying philosophy of psychology and philosophy of mind, as well as those interested in foundational issues in cognitive science, psychology, linguistics, and anthropology.


    1. The Nature of Innateness

    2. Defending the Concept of Innateness

    3. Concepts

    4. Modules, Core Cognition and Culture

    5. The Theory Theory and the Theory of Mind

    6. Mathematical Cognition and Quinian Bootstrapping

    7. Language Acquisition and Linguistic Nativism

    8. The Challenge to Linguistic Nativism

    9. Morality and Innateness

    10. Moral Convictions and Mechanisms

    11. Conclusion.




    M. J. Cain is Reader in Philosophy at Oxford Brookes University, UK.