Though an innatist view would similarly require human interaction as a requirement for language acquisition, in the age of information and technology, could there be slight ramifications for parents leaaving their infants and children in front TVs or "Baby Einstein" computers games, when the time might otherwise be spent in real, enriched, nurturing human interaction?
While both theories, that of Chomsky's more "nature geared" model and that of Greenspan and Shanker's more "nurture geared model", have yet to be either altogether accepted or dispelled, Greenspan and Shanker's new model provide interesting explanations and fresh insights into observations about language and emotional development.
Starting in the 1950s, the linguist Noam Chomsky reasoned that there must be a substantial innate component underlying language acquisition. He contrasted the abstractness of some kinds of language knowledge with the plodding concreteness of the information that seemed likely to be available to infants in their experience of other people talking. Chomsky's arguments were a major stimulus to studies of first language acquisition, not only by people who found his arguments persuasive, but also by a spectrum of others, some reacting strongly against Chomsky's position and some who were merely interested to see whether observations of the process of language acquisition would refute or confirm a view arrived at by logical conjecture. Everyone acknowledges that language acquisition is the product of both the intrinsic genetically-determined make up of human children (their nature) and their life experiences as they are growing up (the nurture that they receive from the environment). A chimpanzee brought up in a human household does not learn to talk, because chimpanzees evidently do not have the relevant aspects of human nature. Children who suffer the cruelty of isolation from interaction also do not learn to talk, through not having been adequately nurtured.
The title of this discussion, "The Role of Culture in Moral Development", points to two different, albeit inter-related, questions: first, what role does culture play in moral development?; and second, what is the proper responsibility of a culture in guiding the moral growth of its members? This paper does not systematically explore what the proper role of a culture is in the area of moral growth, and it recognizes that precisely what this role should be is rightly subject to debate. At the same time, it takes it for granted that because, as I will discuss, the social universe that children encounter inevitably, and for better or for worse, influences their moral growth, a community needs to view itself as responsible for the moral growth of its members. This paper argues that while this communal responsibility cannot be adequately discharged through special-purpose institutions like schools, such institutions, if thought of in the right way, may be capable of playing a significant role in the process of moral growth. The reasons for this view will emerge through our inquiry into the role that, intended or not, culture does play in the moral development of its members. Before embarking on this inquiry, and because terms like "culture" and "moral development" are far from self- explanatory, let me preface my remarks with a few comments concerning how I will be interpreting these terms in the context of this paper.
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It is noteworthy that in this passage Plato identifies three critical variables that jointly give rise to the moral character of a human being: native traits (or what we might call genetic endowment or pre-dispositions); early childhood experience; and, finally, the surrounding culture. For our purposes, Plato's reference to innate traits that bear on our moral development, while interesting, is not immediately relevant. More relevant are the points pertaining to early childhood experience and to the power of the surrounding culture.
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“The nature-nurture issue is a perennial one that has resurfaced in current psychiatry as a series of debates on the role that genes (DNA) and environments play in the etiology and pathophysiology of mental disorders” (Schaffner) The debate is essentially about what is inherited (nature) and what is experienced by environmental factors (nurture) and how they affect human development.
Human development, nature and nurture: Working …
Unfortunately, this solution is itself seriously problematic: for it would appear to be naively unrealistic to think that we have the capacity to reshape the larger culture in such a way that the child is surrounded and nurtured by a worthy moral ideal; for better and/or for worse, we are far from knowing how to re-shape cultural attitudes and dispositions in accordance with our wishes. Indeed, those who seek the kind of cultural transformation that is being suggested as a condition of adequate moral education often turn to education to launch this transformation.