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The Blank Slate The Modern Denial of Human Nature Steven Pinker.

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1 The Blank Slate The Modern Denial of Human Nature Steven Pinker

2 Tacit Theory of Human Nature Behavior controls human beings thoughts and beliefs Base our thoughts of human nature on Generalizations Assumptions that everyone is like ourselves What experts tell us to believe

3 Origins of the Theories of Human Nature Religion: Judeo-Christian theory Based on events that occurred in the Bible Mind is an immaterial substance Mind continues to exist after the body die Believers Popular among residents of the United States Non-believers Intellectuals No evidence Believe in the Blank Slate

4 Official Theories The Blank Slate—John Locke The mind is clear of ideas and beliefs Molded by the environment and experiences Each experience shapes who an individual becomes By changing the one’s environment and experience an individual can be shaped into a different person

5 Official Theories The Noble Savage—Rousseau Humans are basically good Evil is the result of civilization Opposing views Thomas Hobbes Humans have a tendency to create war with each other Avoid it by surrendering to a sovereign person How it affects our daily lives Respect natural things Question things that are man-made

6 Official Theories The Ghost in the Machine—Rene Descartes Mind and body are different Body is divisible Mind is indivisible Mind and body are combined until death At death the mind continues to live Cannot question the existence of our mind because by doing so, our minds exist Can question the existence of our body because we can imagine ourselves as a spirit

7 Philosophy No respect Plays an important role in society Example 2001, George W. Bush decided not to fund embryonic stem cell research Reason: By extracting embryos, scientist must destroy them Dilemma: Argument that the soul develops at conception By extracting embryos, considered to be a form of murder

8 Modern Day Social Sciences and Enlightenment Philosophy Social sciences Locke’s “Blank Slate” theory/Tabula Rasa Society impressed ideas on blank slate Learning is associationism Process inscribing ideas/sensations on blank slate Appearing in succession, become associated with each other Blank Slate= Standard Social Science Model

9 Psychology and the Social Sciences Discount instinct and evolution Focus= society Differing opinions on study of mental entities (desires, feelings, ideas) Banned in behavioral psychology Studied in terms of society with rest of social sciences

10 Behavioral Psychology Developed by John Watson Locke’s associationism into conditioning Stimulus/Response Punishment/ reward associations Affect future behavior characteristics (ease, frequency, cessation) Mental entities= subjective, immeasurable Independent of biology Utopic mentality

11 Behavioral Psychology Rarely prescribed to now Modern psychology and neuroscience: Associationism Studying of animals interchangeably Still don’t account for instinct

12 The Other Social Sciences Culture and society create individuals Humans endowed with the equal mental faculties Differences are a result of culture Use of faculties necessary to survival Doctrine super organism Individual unimportant Individual ‘mental entities’ result of culture ‘Sui Generis’= Culture explained in terms of culture

13 The Ghost in the Machine and Silly Putty Utopic mentality ‘mind arbiter of destiny’ ‘We’ mold one another But aren’t ‘we’ ‘silly putty’ too??? (awww….how sad…..what will we do?) Seek Therapy (if you haven’t done so already)

14 Cognitive Science The study of the mind through empirical, scientific methods

15 First Idea The mental world can be understood in physical terms through the concepts of information, computation, and feedback Every action is a string of patterns operating in the brain World chess champion Garry Kasparov vs. Deep Blue “Electric Brains”—reasoning, intelligence, imagination, and creativity are all physical processes called information processing

16 Second Idea The mind cannot be a blank slate because then it would have the ability to learn or apply knowledge The ability to absorb information and interpret its meaning must be innate Humans have basic software or “standard equipment” Jerry Fodor all concepts are innate (even “camera” and “lampshade”) Naon Chomsky Children “grow” language Rumelhart, McClelland, Elman, Bater Built a basic computer and put as much software as possible into it

17 Third Idea An infinite range of behavior can occur all dependent on the combinatorial programs found in the mind Combinations of words are infinite Language obeys rules and patterns The number of thought and intentions is infinite

18 Fourth Idea Universal mental mechanisms can exist despite variations found in different cultures Different cultures are actually all very similar All cultures have language Ease of children to acquire language without training Ifaluk song vs. Western anger

19 Fifth Idea The mind is a complex system with many interacting parts Physical portrayals of emotion are universal Affects programs for physical emotions are learned

20 Neuroscience How the brain processes thought and emotions Every thought, feeling, dream, and intention originates as physiological activity in the brain The effects of damage to the brain Phineas Gage Gassaniga and Sperry Severance of left and right hemispheres

21 Paul Broca Fold and wrinkles of the brain have a recognizable arrangement Genes and prenatal development influence the anatomy of the brain Variations in the brain structure lead to variations in behavior Acquisition of knowledge causes changes in brain structure

22 Behavioral Genetics How genes effect behavior DNA contains all potential ability to think, learn, and feel Common chimps vs. Bonobos Identical Twins vs. Virtual Twins Scientists hold genes responsible for half of behavior

23 Evolutionary Psychology The study of phylogenetic history and adaptive functions of the mind Adaptations are any trait which facilitate the continuation of the species Evolution is not for the greater good How do positive traits evolve? Beauty = physical health and fertility Sympathy, gratitude, guilt, and anger = cooperation Proximate vs. Ultimate causes

24 Donald Brown and the Universal People Hundreds of traits are cross-cultural Attack of the Noble Savage False stories about tribes that had never heard of war, violence, or conflict South American and New Guinean tribes 10-60% of males killed in warfare Brown includes conflict, rape, revenge, jealousy, dominance, and male coalitional violence as universal traits Conflict resolution is also universal

25 Critical Review Interesting and Informative Points Philosophy influences society Silly Putty Weak Case and Confusing Points The author does not seem to represent opposing arguments clearly Speaks little of dualism, and then expands on how machines and humans are not alike


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