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  1. M. J. Cain (2013). Conventions and Their Role in Language. Philosophia 41 (1):137-158.
    Two of the most fundamental questions about language are these: what are languages?; and, what is it to know a given language? Many philosophers who have reflected on these questions have presented answers that attribute a central role to conventions. In one of its boldest forms such a view runs as follows. Languages are either social entities constituted by networks of social conventions or abstract objects where when a particular community speaks a given language they do so in virtue of (...)
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  2. M. J. Cain (2013). Learning, Concept Acquisition and Psychological Essentialism. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4 (4):577-598.
    In this article I will evaluate the popular view that we acquire most of our concepts by means of learning. I will do this through an examination of Jerry Fodor’s dissenting views and those of some of his most persistent and significant critics. Although I will be critical of Fodor’s central claim that it is impossible to learn a concept, I will ultimately conclude that we should be more sceptical than is normal about the power of learning when it comes (...)
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  3. M. J. Cain (2012). Essentialism, Externalism, and Human Nature. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 70:29-51.
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  4. Constantine Sandis & M. J. Cain (2012). Preface. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 70:ix-x.
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  5. M. J. Cain (2010). Linguistics, Psychology and the Scientific Study of Language. Dialectica 64 (3):385-404.
    In this paper I address the issue of the subject matter of linguistics. According to the prominent Chomskyan view, linguistics is the study of the language faculty, a component of the mind-brain, and is therefore a branch of cognitive psychology. In his recent book Ignorance of Language Michael Devitt attacks this psychologistic conception of linguistics. I argue that the prominent Chomskyan objections to Devitt's position are not decisive as they stand. However, Devitt's position should ultimately be rejected as there is (...)
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  6. M. J. Cain (2007). Language Acquisition and the Theory Theory. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 7 (3):447-474.
    In this paper my concern is to evaluate a particular answer to the question of how we acquire mastery of the syntax of our first language. According to this answer children learn syntax by means of scientific investigation. Alison Gopnik has recently championed this idea as an extension of what she calls the ‘theory theory’, a well established approach to cognitive development in developntental psychology. I will argue against this extension of the theory theory. The general thrust of my objection (...)
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  7. M. J. Cain (2006). Concept Nativism and the Rule Following Considerations. Acta Analytica 21 (38):77-101.
    In this paper I argue that the most prominent and familiar features of Wittgenstein’s rule following considerations generate a powerful argument for the thesis that most of our concepts are innate, an argument that echoes a Chomskyan poverty of the stimulus argument. This argument has a significance over and above what it tells us about Wittgenstein’s implicit commitments. For, it puts considerable pressure on widely held contemporary views of concept learning, such as the view that we learn concepts by constructing (...)
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  8. M. J. Cain (2006). Review: The Mechanization of the Mind: On the Origins of Cognitive Science. [REVIEW] Mind 115 (457):145-148.
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  9. M. J. Cain (2004). Review: Representation and Behavior. [REVIEW] Mind 113 (451):555-559.
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  10. M. J. Cain (2004). The Return of the Nativist. Philosophical Explorations 7 (1):1-20.
    Radical Concept Nativism (RCN) is the doctrine that most of our concepts are innate. In this paper I will argue in favour of RCN by developing a speculative account of concept acquisition that has considerable nativist credentials and can be defended against the most familiar anti-nativist objections. The core idea is that we have a whole battery of hard-wired dispositions that determine how we group together objects with which we interact. In having these dispositions we are effectively committed to an (...)
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  11. M. J. Cain (2002). Fodor: Language, Mind, and Philosophy. Polity Press.
    Jerry Fodor is one of the most important philosophers of mind in recent decades. He has done much to set the agenda in this field and has had a significant influence on the development of cognitive science. Fodor's project is that of constructing a physicalist vindication of folk psychology and so paving the way for the development of a scientifically respectable intentional psychology. The centrepiece of his engagement in this project is a theory of the cognitive mind, namely, the computational (...)
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  12. M. J. Cain (2000). Individualism, Twin Scenarios and Visual Content. Philosophical Psychology 13 (4):441-463.
    In this paper I address an important question concerning the nature of visual content: are the contents of human visual states and experiences exhaustively fixed or determined (in the non-causal sense) by our intrinsic physical properties? The individualist answers this question affirmatively. I will argue that such an answer is mistaken. A common anti-individualist or externalist tactic is to attempt to construct a twin scenario involving humanoid duplicates who are embedded in environments that diverge in such a way that it (...)
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  13. M. J. Cain (1999). Fodor's Attempt to Naturalize Mental Content. Philosophical Quarterly 50 (197):520-26.