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Necessary Knowledge$
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Henry Plotkin

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780198568285

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198568285.001.0001

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The advantages of hindsight

The advantages of hindsight

(p.19) Chapter 2 The advantages of hindsight
Necessary Knowledge

Henry Plotkin

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines how great nineteenth century theorists dealt, or failed to deal, with what came to be called the nature–nurture issue. For Lamarck, behaviour mediates the effects of environmental change on the evolution of the ‘ shape and organization’ of animals, but he failed to link any form of cognition to this mediating role, and hence failed to link learning and reasoning to the dynamic interplay between the environment and evolution. Spencer made connections between nature and nurture, between instinct and intelligence, but his argument was unconvincing at best, incoherent at worst, and built upon an incorrect theory of evolution. Darwin never really considered the relationship between instinct and learning beyond some vague Spencerian musings about voluntary acts being transmuted first into habits and then into instincts, and a flirtation with the conception that ‘a little dose of judgement and reason’ may enter into instinctive acts.

Keywords:   nineteenth century theorists, nature–nurture, Charles Darwin, Lamarck, Spencer

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