Tabula rasa is the epistemological thesis that individuals are born without built-in mental content and that their knowledge comes from experience and perception. Generally proponents of the tabula rasa thesis favour the “nurture” side of the nature versus nurture debate, when it comes to aspects of one’s personality, social and emotional behaviour, and intelligence. The term in Latin equates to the English “blank slate” (which refers to writing on a slate sheet in chalk) but comes from the Roman tabula or wax tablet, used for notes, which was blanked by heating the wax and then smoothing it to give a tabula rasa.
Of course, this debate has since taken a different route as put forth here by the inimitable Evelyn Fox Keller. All quite interesting enough.