Philosophical Studies

, Volume 165, Issue 2, pp 693–718 | Cite as

In defense of nativism

  • Eric MargolisEmail author
  • Stephen Laurence


This paper takes a fresh look at the nativism–empiricism debate, presenting and defending a nativist perspective on the mind. Empiricism is often taken to be the default view both in philosophy and in cognitive science. This paper argues, on the contrary, that there should be no presumption in favor of empiricism (or nativism), but that the existing evidence suggests that nativism is the most promising framework for the scientific study of the mind. Our case on behalf of nativism has four parts. (1) We characterize nativism’s core commitments relative to the contemporary debate between empiricists and nativists, (2) we present the positive case for nativism in terms of two central nativist arguments (the poverty of the stimulus argument and the argument from animals), (3) we respond to a number of influential objections to nativist theories, and (4) we explain the nativist approach to the conceptual system.


Nativism Empiricism Innate Learning Domain-specificity 



EM would like to thank Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies for supporting this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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