Inherited knowledge and talent – Tabula Rasa post by me


I felt compelled to write about the inspiration behind the name of the De Anima shawl and about what it means to other people and questions it raises. I have asked designers and overall very talented people, whom I admire a lot, to write from their prospective about Tabula Rasa and whether they believe that we, as people, are born as a blank canvass or whether we genetically inherit knowledge and creativity.
I want to thank them all for contributing by writing such personal insights. If you would like to read the blogs again here are the links:

Today is the final day of Tabula Rasa posts and I thought I’ll give my two cents on the matter.

Tabula Rasa refers to the idea that we are born without built-in content, a ‘’blank slate’’, and that all we know comes from experience and perception. It is a truly fascinating concept, and I very often ponder it when I teach knit and crochet. We acquire skills through practice, some of us are taught those skills at a young age, but do we possess them already in our unconscious mind? The same can be said for talent… do we acquire it or are we simply born with it? In western philosophy the concept of Tabula Rasa originated in treatise of Artistotle – De Anima or On the Soul (hence the name of the shawl).

I tend to agree more with Pluto and his Theory of Forms that the human mind is born with ideas. I believe that we genetically inherit instinctive knowledge, like a new born who innately knows how to suckle onto mother’s breast. In the same way as you can observe in animals, like cats with hunting or elephants with geographical knowledge. Based on that, what other information is passed down, which can be later reinforced through teaching? Form the first day we rely on parents, our surroundings, then later on teachers and people around us to help us develop and enhance that knowledge. Do we naturally possess creativity/talent in the same way we possess instinctive knowledge?  
Teaching knit and crochet gives me the perfect opportunity to observe all stages of ability. In a group of ten people who never tried crochet, you will have four that instantly show natural ability and will be crocheting within half an hour with ease. Then you have few that just can’t get to grips with it. We are all wired differently and predisposed to be good at different things. However, maybe knitting and crochet are not the best examples of talent as we can learn how to do it and obviously enhance our knowledge and ability through willingness and lots of practice, but let’s take photography for example. Everyone can learn the rules of staging a good photo but only few have a natural eye for capturing a truly amazing image. You can have twenty photographs of the same person taken by different people but only one will capture the person’s soul and encapsulate the mood of the subject.
How much of that wiring and ability we possess is in part down to any knowledge we inherited? I’m not sure, but maybe I have a romantic view of it that we do pass more that we think down to the next generation. 
Anna xx

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