Saturday, January 22, 2005

What is "innate?"

The recent media blitz against Harvard's president has sparked many good conversations between my wife and me. Aside from the obvious sneers that I feel emanating from LYMA's contributors at Yale, I am curious what you think/know about a topic that has risen to the front of our conversations: is there really such a thing as "innate" anything?

I'm not talking about men vs. women, but am approaching the subject from a Mormon perspective. I take "innate" to mean traits or characteristics which are not shaped by social factors and are therefore important in the field of biological science. My questions is, if we were ever to be able to determine these kinds of traits ("non-social" if you will), can we really say they are biological, and unaffected by our interactions with others?

In the Church, we are taught that our spirits are social beings. The "Great Council in Heaven" is taught as a literal event - where we interacted with those in our heavenly society.

What kind of light do these doctrines shed on the debate, call it what you will: nature vs. nurture, individual vs. community, innate vs. social?


At 1/25/2005 05:37:00 PM,

You may be right Doug. That would mean the ultimate responsibility for premortal progression rested on the person. Seems fair. (oh the Evangelicals would have a field day!!!)

This may lead to a reductio argument though. Assume everyone starts out in the pre-existence with no innate abilities or tendencies. Assume everyone enjoys the exact same opportunities for social interaction. Given these two assumptions, then, how is it that some have progressed further than others?

Good question Doug? What do you think?

Posted by Chris Patton

At 1/30/2005 10:37:00 PM,

I'm not quite sure about either of your assumptions. I know there is some teaching/doctrine/speculation out there about each of us as so-called "intelligences." I'm not sure how that works (especially if we are literally begotten...) but it seems that if there is any place where "innateness" could be found, maybe this is where to look.

Secondly, I'm not sure if everybody had/has the same opportunities for social interaction, even in the pre-existence.

But, alas, negating your premises does not lead me any closer to a conclusion - i.e. I don't know why some people progress faster, further, better, etc. than others. 

Posted by Doug Spencer

At 2/03/2005 03:58:00 PM,

I'll have to check my B.H. Roberts on that, he was really into what he called "eternalism". I've tried for a long time to define intellegnece in the LDS sense and haven't come up with anything good. You're right though, if we can figure out what it is, then maybe we can answer the question.

If you think of it in a Rawlsian "justice as fairness" way, though, wouldn't it make sense that in the beginning the playing field was level and nothing is innate.  

Posted by Chris Patton




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