Connectionist languages of thought

Fodor and Pylyshyn (1988) have presented an influential argument to the effect that any viable connectionist account of human cognition must implement a language of thought. Their basic strategy is to argue that connectionist models that do not implement a language of thought fail to account for the systematic relations among propositional attitudes. Several critics of the LOT hypothesis have tried to pinpoint flaws in Fodor and Pylyshyn’s argument (Smolensky 1989; Clark, 1989; Chalmers, 1990; Braddon-Mitchell and Fitzpatrick, 1990). One thing I will try to show is that the argument can be rescued from these criticisms. (Score: LOT 1, Visitors 0.) However, I agree that the argument fails, and I will provide a new account of how it goes wrong. (The score becomes tied.) Of course, the failure of Fodor and Pylyshyn’s argument does not mean that their conclusion is false. Consequently, some connectionist criticisms of Fodor and Pylyshyn’s article take the form of direct counterexamples to their conclusion (Smolensky 1989; van Gelder, 1990; Chalmers, 1990). I will argue, however, that Fodor and Pylyshyn’s conclusion survives confrontation with the alleged counterexamples. Finally, I provide an alternative argument that may succeed where Fodor and Pylyshyn’s fails. (Final Score: LOT 3, Visitors 1.)
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