Saturday, July 4, 2015

Nature vs nurture: Do we possess the power to be what we could potentially be?

Indeed, "it's the classic nature vs. nurture argument." Very classical, as it already puzzled the ancient Greeks. Plato advanced that there is inherent inequality among men. Aristotle who came out with ten categories of "being", namely "the substance" and the nine "accidents", or predicaments of the substance, argued that all men (and women) are all equal by their substance.

Chino [author of the article under which this comment appears], for example, is human by substance, and in that, he is no different from you and me. He is, however, different, and unique, in the predicaments he was born into, raised, and find himself today. The nine predicaments are quantity, quality, relation, action, passivity, place, time, posture, and possession. We comprehend the predicaments by our five senses; the substance, only by our mind. But, we know substances exist because, pursuing the above example, we know it is still the same Chino we are talking of as of today as that 5 year old Chino if we met him as a preschooler. What has changed are only the predicaments. The substance is that unchanging being to which the changing predicaments adhere to. Because of predicaments, we think of everybody as being unique. But if we think in terms of substance, everybody is the same — humans are all equal.

From what I have so far read re researches on the human brain, it appears that medical sciences support the arguments of Aristotle rather than Plato. Except for the wirings in the brain that control our internal biology, it appears that we humans are all born with no permanent wiring in the brain. In other words, we all start with the same basic CPU, so to speak. Wirings only become permanent between the ages of zero to five years old. And, the wirings are very much determined by circumstances, predicaments and other inputs. There are no further wirings created after the age of six, and this is the reason that any child psychologist will tell you that zero to six years old are the most critical ages in child development. Within these years, the child may either end up with a dual core or a quad core or whatever, or with apps directed more towards arts or mathematics or both or whatever. Of course, a less developed brain can still compensate later by acquiring more input, and may even end up better than one who had a well wired brain, but became lazy in growing up.

I am now reading a book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, and it seems to support the above. The scary thing is that we may at times think that we may have thought out a decision, dissected and synthsize it, but it was really something predictable because we are creatures of habit. Is this because our ways have been set by the time we were six years old? This may be the reason why there are those who seem to be born with talent. But from the foregoing, I think it still about nurture, not nature — we were all born with same basic CPU. So, if it is the same as a computer, there is the possibility of garbage in, garbage out. But, there is the also the possibility of being a productive computer, irrespective if it is Windows or Apple, provided it is utilized well. Thus, it is not about what we have, but about what we want to be. If that is the case, life will always have to be a struggle to be better.

And if character is that which enlarge the substance via quality, and personality is that which is just a function of all the other eight predicaments, then maybe, we should be interested in character for that is more permanent than personality which changes because of the more changeable predicaments than that of quality.

As a concrete example of what I mean, my experience is that it generally takes a minimum of two years to be personally close with a Chinese customer from Mainland China, but the moment you become a friend, nothing could almost break that friendship. With American or European influenced minds, with one or two transactions in a span of a week or a month, you can already feel the closeness, but you feel there is something superficial about it, it is just really about business. I don't know, in this sense, I think there is something more substantive about the Chinese than Westerners. One emphasizes a study of the character they deal with; the other is attracted to a "winning personality". Up to you to judge which is which.

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