We are products of neither. Show more Show less
Our genes and our environment shape us, but they don't determine who we are.
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Nature versus nurture doesn't matter because we shape our own destiny
The nature versus nurture debate is unnecessarily dichotomous. We are products of the choices we make, which originate from our free will – not genes or our environment.
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People are a summation of their habits, temperaments, and experiences. However, where do these things that define us come from? Psychology has long been debating whether they stem from our genes or our environment. Settling the debate will expand our currently limited understanding of human development.
The nature versus nurture argument ignores that we are active in shaping our lives. Assuming that identity depends on our genes or our environment doesn’t take our agency and volition into account. Although our environments shape who we are to a certain extent, it is we who seek out these specific environments. There is a debate in psychology that seeks to determine how much of our development we control and how much of it is a result of things that just happen to us. Despite the lack of consensus, we are beings with free wills. By recognizing that we are active beings who shape our lives and thereby ourselves, we realize that nature and nurture are merely tangential influences on who we are. There is even a well-known therapy called logotherapy based around the fact that people determine exactly who they are despite any genetic and environmental influences. This therapy has been found to be empowering and reduce emotional suffering by teaching that we are more than victims of our environment/circumstances.
This argument fails to recognize that the choices we make that shape our lives are dependent upon our genes and our environment. It is from those that our free will stems. For example, people may exercise their agency by being very social. This is part of their life and thus part of their development – they are products of their past sociality, along with many other things in their life. However, their sociality comes from some combination of genetic and environmental influences. They may be genetically predisposed to have a social temperament. They may have been raised in a social family. Or perhaps some environmental trigger (i.e. a person or experience) inspired them to become more social. Their sociality must have some cause, be it internal (i.e. genetic) or external (i.e. environmental). Therefore, free will does not exist to the degree that this argument assumes. We have free will, which we exercise by making choices. But what choices we make are determined by our genes and our environment.
[P1] A person's identity is not genetically predetermined. [P2] People can exercise their own free will.