The Concept of Plasticity in the History of the Nature-Nurture Debate in the Early Twentieth Century

  • Antonine Nicoglou


In this chapter, I analyze how the effort to bring together “nature” and “nurture” has put forward “plasticity” as a key concept in biology. While the notion of plasticity appeared in the field of genetics in the early twentieth century as a solution to the debate between “nature” and “nurture”—the notion of plasticity proved a key concept in articulating those genes and environment; in social science, the opposition seems to persist (probably because the meaning of plasticity itself has not remained stable or uncontroversial among the different fields of biology). In order to understand the issues raised by the nature-nurture debate, it therefore appears necessary to provide a comprehensive view of the history of plasticity within the debate.



I am grateful to Maurizio Meloni, Steeves Demazeux, and Jane Kassis for feedback on earlier drafts of this article. This work was supported financially by the “Who am I?” Laboratory of Excellence (ANR-11-LABX- 0071) funded by the French government through its “Investments for the Future” Program operated by the French National Research Agency (ANR) under grant no ANR-11-IDEX-0005-02.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antonine Nicoglou
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.CRPMS & IJMUniversity of Paris 7ParisFrance
  2. 2.IHPSTUniversity of Paris 1ParisFrance

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