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+ The Blank Slate and the Standard Social Science Model Introducing Loss of Childhood.

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Presentation on theme: "+ The Blank Slate and the Standard Social Science Model Introducing Loss of Childhood."— Presentation transcript:

1 + The Blank Slate and the Standard Social Science Model Introducing Loss of Childhood

2 + The SSSM as the extreme of ‘blank slate’ thinking in the C20th The term ‘Standard Social Science Model’ was coined by its critics rather than its proponents, who define its precepts as: Humans born as a blank slate Brain is a “general-purpose” computer Culture and socialization is what programs behavior Cultures are free to vary any direction on any trait Biology is relatively unimportant to understand behavior See:

3 + Pinker and the SSSM A prominent critic of the ‘straw man’ that is the SSSM is the evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker. He suggests that there is ‘a grave moral significance currently attached to the denial of human nature and of a materialist understanding of the mind.’ (Pinker 209) However, despite Pinker’s oversimplifications, he allows us to move beyond a straight forward oppositional structure of nature OR nurture.

4 + Pinker on Locke, Rousseau and Descates Pinker correctly associates the SSSM with Locke’s ideas of the ‘blank slate’ (or ‘white paper’) but he also critiques two other significant concepts; Rousseau’s ‘noble savage’ and Descartes’ ‘ghost in the machine’. He does this to remove extreme moral positions from the nature/nurture debate he is engaging in. This is also how he attempts to remove ethics and morality from his discussion of science (all the while qualifying this move by suggesting we may be able to cure Alzheimer's faster by doing so). We should consider how the various positions he critiques are all oversimplifications of (admittedly problematic) moral philosophies. What repercussions might such a removal of ethics/morality have?

5 + Nurture or The Blank Slate ‘The first is John Locke’s doctrine of the tabula rasa, the Blank Slate: that the human mind is infinitely plastic, with all its structure coming from reinforcement and socialization.’ (Pinker 191)

6 + Nature or the Noble Savage ‘The second belief is Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s doctrine of the Noble Savage: that evil comes not from human nature but from our social institutions.’ (Pinker 191-2)

7 + Mind/body dichotomy or the Ghost in the Machine ‘The third doctrine is what Gilbert Ryle called the Ghost in the Machine: the belief that we are separate from biology, free to choose our actions and define meaning, value, and purpose.’ (Pinker 192)

8 + Can we get rid of ethics in science?: the language problem Pinker attempts to separate the scientific from the ethical in order to give space to discuss the nature of the brain away from its nurture: ‘With a clearer separation of ethics and science, we can have our values and greet the new understanding of mind, brain, and human nature not with a sense of terror but with a sense of excitement.’ (Pinker 209) This kind of separation becomes impossible when you consider the simple fact that language is a product of socialization Thereby the means of discussing or investigation ‘nature’ are always already infected by ‘nurture’.

9 + Nature as Nurture The thinkers we will be looking at throughout the module will help us to see the impossibility of separating ethics from science – or any discussion of ‘nature’ from ‘nurture.’ They will help us ask questions like: Are we are we really tied to either nature or nurture defining what we consider childhood to be? If we can move beyond the prejudices of both nature and nurture, what are we left with when we think about childhood? Is it simply contingent and relative? Does this mean principles of childhood should be stalwartly defended against relativism? If so, what are they and how can this be done? Has childhood really been lost or is it merely in the process of becoming something else?

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