We are creatures: therefore biological, but also social. How much of each of us is biological, how much social? Usually, the question is asked about individuals: how much of what you do is the working out of innate, inherited capacities, how much acquired from people around you? There is also a more communal question: how much of our social behaviour as a group - how we talk, how we love, how we argue, how we get angry - is peculiar to our local ways of living, and how much is determined by our shared animal nature? Geoffrey Lloyd's book is the best recent overall summary of the state of play in the discussion of our social behaviour. The game? Nature v. nurture. That is a 'convenient jingle of words', as Francis Galton wrote in 1874, when he coined the dyad.
Nature is all that a man brings with himself into the world; nurture is every influence that affects him after his birth. The distinction is clear: the one produces the infant such as it actually is, including its latent faculties of growth and mind: the other affords the environment amid which the growth takes place, by which natural tendencies may be strengthened or thwarted or wholly new ones implanted.
LRB 1 November 2007 | PDF Download