Accepted paper:

Neither nature nor nurture (nor any interactionist compromise)


Terrence Deacon (U C Berkeley)

Paper short abstract:

Abstract: Although causes of human behaviour are often cast in a classic nature/nurture framing — even by those trying to break out of this Cartesian prison by exploring various forms of nature-plus-nurture compromises — I will argue that it is time to recognize that not everything we do fits within the scope of this dichotomy. I will use the classic example of universal grammar to show how something can be a near-universal human attribute and yet not be attributed just to processes within this domain. I will advocate that we need to begin thinking in terms of constraints not "causes" and that we need to recognize that constraints can have a sort of formal origin. Specifically, in the case of universal grammar I will explore the role of semiotic constraints that emerge with symbolic communication and will suggest that these formal constraints have played a significant role in shaping the distinctive biases characterizing human cognition.

Paper long abstract:

panel Plen03
Human / Nature