The University of Sussex

Minimal Rationalism

Andy Clark

Enquiries into the possible nature and scope of innate knowledge never proceed in an empirical vacuum. Instead, such conjectures are informed by a theory (perhaps only tacitly endorsed) concerning probable representational form. Classical approaches to the nativism debate often assumes a quasi- linguistic form of knowledge representation and delineate a space of options (concerning the nature and extent of innate knowledge) accordingly. Recent connectionist theorizing posits a different kind of representational form, and thus determines a different picture of the space of possible nativisms. The present paper displays this space and focuses on an especially interesting sub- region labelled "Minimal Rationalism". The philosophical significance of the minimal rationalist option is explored. Two consequences which emerge are first, that the apparently clear distinction between innately specified knowledge and innately specified structure is shown to be unproductive; and second, that there may exist tracts of innate knowledge whose content is not propositionally specifiable.


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