Ever since Chomsky, language has become the paradigmatic example of an innate capacity. Infants of only a few months old are aware of the phonetic structure of their mother tongue, such as stress-patterns and phonemes. They can already discriminate words from non-words and acquire a feel for the grammatical structure months before they voice their first word. Language reliably develops not only in the face of poor linguistic input, but even without it. In recent years, several scholars have extended this (...) uncontroversial view into the stronger claim that natural language is a human-speciﬁc adaptation. As I shall point out, this position is more problematic because of a lack of conceptual clarity over what human-specific cognitive adaptations are, and how they relate to modularity, the notion that mental phenomena arise from several domain-speciﬁc cognitive structures. The main aim of this paper is not to discuss whether or not language is an adaptation, but rather, to examine the concept of modularity with respect to the evolution and development of natural language. . (shrink)
There is an argument that has recently been deployed in favor of thinking that the mind is mostly (or even exclusively) composed of cognitive modules; an argument that draws from some ideas and concepts of evolutionary and of developmental biology. In a nutshell, the argument concludes that a mind that is massively composed of cognitive mechanisms that are cognitively modular (henceforth, c-modular) is more evolvable than a mind that is not c-modular (or that is scarcely c-modular), since a cognitive mechanism (...) that is c-modular is likely to be biologically modular (henceforth, b-modular), and b-modular characters are more evolvable (e.g., Sperber 2002, Carruthers 2005). In evolutionary biology, the evolvability of a character in an organism is understood as the “organism’s capacity to facilitate the generation of non-lethal selectable phenotypic variation from random mutation” with respect to that character. Here I will argue that the notion of cognitive modularity needed to make this argument plausible will have to be understood in terms of the biological notion of variational independence; that is, it will have to be understood in such a way that a cognitive feature is c-modular only if few or no other morphological changes (cognitive and not) are significantly correlated with variations of that feature arising in members of the relevant population. I will also argue that all –except for (possibly) one—of the connotations contained in a cluster of notions of cognitive modularity widely accepted in some of the mainstream currents of thought in classical cognitive science, are simply irrelevant to the argument. In order to argue for this, I will have to examine the question as to whether there are any strong theoretical connections between (1) those connotations and (2) notions of modularity accepted in biology, specially in evolutionary and in developmental biology, that are thought to be most relevant to arguments to the effect that biological modularity enhances evolvability. (shrink)
This paper will sketch a model of the human mind according to which the mind’s structure is massively, but by no means wholly, modular. Modularity views in general will be motivated, elucidated, and defended, before the thesis of moderately massive modularity is explained and elaborated.
Jerry Fodor argues that the massive modularity thesis – the claim that (human) cognition is wholly served by domain specific, autonomous computational devices, i.e., modules – is a priori incoherent, self-defeating. The thesis suffers from what Fodor dubs the input problem: the function of a given module (proprietarily understood) in a wholly modular system presupposes non-modular processes. It will be argued that massive modularity suffers from no such a priori problem. Fodor, however, also offers what he describes as (...) a really real input problem (i.e., an empirical one). It will be suggested that this problem is real enough, but it does not selectively strike down massive modularity – it is a problem for everyone. (shrink)
In this introduction, we give a brief overview of the main concepts of modularity that have been offered in recent literature. After this, we turn to a summary of the papers collected in this volume. Our primary aim is to explain how the modularity of emotion question relates to traditional debates in emotion theory.
It is shown that the Fodor's interpretation of the frame problem is the central indication that his version of the Modularity Thesis is incompatible with computationalism. Since computationalism is far more plausible than this thesis, the latter should be rejected.
In this paper, I define tacit knowledge as a kind of causal-explanatory structure, mirroring the derivational structure in the theory that is tacitly known. On this definition, tacit knowledge does not have to be explicitly represented. I then take the notion of a modular theory, and project the idea of modularity to several different levels of description: in particular, to the processing level and the neurophysiological level. The fundamental description of a connectionist network lies at a level between the (...) processing level and the physiological level. At this level, connectionism involves a characteristic departure from modularity, and a correlative absence of syntactic structure. This is linked to the fact that tacit knowledge descriptions of networks are only approximately true. A consequence is that strict causal systematicity in cognitive processes poses a problem for the connectionist programme. (shrink)
This paper critically examines Jerry Fodor's latest attacks on evolutionary psychology. Contra Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, Fodor argues (i) there is no reason to think that human cognition is a Darwinian adaptation in the first place, and (ii) there is no valid inference from adaptationism about the mind to massive modularity. However, Fodor maintains (iii) that there is a valid inference in the converse direction, from modularity to adaptationism, but (iv) that the language module is an exception (...) to the validity of this inference. I explore Fodor's arguments for each of these claims, and the interrelations between them. I argue that Fodor is incorrect on point (i), correct on point (ii), partially correct on point (iii), and incorrect on point (iv). Overall, his critique fails to show that adopting a broadly Darwinian approach to cognition is intellectually indefensible. (shrink)
Psychologists and philosophers have recently been exploring whether the mechanisms which underlie the acquisition of ‘theory of mind’ (ToM) are best charac- terized as cognitive modules or as developing theories. In this paper, we attempt to clarify what a modular account of ToM entails, and why it is an attractive type of explanation. Intuitions and arguments in this debate often turn on the role of _develop-_ _ment_: traditional research on ToM focuses on various developmental sequences, whereas cognitive modules are thought (...) to be static and ‘anti-developmental’. We suggest that this mistaken view relies on an overly limited notion of modularity, and we explore how ToM might be grounded in a cognitive module and yet still afford development. Modules must ‘come on-line’, and even fully developed modules may still develop _internally_, based on their constrained input. We make these points con- crete by focusing on a recent proposal to capture the development of ToM in a module via _parameterization_. (shrink)
Fodor's thinking on modularity has been influential throughout a range of the areas studying cognition, chiefly as a prod for positive work on modularity and domain-specificity. In The Mind Doesn't Work That Way, Fodor has developed the dark message of The Modularity of Mind regarding the limits to modularity and computational analyses. This paper offers a critical assessment of Fodor's scepticism with an eye to highlighting some broader issues in play, including the nature of computation and (...) the role of recent empirical developments in the cognitive sciences in assessing Fodor's position. (shrink)
Currently, there is widespread skepticism that higher cognitive processes, given their apparent flexibility and globality, could be carried out by specialized computational devices, or modules. This skepticism is largely due to Fodor’s influential definition of modularity. From the rather flexible catalogue of possible modular features that Fodor originally proposed has emerged a widely held notion of modules as rigid, informationally encapsulated devices that accept highly local inputs and whose opera- tions are insensitive to context. It is a mistake, however, (...) to equate such features with computational devices in general and therefore to assume, as Fodor does, that higher cognitive processes must be non-computational. Of the many possible non-Fodorean architectures, one is explored here that offers possible solutions to computational problems faced by conventional modular systems: an ‘enzymatic’ architecture. Enzymes are computational devices that use lock-and-key template matching to iden- tify relevant information (substrates), which is then operated upon and returned to a common pool for possible processing by other devices. Highly specialized enzymes can operate together in a common pool of information that is not pre-sorted by information type. Moreover, enzymes can use molecular ‘tags’ to regulate the operations of other devices and to change how particular substrates are construed and operated upon, allowing for highly interactive, context-specific processing. This model shows how specialized, modular processing can occur in an open system, and suggests that skepti- cism about modularity may largely be due to failure to consider alternatives to the standard model. (shrink)
In this paper, I suggest that the notion of module explicitly defined by Peter Carruthers in The Architecture of The Mind (Carruthers 2006) is not really In use in the book. Instead, a more robust notion seems to be actually in play. The more robust notion, albeit implicitly assumed, seems to be far more useful for making claims about the modularity of mind. Otherwise, the claims would become trivial. This robust notion will be reconstructed and improved upon by putting (...) it into a more general framework of mental architecture. I defend the view that modules are the outcome of structural rather than functional decomposition and that they should be conceived as near decomposable systems. (shrink)
Can emotions be rational or are they necessarily irrational? Are emotions universally shared states? Or are they socio-cultural constructions? Are emotions perceptions of some kind? Since the publication of Jerry Fodor’s The Modularity of Mind (1983), a new question about the philosophy of emotions has emerged: are emotions modular? A positive answer to this question would mean, minimally, that emotions are cognitive capacities that can be explained in terms of mental components that are functionally dissociable from other parts of (...) the mind. But depending on the kind of modules that are considered, be they Chomskyan, Fodorian, Darwinian, or some other kind, the answer to this question might well be different. The twelve new essays in this volume address the question of whether emotions, or at least some of them, are, in some sense of the word, modules, and explore how this could potentially influence our understanding of emotional phenomena. (shrink)
the concept of modularity of cognitive processes is introduced and a picture of mind is proposed according to which the peripheral input systems are modular whereas the central processes are not. The present paper examines this view from both a methodological and a substaintive perspective. Methodologically, a contrast between considerations of principle and of fact is made and implications for the nature of cognitive theory are discussed. Substantively, constraints on information flow are examined as they appear in various aspects (...) of psychological phenomenology, and central processes in particular. It is suggested that the notion of modularity as structural and fixed be replaced by one which is dynamic, context-dependent. This modification, it is argued, is productive for the characterization of the workings of the mind, and it defines new questions for investigation. (shrink)
Linguists often sharply distinguish the different modules that support linguistics competence, e.g., syntax, semantics, pragmatics. However, recent work has identified phenomena in syntax (polarity sensitivity) and pragmatics (implicatures), which seem to rely on semantic properties (monotonicity). We propose to investigate these phenomena and their connections as a window into the modularity of our linguistic knowledge. We conducted a series of experiments to gather the relevant syntactic, semantic and pragmatic judgments within a single paradigm. The comparison between these quantitative data (...) leads us to four main results, (i) Our results support a departure from one element of the classical Gricean approach, thus helping to clarify and settle an empirical debate. This first outcome also confirms the soundness of the methodology, as the results align with standard contemporary accounts of scalar implicature (SI), (ii) We confirm that the formal semantic notion of monotonicity underlies negative polarity item (NPI) syntactic acceptability, but (iii) our results indicate that the notion needed is perceived monotonicity. We see results (ii) and (iii) as the main contribution of this study: (ii) provides an empirical interpretation and confirmation of one of the insights of the model-theoretic approach to semantics, while (iii) calls for an incremental, cognitive implementation of the current generalizations, (iv) Finally, our results do not indicate that the relationship between NPI acceptability and monotonicity is mediated by pragmatic features related to Sis: this tells against elegant attempts to unify polarity sensitivity and Sis (pioneered by Krifka and Chierchia). These results illustrate a new methodology for integrating theoretically rigorous work in formal semantics with an experimentally-grounded cognitively-oriented view of linguistic competence. (shrink)
Flanagan (1991) was the first contemporary philosopher to suggest that a modularity of morals hypothesis (MMH) was worth consideration by cognitive science. There is now a serious empirically informed proposal that moral competence is best explained in terms of moral modules-evolutionarily ancient, fast-acting, automatic reactions to particular sociomoral experiences (Haidt & Joseph, 2007). MMH fleshes out an idea nascent in Aristotle, Mencius, and Darwin. We discuss the evidence for MMH, specifically an ancient version, “Mencian Moral Modularity,” which claims (...) four innate modules, and “Social Intuitionist Modularity,” which claims five innate modules. We compare these two moral modularity models, discuss whether the postulated modules are best conceived as perceptual/Fodorian or emotional/Darwinian, and consider whether assuming MMH true has any normative ethical consequences whatsoever. The discussion of MMH reconnects cognitive science with normative ethics in a way that involves the reassertion of the “is-ought” problem. We explain in a new way what this problem is and why it would not yield. The reason does not involve the logic of “ought,” but rather the plasticity of human nature and the realistic options to “grow” and “do” human nature in multifarious legitimate ways. (shrink)
The paper treats issues concerning the modular modelisation of musical mental processes. Some musical phenomena, like musical illusions, are explained in the framework of modularity and hypotheses are advanced in which the modular model seems very promising for the study of musical perception and cognition. In addition, arguments are proposed to distinguish between levels of abstraction and knowledge in musical cognitive processes.Moreover, some aspects about the theory of musical competence and the theory of musical processing are identified and the (...) possibilities for the integration of varying theoretical assertions are considered in light of these distinctions. (shrink)
This paper critically examines the argument structure of Fodor's theory of modularity. Fodor claims computational autonomy as the essential properly of modular processing. This property has profound consequences, burdening modularity theory with corollaries of rigidity, non-plasticity, nativism, and the old Cartesian dualism of sensing and thinking. However, it is argued that Fodor's argument for computational autonomy is crucially dependent on yet another postulate of Fodor's theory, viz. his thesis of strong modularity, ie. the view that functionally distinct (...) modules must also have physical counterparts in the neural architecture of the brain. Yet, Fodor offers little or no independent support for this neurological speculation. Moreover, due to the cognitivist underpinnings of Fodor's theory his view of modules as 'mental organs'faces an untenable dilemma that is to be traced back to the earliest history of modem cognitive science, viz. to the rationalist-computationalist research program initiated by Descartes and Male-branche. The tension characteristic for the Cartesian program was one that arose between information correlation and information processing accounts of the transactions between body and mind. Similarly, the tension characteristic for Fodor's theory of modularity is one between a causal account of modules on the model of simple detection mechanisms, and an information processing account of modules on the model of vast and elaborate cognitive systems. It is argued that the resulting concept of a cognitive module Fodorian style constitutes an amalgam of incompatible desiderata that fails to stake out a natural kind for cognitive science. As an alternative account, the final section shows connectionism to be capable of encompassing both Gibsonian and 'new look' accounts of cognitive achievements within one theoretical perspective, thus providing a fruitful interfield theory capable of combining the theoretical resources of the ecological approach with the indispensable theoretical complement provided by psychological processing accounts. This change of perspective would ultimately involve recasting the symbo-functionalist notion of cognitive function along bio-psychological lines. (shrink)
The Modularity of Mind proposes an alternative to the or view of cognitive architecture that has dominated several decades of cognitive science. Whereas interactionism stresses the continuity of perceptual and cognitive processes, modularity theory argues for their distinctness. It is argued, in particular, that the apparent plausibility of New Look theorizing derives from the failure to distinguish between the (correct) claim that perceptual processes are inferential and the (dubious) claim that they are unencapsidated, that is, that they are (...) arbitrarily sensitive to the organism's beliefs and desires. In fact, according to modularity theory, perceptual processes are computationally isolated from much of the background knowledge to which cognitive processes have access. The postulation of autonomous, domain-specific psychological mechanisms underlying perceptual integration connects modularity theory with the tradition of faculty psychology, in particular, with the work of Franz Joseph Call. Some of these historical affinities, and some of the relations between faculty psychology and Cartesianism, are discussed in the book. (shrink)
Since the publication of Fodor's (1983) The Modularity of Mind, there have been quite a few discussions of cognitive modularity among cognitive scientists. Generally, in those discussions, modularity means a property of specialized cognitive processes or a domain-specific body of information. In actuality, scholars understand modularity in many different ways. Different characterizations of modularity and modules were proposed and discussed, but they created misunderstanding and confusion. In this article, I classified and analyzed different approaches to (...)modularity and argued for the unity of modularity. Modularity is a multidimensional property consisting of features from several dimensions specifying different aspects of cognition. Among those, there are core features of modularity, and these core features form a cross-dimensional unity. Despite the diverse and liberal characterizations, modularity contributes to cognitive science because of the unity of the core features. (shrink)
Evolutionary psychologists claim that the mind contains “hundreds or thousands” of “genetically speciﬁed” modules, which are evolutionary adaptations for their cognitive functions. We argue that, while the adult human mind/brain typically contains a degree of modularization, its “modules” are neither genetically speciﬁed nor evolutionary adaptations. Rather, they result from the brain’s developmental plasticity, which allows environmental task demands a large role in shaping the brain’s information-processing structures. The brain’s developmental plasticity is our fundamental psychological adaptation, and the “modules” that result (...) from it are adaptive responses to local conditions, not past evolutionary environments. If different individuals share common environ- ments, however, they may develop similar “modules,” and this process can mimic the development of genetically speciﬁed modules in the evolutionary psychologist’s sense. (shrink)
Fodor argues that speech perception is accomplished by a module. Typically, modular processing is taken to be bottom-up processing. Yet there is ubiquitous empirical evidence that speech perception is influenced by top-down processing. Fodor attempts to resolve this conflict by denying that modular processing must be exclusively bottom-up. It is argued, however, that Fodor's attempt to reconcile top-down and modular processing fails, because: (i) it undermines Fodor's own conception of modular processing; and (ii) it cannot account for the contextually varying (...) top-down influences that characterize speech perception. (shrink)
In this paper I review some leading developments in the empirical theory of affect. I argue that (1) affect is a distinct perceptual representation governed system, and (2) that there are significant modular factors in affect. The paper concludes with the observation thatfeeler (affective perceptual system) may be a natural kind within cognitive science. The main purpose of the paper is to explore some hitherto unappreciated connections between the theory of affect and the computational theory of mind.
It is unreasonable to assume that our pre-scientific emotion vocabulary embodies all and only those distinctions required for a scientific psychology of emotion. The psychoevolutionary approach to emotion yields an alternative classification of certain emotion phenomena. The new categories are based on a set of evolved adaptive responses, or affect-programs, which are found in all cultures. The triggering of these responses involves a modular system of stimulus appraisal, whose evoluations may conflict with those of higher-level cognitive processes. Whilst the structure (...) of the adaptive responses is innate, the contents of the system which triggers them are largely learnt. The circuits subserving the adaptive responses are probably located in the limbic system. This theory of emotion is directly applicable only to a small sub-domain of the traditional realm of emotion. It can be used, however, to explain the grouping of various other phenomena under the heading of emotion, and to explain various characteristic failings of the pre-scientific conception of emotion. (shrink)
Peter Carruthers, a leading philosopher of mind, provides a comprehensive development and defense of one of the guiding assumptions of evolutionary psychology: that the human mind is composed of a large number of semi-independent modules. Written with unusual clarity and directness, and surveying an extensive range of research in cognitive science, it will be essential reading for anyone with an interest in the nature and organization of the mind.
Is vision informationally encapsulated from cognition or is it cognitively penetrated? I shall argue that intentions penetrate vision in the experience of visual spatial constancy: the world appears to be spatially stable despite our frequent eye movements. I explicate the nature of this experience and critically examine and extend current neurobiological accounts of spatial constancy, emphasizing the central role of motor signals in computing such constancy. I then provide a stringent condition for failure of informational encapsulation that emphasizes a computational (...) condition for cognitive penetration: cognition must serve as an informational resource for visual computation. This requires proposals regarding semantic information transfer, a crucial issue in any model of informational encapsulation. I then argue that intention provides an informational resource for computation of visual spatial constancy. Hence, intention penetrates vision. (shrink)
This chapter examines the extent to which there are continuities between the cognitive processes and epistemic practices engaged in by human hunter-gatherers, on the one hand, and those which are distinctive of science, on the other. It deploys anthropological evidence against any form of 'no-continuity' view, drawing especially on the cognitive skills involved in the art of tracking. It also argues against the 'child-as-scientist' accounts put forward by some developmental psychologists, which imply that scientific thinking is present in early infancy (...) and universal amongst humans who have sufficient time and resources to devote to it. In contrast, a modularist kind of 'continuity' account is proposed, according to which the innately channelled architecture of human cognition provides all the materials necessary for basic forms of scientific reasoning in older children and adults, needing only the appropriate sorts of external support, social context, and background beliefs and skills in order for science to begin its advance. (shrink)
Performance on the Wason selection task varies with content. This has been taken to demonstrate that there are different cognitive modules for dealing with different conceptual domains. This implication is only legitimate if our underlying cognitive architecture is formal. A non-formal system can explain content-sensitive inference without appeal to independent inferential modules.
When Fodor titled his (1983) book the _Modularity of Mind_, he overstated his position. His actual view is that the mind divides into systems some of which are modular and others of which are not. The book would have been more aptly, if less provocatively, called _The Modularity of Low-Level Peripheral Systems_. High-level perception and cognitive systems are non-modular on Fodor’s theory. In recent years, modularity has found more zealous defenders, who claim that the entire mind divides into (...) highly specialized modules. This view has been especially popular among Evolutionary Psychologists. They claim that the mind is massively modular (Cosmides and Tooby, 1994; Sperber, 1994; Pinker, 1997; see also Samuels, 1998). Like a Swiss Army Knife, the mind is an assembly of specialized tools, each of which has been designed for some particular purpose. My goal here is to raise doubts about both peripheral modularity and massive modularity. To do that, I will rely on the criteria for modularity laid out by Fodor (1983). I will argue that neither input systems, nor central systems are modular on any of these criteria. (shrink)
Amongst philosophers and cognitive scientists, modularity remains a popular choice for an architecture of the human mind, primarily because of the supposed explanatory value of this approach. Modular architectures can vary both with respect to the strength of the notion of modularity and the scope of the modularity of mind. We propose a dilemma for modular architectures, no matter how these architectures vary along these two dimensions. First, if a modular architecture commits to the informational encapsulation of (...) modules, as it is the case for modularity theories of perception, then modules are on this account impenetrable. However, we argue that there are genuine cases of the cognitive penetrability of perception and that these cases challenge any strong, encapsulated modular architecture of perception. Second, many recent massive modularity theories weaken the strength of the notion of module, while broadening the scope of modularity. These theories do not require any robust informational encapsulation, and thus avoid the incompatibility with cognitive penetrability. However, the weakened commitment to informational encapsulation significantly weakens the explanatory force of the theory and, ultimately, is conceptually at odds with the core of modularity. We then propose a non-modular notion of functionally independent system that, we argue, achieves the explanatory force sought by modularity theorists. (shrink)
My charge in this chapter is to set out the positive case supporting massively modular models of the human mind.1 Unfortunately, there is no generally accepted understanding of what a massively modular model of the mind is. So at least some of our discussion will have to be terminological. I shall begin by laying out the range of things that can be meant by ‘modularity’. I shall then adopt a pair of strategies. One will be to distinguish some things (...) that ‘modularity’ definitely can’t mean, if the thesis of massive modularity is to be even remotely plausible. The other will be to look at some of the arguments that have been offered in support of massive modularity, discussing what notion of ‘module’ they might warrant. It will turn out that there is, indeed, a strong case in support of massively modular models of the mind on one reasonably natural understanding of ‘module’. But what really matters in the end, of course, is the substantive question of what sorts of structure are adequate to account for the organization and operations of the human mind, not whether or not the components appealed to in that account get described as ‘modules’. So the more interesting question before us is what the arguments that have been offered in support of massive modularity can succeed in showing us about those structures, whatever they get called. (shrink)
In this article, we discuss the modularity of the emotions. In a general methodological section, we discuss the empirical basis for the postulation of modularity. Then we discuss how certain modules -- the emotions in particular -- decompose into distinct anatomical and functional parts.
Psychologists and philosophers have recently been exploring whether the mechanisms which underlie the acquisition of ‘theory of mind’ (ToM) are best charac- terized as cognitive modules or as developing theories. In this paper, we attempt to clarify what a modular account of ToM entails, and why it is an attractive type of explanation. Intuitions and arguments in this debate often turn on the role of develop- ment: traditional research on ToM focuses on various developmental sequences, whereas cognitive modules are thought (...) to be static and ‘anti-developmental’. We suggest that this mistaken view relies on an overly limited notion of modularity, and we explore how ToM might be grounded in a cognitive module and yet still afford development. Modules must ‘come on-line’, and even fully developed modules may still develop internally, based on their constrained input. We make these points con- crete by focusing on a recent proposal to capture the development of ToM in a module via parameterization. (shrink)
The theory of mind (ToM) deficit associated with autism spectrum disorder has been a central topic in the debate about the modularity of the mind. In a series of papers, Philip Gerrans and Valerie Stone argue that positing a ToM module does not best explain the deficits exhibited by individuals with autism (Gerrans 2002; Stone & Gerrans 2006a, 2006b; Gerrans & Stone 2008). In this paper, I first criticize Gerrans and Stone’s (2008) account. Second, I discuss various studies of (...) individuals with autism and argue that they are best explained by positing a higher-level, domain-specific ToM module. (shrink)
Evolutionary psychologists tend to view the mind as a large collection of evolved, functionally specialized mechanisms, or modules. Cosmides and Tooby (1994) have presented four arguments in favor of this model of the mind: the engineering argument, the error argument, the poverty of the stimulus argument, and combinatorial explosion. Fodor (2000) has discussed each of these four arguments and rejected them all. In the present paper, we present and discuss the arguments for and against the massive modularity hypothesis. We (...) conclude that Cosmides and Tooby's arguments have considerable force and are too easily dismissed by Fodor. (shrink)