| In the process of evolving from philosophy to natural philosophy to the various sciences, answers to the Big Questions (or, at least, better questions) have emerged. Let us look, by way of example, at the "better questions" which are emerging from recent work in the discipline of evolutionary psychology. Philosophers might argue that this is not their field. Thus, when they see books entitled How the Mind Works [Pinker 1997] or Consciousness Explained [Dennett], they either ignore them or dismiss them as premature or presumptuous. However, they are not preposterous. We are beginning to get some grasp of the workings of the mind and the mysteries of consciousness. If scholars are studying Plato or Aristotle, then they could perhaps ignore such titles. However, if scholars are studying mind or consciousness, they can't.|
The stage for all the major philosophical issues was set at the Academy. Alfred North Whitehead argues that "The whole of Western philosophy is merely a series of footnotes to Plato". For example, Plato stated the case for nature in his doctrine of "innate ideas" and his most famous student, Aristotle, stated the case for nurture in his argument that there is nothing in the mind that is not first in the senses. This nature-nurture debate continues till today. Let us look at its history by way of illustrating how better questions have emerged.
Until recently, the emphasis within academic psychology and the social sciences was on nurture. The Standard Social Science Model (SSSM) assumed that the mind was a "tabula rasa". 2 However, it is now clear that the SSSM had dominated the social sciences only as an extreme reaction within the academy to the excesses of social Darwinism. Darwin has since made a comeback. This fall and rise of Darwinism is well documented by Carl Degler in his book In Search of Human Nature: The Decline and Revival of Darwinism in American Social Thought [Degler]. Evolutionary psychologists are now exploring and illuminating human nature.
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2 Most philosophers have a more complex concept of the person than an empty box. However the "tabula rasa" was proposed by one philosopher (John Locke) and popularised by another (Rene Descartes). In order to study the person as a mechanism, Descartes separated body from mind. He put Descartes (mechanism) before the horse (organism). It is possible that his body-mind split was simply a strategy for preventing persecution by the Church. I am not treading on your territory, the spiritual aspect of the person (mind) I am merely studying the mechanical aspect of the person (body). The body and the mind meet (nudge nudge, wink wink) at the pineal gland.