Nativism: Ideas Within
By: Francisco Dosal
An individual is taught how to communicate, how to calculate mathematical equations to predict outcomes, and through the practice of a religion is taught how to worship a higher being. But what if these very teachings of communication, mathematics, and the belief of a higher being are actually preexisting ideas that all human beings possess during birth without the need of any foreign influences? The philosophical theory nativism suggests that even without any form of teaching an individual is born with innate ideas. A definition for nativism is as followed: “the belief that the human brain is capable of spontaneous or innate ideas that are not derived from external sources” “nativism.” Nativism explains an individual’s mind is capable of producing subconscious thoughts and ideas without the influences of others, as opposed to empiricism that suggests all ideas, knowledge, and facts derive from external experience and foreign influences. Nativism suggests that ideas are within an individual from birth and claims that regardless of foreign influences or external experiences; an individual will produce innate ideas and gain knowledge. In Charles Seife, Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, he explains what sounds similar to nativism: “Not even knowledge can be created out of nothing, which means that all ideas- all philosophies, all notions, all future discoveries- already exist in people’s brains when they are born” (Seife 95). An individual cannot be taught to think, thinking for any human beings comes naturally, and although every human being is not born with the same ideas, all individuals do possess the innate idea to communicate, innately create a system to organize and group individuals and objects, and the idea of a higher being.
To this day much there is much speculation of how the human race obtained the ability to create a system to communicate. All human beings are born with the innate idea to communicate with one another. Oral languages, sign language, and body language are different patterns of the innate idea to communicate with another human being. The idea to establish or create a form of communication is innate for every human being. It is vital for survival. Therefore, regardless of an individual learning a proper language or not one will create a form of communication due to the innate idea. The human brain has a section in the left or right hemisphere, depending whether an individual is left or right handed, where communication data is stored. Having a proper station in the brain where communication data can be stored proves that the human brain has the potential, or rather a preexisting purpose, to create or learn a form of communication regardless of being exposed to external influences like English, body gestures, or the American Sign Language (ASL). Take for example: during the time a child is inside the womb of a mother; the child cannot be taught how to communicate before it is exposed to a form of communication. Although, the child cannot speak a language until it is out the womb and taught a form of communication; the child in fact communicates with the mother by using verbal noises and hand gestures. The child’s crying may be attempting to explain to the mother it is hungry or needs a diaper change. As for a hand gesture like opening and closing its fists indicates it wants to hold someone or something. The child is born with the innate idea to communicate in whatever fashion and the mother simply guesses what the child is trying to say. It is not till later the child is taught a proper language or a form of communication that properly explains it needs and wants. All individuals during their few months into the world have the innate idea to communicate with others. Regardless of being taught a form of communication an individual will create some form of communication. Just an individual regardless of being taught calculus could potentially learn it.
Without being taught, an individual’s mind innately arranges data and groups objects and individuals. This ability cannot be taught, it is simply done. An individual is not taught to group objects together, one’s mind does it on its own without noticing. In Charles Seife’s, The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, he explains that prehistoric human beings would count into groups such as binary and quinary groups. He explains, “From theses fragments, researchers discovered that Stone Age mathematics were a bit more rugged than modern ones. Instead of blackboards, they used wolves” (Seife 6). He continued to explain “Archaeologist Karl Absolom, sifting through Czechoslovakian dirt, uncovered a 30,000-year-old wolf bone with a series of notching carved into it” (Seife 6). It is not clear whether the carving indicated the days or the amount of kills the prehistoric man committed. But, it is clear that mathematics was and still is within an individual’s mind without the need of teaching. If one is asked, “what kind of car would you like to own?” The mind automatically precedes data that are relevant to the question, such as: types, models, and years of a specific kind of vehicle. The mind does not proceed with useless data, such as: kinds of desktop computers, locations, or what he/she is going to eat later on the day. This ability to group objects and individuals eventually evolves into mathematics. One may state that mathematics is not innate but is an ability taught from teacher to student in a mathematics class. If this was true, than who taught the first human being to add and subtract? The simplest form of math is when the mind arranges objects and individuals into categories adding individuals into categories or subtracting objects. As this system becomes more complex than just grouping two objects together; mathematics, geometry, and calculus arises from the simplest innate idea of grouping and processing data. Complexity starts with simplicity, one cannot start calculus without understand addition and subtraction and as a child and through adulthood, an individual will forever encounter numbers and learns that nature itself is governed by numbers. For example the golden ration is the blueprint for all of nature’s aesthetic creations. The idea of arranging information like a database cannot be taught; an individual does it every day without realizing it and when an individual encounters a question that logic and reason cannot answer; the innate idea of a higher being becomes the answer.
Christianity, Buddhism, Catholicism, Judaism, and others have been established in attempts to rightfully worship a higher being and or beings. Some suggest that the word of mouth has brought the teachings of religion into today’s society, but who is responsible for the idea of Christianity, Judaism, or any other religion? Who was the one to open their mouth first? As a child, and into adulthood, the wonders and beauty of the universe have encouraged an individual to ask himself, “Who is responsible for such creation?” The universe is not able to teach nor could it force an individual into worshiping a creator. And without any external influences, an individual naturally worships a higher being. In G. W. Leibniz, New Essay’s on Human Understanding, a character Theophilus debates with Philalethes that the human mind possesses the innate idea of a higher being; he explains, “God came in that way from a very old and very widespread word-of-mouth process; But it seems that nature has helped to bring men to it without anyone teaching them: the wonders of the universe have made them think of a higher power” (Leibniz 16). It seems to be the desire for an individual to worship a higher being for bringing forth the universes existence and even life itself. For example, some early civilizations, like the Egyptians, worshiped the sun as their higher being. As opposed to the darkness and cold conditions of the dark; the sun provided them and the rest of the world with a sense of security, warmth, and the possibility of life. Eventually the sun was made into stories and began to symbolize a higher being and even symbolized as hope. An individual is not taught the idea of hope although it is done naturally. Hope is a form of faith and faith is the belief and complete trust in someone or something. Whether it is the sun or another idea of higher being, the idea of a higher being is an uncontrolled ability, taught or not, and individual practices it. Whether one accepts or denies the idea, it is completely upon the individual.
An individual’s ability to communicate with another, the skill to establish a system of organizing data, and the idea to worship a higher being are in fact preexisting ideas inside the mind of an individual. Regardless of being exposed to foreign influences or external experiences an individual possess this knowledge. Some may state that nature teaches or experiences give the human mind the knowledge, but it is one’s personal interpretations of one’s nature and experiences that uncover inner knowledge. Without these and others basic innate ideas the possibilities of bringing forth future ideas become impossible to reach. By denying simplistic innate ideas one denies the stepping stone into complex thoughts and ideas. Complexity starts with simplicity just as the first stone eventually became the Great Pyramids of Egypt or the Great Wall of China. One has the answers to the universe within without even knowing. All the knowledge is inside waiting to be uncovered, waiting to be hacked and released. Intelligence is within every human being.
Idea. Dictionary.com. Web. 29 January 2013.
Leibniz, G.W. New Essays on Human Understanding, trans. by Peter Remnant and Jonathan
Bennett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 74-88.
Nativism. Dictionary.com. Web. 29 January 2013.
Seife, Charles. Zero the Biography of a Dangerouse Idea. Penguin Group Inc. 2000.