January 27, 2012 9:53 pm

Moving beyond nature

Despite the mapping of the genome, the nature versus nurture debate rages on
 

Beyond Human Nature: How Culture and Experience Shape Our Lives, by Jesse J Prinz, Allen Lane, RRP£22, 416 pages

The nature versus nurture tussle has been running for centuries and, despite the mapping of the genome and our growing understanding of the role of DNA, it is a debate that continues to rage today.

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Into this fervid arena steps Jesse J Prinz, a professor of philosophy at the City University of New York, who sets out the arguments made on either side of the debate by the likes of Thomas Hobbes and David Hume and modern biologists such as Steven Pinker before exploring a middle ground that neither bows to genetic determinism nor capitulates to environmental pressures.

Beyond Human Nature explores the origins of knowledge, language, thought and emotion and argues that there is not one human nature, but many. “From the start of life,” writes Prinz, “we are moving beyond nature, and our transcendence of natural determinism is our most striking trait.”

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