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Critical Analysis Essay-PHIL 101

Discussion Post by Giselle Dittmar

In the debate between nature and nurture, I believe that nurture shapes who we are the most. There’s no doubt that nature influences us too, especially if we’re high or low in certain characteristics such as anxiety, activity level, various mental disorders, or being more susceptible to certain diseases. However, I believe that our early experiences have the power to establish a lifelong pattern of behavior. Even more so, I believe that even with nature and nurture both contributing to who we are and become, that there is plasticity in our development, meaning that we can continuously change and evolve in response to influential experiences. That being said, I believe it’s possible and that there’s hope for us to choose whether or not we “go with” a given influence or act contrary to it depending on what said influence is as obviously some unfavorable characteristics/traits or influences are harder to disobey than others. Even though many factors determine our desires, characters, values, and beliefs which influence our actions, I think we’re still mostly responsible for them. For example, when people argue that they were predisposed to commit a crime due to their horrible upbringing I’d argue that there’s plenty of people with similar upbringings that didn’t commit crimes even though they could’ve. I could also say that people with healthy and normal upbringings commit serious crimes too. I believe it all comes down to the nature of the crime and the specific individual’s backstory, but if it’s a cruel crime such as the murder of someone innocent, then I believe their upbringing alone doesn’t justify that and that they are completely responsible for that action. The only time I’d say they aren’t completely responsible is if they do have a confirmed psychological condition but that doesn’t mean I think they aren’t responsible at all. This is a hard discussion topic as there are so many ways people can be affected by nature and nurture which really can lead them to commit crimes such as someone living in a rough area with little money (nurture) needing medication for them or a loved one for an illness (nature) and to afford it they resort to stealing it or selling drugs. It’s cases like those where I recognize that the situation’s truly unfair and that nature and nurture played a significant part in the crime and does erode some of the responsibility. However, in terms of the cases regarding people with relatively normal/common upbringings and genetic predispositions, I think it’s fair to say they are responsible for the majority of their actions (unless given a true and justifiable reason to prove otherwise).

Introduction/Topic General Overview

The philosophical issue of discussion has to do with freedom and responsibility. The text asks an important question that has been the subject of discussion for years; the question of between nature and nurture, which shapes us more into who we are. While other theorists contend that genetic predisposition tends to shape us more than socialization and environment. According to Rauhut text, freedom forms a necessary part of personal responsibility. In essence, human beings only blame or praise people for choosing to do one thing other than others. As such, if there is coercion and automatic response but there is no choice, then people rarely assign action or blame anybody. Without a doubt, many people have heard about the nurture and nature debate. Irrespective of the side of the debate one is one, it is possible to make a case that behavioral influences from both sides are equally strong and they shape who we are. To make a case for personal responsibility, there must be an explicit and plausible theory to do with free will that must come into play as they grant us the power to choose if or not we will go by the influence of nurture or nature theory of behavior. The topic reflects on all the factors that have a hand in determining our characters, values, desires, beliefs, and propensities which influence our actions eroding a huge section of people’s perception of responsibility. Without a doubt, the text asserts that we have encountered this happening. This is particularly the case when people have conflicting positions about what causes crime. Some people argue that upbringing or nurture causes crime while others insist that serious psychological positions expose people to crime. Upon reflection about this decision-making, one realizes that all these factors play a strong role. In essence, the primary philosophical question here is if we are responsible for all that we do, some of what we do, only a small fraction of what we do, or nothing at all. The chapter having discussed freedom and responsibility and length, poses a question of which theory influences people’s behavior more. Students were meant to react to this text by declaring and explaining the side of the debate they support. For the purpose of this assignment, I settled on critically analyzing my classmate, Giselle Dittmar’s response as I found it exhausting and quite informative.

Giselle Dittmar’s Argument

Dittmar agrees with the nurture theory (genetics) more than the nature (socialization) theory of behavior. In the text, Dittmar presents various explanations to back her claims. However, at the same time, she also partially agrees with some of the claims made by the nature theory. Dittmar begins by stating that although she strongly believes that genes play a bigger role in shaping us, there is also no denying that the environment has its impact too. She states that certain characteristics including activity level, anxiety, mental disorders, and susceptibility to mental disorders are a product of how people are socialized in their environments. Dittmar contends that early experiences tend to establish lifelong behavior patterns. She further insists that many factors help determine the characters, desires, beliefs and values that influence people’s actions. Despite this Dittmar contends that people are responsible for their actions. She proceeds to provide an example of how nature influences crime. She says she does not agree with people that say that having a hostile environment predisposed them to crime. Dittmar refutes this claim by stating that there are plenty of other people who also had a similar upbringing and they did not turn out to be criminals. She continues and adds that even people that were raised in well-functioning backgrounds and those who have good relationships with their family members also turn out as criminals. She believes that environment and socialization have no influence on behavior and that it all comes down to the individual’s genetic background and the seriousness of the crime committed. Dittmar states that, if the crime is serious such as murder, then upbringing has nothing to do with it but rather the individual are entirely responsible for their actions. Noteworthy, Dittmar continues to state that the only time she believes upbringing has an impact on behavior is if there is proof of a psychological condition on the part of the offender. Only a mental condition can prove that the individual is responsible for an action grotesque as murder. Additionally, Dittmar proceeds to acknowledge that the discussion is a hard one as one cannot decide between the nature and nurture theory of behavior. She says that there are various ways in which nature and nurture influence their behavior and lead them into committing crimes. She gives an example of a person who has been brought up in a rough neighborhood and their loved one is unwell and needs urgent money to by medication and seek treatment. If the individual cannot afford the medication, they are forced to go against the law and commit a crime like selling drugs or stealing so they can raise the funds they need. In this case, Dittmar agrees that nurture is entirely responsible for their behavior. Dittmar terms the situation as being unfair and agrees that both theories bear some level of responsibility for behavior. Dittmar concludes by mentioning that in the cases of people that have a normal upbringing and genetic predispositions, then it is safe to say that they are responsible for their actions.

Critical Analysis of Dittmar Argument

Dittmar’s philosophical position both holds some truth in it and at the same time some ideologies that I do not entirely agree with. To begin with, Dittmar categorically states that she agrees more with the nurture theory which contends that genetics influence behavior in people. At the same time, she continues to explain that although the nurture theory is the one that appeals more to her, she does not entirely disagree with the theory of nature. From my standpoint, Dittmar’s stance is unclear and it seems it is hard for her to pick a side. Dittmar should have categorically stated the side of the debate she supports and she should have stuck with the stance to the end. Supporting one ideology while at the same time not completely ruling out another tends to confuse the audience and at the same time, it leaves them wondering which view Dittmar is stronger than the other. Additionally, Dittmar mentions that despite the fact that many factors such as desires, characters, and beliefs affect people’s behavior, people remain responsible for their actions. I do not support this notion because it does not state which specific trait that a person possesses predisposes them to criminal behavior. The statement is unclear as to which side of the debate it is leaning on. Moreover, Dittmar states fail to accept that growing up in a hostile environment exposes one to crime because there are people who were raised into functional homes with loving parents but still turned out to be criminals. I disagree with this statement because in my opinion if people that were raised in good families ended up becoming criminals then chances are that there could be other triggers such as friends from teenage and middle-age life influenced them into becoming criminals. Additionally, I disagree with the notion that individual genes and the seriousness of crimes committed tend to influence behavior. Unlike Dittmar do not think that the genetics theory only applies in situations where the person commits a serious crime like murder and not in other instances. In my opinion, the reasoning shows double standards and as such, I don’t believe it is sufficient in explaining how nature influences behavior.

Presentation of an Alternative Philosophical Position

Unlike Dittmar, I strongly believe that the theory of nature plays a bigger role in influencing social behavior than the theory of nurture. In essence, I believe that people’s surrounding and socialization shapes their behavior, values, perceptions, and actions. I strongly contend that nature including all environmental variables like childhood experiences, social relationships, how a person is raised influences behavior. While in the past debates on this issue often had a one-sided approach today experts acknowledge that they play crucial roles (Berry 52). Additionally, nature and nurture interact in life to achieve some outcomes. Despite this, I hold that nature is the dominant theory. An example is how parenting styles and learned experiences impact behavior. For instance, people learn manners and good behaviors through observation examples include ‘thank you’ and ‘please’. Another example is a child learning aggressive and violent behavior from parents who argue all the time.

Works Cited

Berry, Sydney. “Nature vs Nurture.” Microreviews in Cell and Molecular Biology 4.2 (2018).