Re: Durkheim redux

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Sun 17 Apr 2005 - 08:38:40 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Re: story-telling"

    Chris Taylor wrote:

    > Hiya.
    >> Yes - I like your boundary-pushing here. It raised a couple of
    >> questions for me. First, when you say that "nearly all" that's in you
    >> came from the outside, would you also say that nevertheless *you* have
    >> responded in an individual way to that input - in a different way,
    >> say, from how another individual in that same environment might have done
    > Nah. As far as I am concerned it's a (qualified) tabula rasa. Of course
    > once there's stuff in there and that stuff starts to act as an ensemble
    > then 'unique me' exists and starts to react to stuff.
    > The qualifiers: Firstly, I learn from my physical self; strictly
    > speaking this is external to my mind and so no different to the rest of
    > the environment, but others may see my body as part of me so I mention
    > it. Secondly; there are as I mentioned some hard-wired thingies lurking
    > about -- responding to faces does seem to be one of them. Finally I
    > think that being as it is the result of an extremely complex, yet
    > essentially ballistic developmental program there is all sorts of room
    > for variation in the structural quality of the brain (variability in
    > myelination [G- or E-based], variation in alleles for synaptic
    > machinery, variation in other aspects of structure, probably stochastic
    > variations in interconnections also in some sense); I'd strongly link
    > all this to autism also (especially the savant angle).

    I was clearly misinformed by all those philosophy lecturers who told me that "nobody seriously believes in a tabula rasa any more"! Good.

    Obviously the question how hard-wired our minds are is still pretty much open . I was recently fascinated to discover that I have shared a recurring dream with my father - both of us have had it intermittently as long as we can remember - and for neither of us is it based on any real-life experience we can recall, nor have we previously discussed it
    (so it's not a meme I got from him). This seems pretty specific as hard-wiring goes. I don't mean that I believe we share genes for that dream! But that we share some sort of hard-wiring, maybe, that produces a tendency to that sort of dream. Quite detailed and idiosyncratic shared personality traits are also observed between genetic relatives, even if they meet later in life. As you say, there's clearly some sort of hardwiring lurking about - the question is how much.


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