There is an issue that has been conferred upon by philosophers in the past and still so by scientists today. This issue is whether heredity or environment plays a greater role in the determining or shaping of an individual's behavior. It is known as the nature versus nurture debate.
Numerous generations before us have deliberated on the reasons behind the development of human behavior. There have been many theories formulated to explain why humans behave the way they do. The surviving theories for behavior derive from physiological and sociological explanations. However, the two explanations have not always been compatible with each other. The famous nature vs. nurture debate over human behavior resulted from conflicting views between proponents of the physiological (nature) and sociological (nurture) explanations. Throughout history, research has swayed popularity back and forth between the theories. Yet, theorists have broken down the line separating nature and nurture. As of today, people utilize both explanations to explore human behavior.
Way before our time, early philosophers endeavored to understand the human behavior. As early as 350 BC, such philosophers as Plato and Aristotle tried to understand behavior. The question of nature or nurture as the primary drive can be traced to these times. Plato believed behavior and knowledge was due to innate factors. Author Fiona Cowie states, "The claim that the character of our mental furniture is to a large extent internally rather than environmentally determined found its first substantive defense in the works of Plato..." (Cowie, 1999, p. 3). Plato theorized that all knowledge is present at birth. Plato also believed that the environment played a part in human processes, but he thought it had an unique role. He believed the environment did not teach people anything new, but its purpose was to remind people of information they already knew (Cowie, 1999). Although Plato's views are not supported today, he laid the groundwork for other researchers to follow.
Alternatively, philosopher Aristotle theorized a different idea about human behavior. He presented the idea that humans are born into the world with a "blank slate" and people's behavior and thoughts are due to experience (Ashcraft, 1998). His tabula rasa explanation believed that the environment and experience were the important influences in human behavior. Unlike Plato, Aristotle hypothesized that humans were not born with knowledge, but they acquire it through experience (Ashcraft, 1998). Aristotle's idea of the tabula rasa is not believed today. Nevertheless, his belief that the environment was a vital factor in behavior influenced many empiricists throughout history.
During the late 1700s, the nature vs. nurture debate began to heat up between philosophers. Internalists (nature) and empiricists (nurture) wrote literature back and forth trying to prove their beliefs and disprove the other theories. Two philosophers, G.W. Leibniz and John...