I am looking forward to my upcoming conversation with Dr. Paul E Griffiths of the University of Sydney. Dr. Griffiths wrote a chapter titled “What is Innateness” in Arguing about Human Nature which is a Human Nature anthology edited by Stephen M. Downes and Edouard Machery. Dr. Griffiths Dr. Griffiths also has written a book titled Genetics and Philosophy: An Introduction which can be another topic of discussion for the future.
The concept of innateness is closely related to the concept of human nature, generally speaking that humanity has traits/elements/structures that are part of our nature/biological make up. Griffiths dissects this concept and connects it to the work of other philosophers. One of his key components is developmental fixity which means that we have traits that are hard to change. He also engages the notion of a “folkbiology” and “folk essentialism” which is a nonscientific pattern of thought that proposes that organisms can be understood by determining an underlying essence. Griffiths charts the limitations of these ideas while also suggesting that some aspects of innateness as a concept remain valid but that the term itself can be too caught up in an internal conflict of incompatible ideas.
What aspects of the term “human nature” can be useful to us in learning to live together in more socially constructive ways?