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What Brains Won’t Tell Us About the Mind: A Critique of the Neurobiological Argument Against Representational Nativism

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In their recent and influential book Rethinking Innateness, Jeffrey Elman and his co-authors argue that evidence from neurobiology provides us with grounds to reject representational nativism (RN). I argue that Elman et al.’s argument fails because it makes a series of unwarranted assumptions about RN and about the extent to which neurobiological data constrain claims about the innateness of mental rep-resentations. Moreover, I briefly discuss how we ought to understand RN and argue that on two prima facie plausible approaches, far from refuting nativism, the evidence from neurobiology may not even be relevant to the question of whether or not RN is true.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, 433 Logan Hall, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104–6304, USA.

Publication date: December 1, 1998


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