The Puzzling Nature of Cause and Effect

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We tend to think of causation as a phenomenon that occurs in one direction. "A" causes "B". The cueball strikes the eightball at a certain angle and velocity, and we can precisely map the eightball's subsequent motion using mathematical formulas. The universe is rational and deterministic: laws govern reality as it plays out in an orderly and predictable cascade of events.

That's why the concept of "nature via nurture" is so memorable, and so striking. It forces us to alter certain cherished paradigms, to shift our "natural" views of cause and effect. "Nature via nurture" describes the mechanism by which genes shape the development of the self. It refers to the principle that our natural inclinations and talents tend to influence our environment, which in turn influences our inclinations and talents. It also describes a system within which causation is bi-directional: "A" causes "B" while "B" simultaneously causes "A".

I used to worry that there was a person inside of us, defined by our genes, that we were meant to become. I worried that personal development could be hijacked by environmental circumstances, generating a false, misshapen self--that is, a self tragically at odds with our genetic destiny. Of course these views were naively teleological, and a touch grotesque. Still, I couldn't help but harbor a certain anxiety that I had been betrayed by my upbringing, which operated as a kind of alien imposition on the self. The principle of "nature via nurture" functions as a nice corrective for these fears. It states, in short, that we shape the environment that shapes us; that whatever circumstances contribute to our development already bear the mark of the self's influence.


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very good point, and I think that is why there is no way to really tell how someone will perform in their life. Their are so many input variables that it's like chaos. The fact that nature and nurture work together to shape an individual is an amazing concept and also why evolution is interesting.

I found the nature via nurture concept to be especially interesting as well. When I took Psychology in high school I remember learning about this concept strictly as a debate and trying to decide what I thought held a larger impact on a person. It was interesting to learn now that each factor can play a significant role in creating a person and there does not necessarily need to be any debate.

Nature versus nurture is so interesting because after taking this class, we have learned that it's neither one or the other alone that influences and shapes our upbringings and who we ultimately become. Genes are a big part of our characteristics and traits, but ultimately our environment and the experiences we go through have a large role as well in shaping ourselves, which is why I think that there's no such thing as living up to the predetermined person you were "meant" to become all along.

I think the most important part of the section on nature vs. nurture is simply that the debate can't be conclusively answered. There is no way to determine an exact portion of our lives that are determined by nature or by nurture. There's not even any scientific way to test hard determinism due to the inability to travel back in time. However, the lesson is just to acknowledge the presence of these ideas and continue making choices the way we do.

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This page contains a single entry by bleib003 published on April 29, 2012 11:43 PM.

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