The renowned philosopher Jerry Fodor, a leading figure in the study of the mind for more than twenty years, presents a strikingly original theory on the basic constituents of thought. He suggests that the heart of cognitive science is its theory of concepts, and that cognitive scientists have gone badly wrong in many areas because their assumptions about concepts have been mistaken. Fodor argues compellingly for an atomistic theory of concepts, deals out witty and pugnacious demolitions of rival theories, and (...) suggests that future work on human cognition should build upon new foundations. This lively, conversational, and superbly accessible book is the first volume in the Oxford Cognitive Science Series, where the best original work in this field will be presented to a broad readership. Concepts will fascinate anyone interested in contemporary work on mind and language. Cognitive science will never be the same again. (shrink)
Jerry Fodor presents a new development of his famous Language of Thought hypothesis, which has since the 1970s been at the centre of interdisciplinary debate about how the mind works. Fodor defends and extends the groundbreaking idea that thinking is couched in a symbolic system realized in the brain. This idea is central to the representational theory of mind which Fodor has established as a key reference point in modern philosophy, psychology, and cognitive science. The foundation stone of our present (...) cognitive science is Turing's suggestion that cognitive processes are not associations but computations; and computation requires a language of thought. So the latest on the Language of Thought hypothesis, from its progenitor, promises to be a landmark in the study of the mind. LOT 2 offers a more cogent presentation and a fuller explication of Fodor 's distinctive account of the mind, with various intriguing new features. The central role of compositionality in the representational theory of mind is revealed: most of what we know about concepts follows from the compositionality of thoughts. Fodor shows the necessity of a referentialist account of the content of intentional states, and of an atomistic account of the individuation of concepts. Not least among the new developments is Fodor 's identification and persecution of pragmatism as the leading source of error in the study of the mind today. LOT 2 sees Fodor advance undaunted towards the ultimate goal of a theory of the cognitive mind, and in particular a theory of the intentionality of cognition. No one who works on the mind can ignore Fodor 's views, expressed in the coruscating and provocative style which has delighted and disconcerted countless readers over the years. (shrink)
This paper explores the difference between Connectionist proposals for cognitive a r c h i t e c t u r e a n d t h e s o r t s o f m o d e l s t hat have traditionally been assum e d i n c o g n i t i v e s c i e n c e . W e c l a i m t h a t t h (...) e m a j o r d i s t i n c t i o n i s t h a t , w h i l e b o t h Connectionist and Classical architectures postulate representational mental states, the latter but not the former are committed to a symbol-level of representation, or to a ‘language of thought’: i.e., to representational states that have combinatorial syntactic and semantic structure. Several arguments for combinatorial structure in mental representations are then reviewed. These include arguments based on the ‘systematicity’ of mental representation: i.e., on the fact that cognitive capacities always exhibit certain symmetries, so that the ability to entertain a given thought implies the ability to entertain thoughts with semantically related contents. We claim that such arguments make a powerful case that mind/brain architecture is not Connectionist at the cognitive level. We then consider the possibility that Connectionism may provide an account of the neural (or ‘abstract neurological’) structures in which Classical cognitive architecture is implemented. We survey a n u m b e r o f t h e s t a n d a r d a r g u m e n t s t h a t h a v e b e e n o f f e r e d i n f a v o r o f Connectionism, and conclude that they are coherent only on this interpretation. (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)
Several arguments are considered which purport to demonstrate the impossibility of theory-neutral observation. The most important of these infers the continuity of observation with theory from the presumed continuity of perception with cognition, a doctrine widely espoused in recent cognitive psychology. An alternative psychological account of the relation between cognition and perception is proposed and its epistemological consequences for the observation/theory distinction are then explored.
Churchland's paper "Perceptual Plasticity and Theoretical Neutrality" offers empirical, semantical and epistemological arguments intended to show that the cognitive impenetrability of perception "does not establish a theory-neutral foundation for knowledge" and that the psychological account of perceptual encapsulation that I set forth in The Modularity of Mind "[is] almost certainly false". The present paper considers these arguments in detail and dismisses them.
What kind of theory is the theory of natural selection? -- Internal constraints : what the new biology tells us -- Whole genomes, networks, modules and other complexities -- Many constraints, many environments -- The return of the laws of form -- Many are called but few are chosen : the problem of 'selection-for' -- No exit? : some responses to the problem of 'selection-for' -- Did the dodo lose its ecological niche? : or was it the other way around? (...) -- Summary and postlude. (shrink)
1 There is a Standard Objection to the idea that concepts might be prototypes (or exemplars, or stereotypes): Because they are productive, concepts must be compositional. Prototypes aren't compositional, so concepts can't be prototypes (see, e.g., Margolis, 1994).2 However, two recent papers (Osherson and Smith, 1988; Kamp and Partee, 1995) reconsider this consensus. They suggest that, although the Standard Objection is probably right in the long run, the cases where prototypes fail to exhibit compositionality are relatively exotic and involve phenomena (...) which any account of compositionality is likely to find hard to deal with; for example, the effects of quantifiers, indexicals, contextual constraints, etc. KP are even prepared to indulge a guarded optimism: "... when a suitably rich compositional theory... is developed, prototypes will be seen ... as one property among many which only when taken altogether can support a compositional theory of combination" (p.56). In this paper, we argue that the Standard Objection to prototype theory was right after all: The problems about compositionality are insuperable in even the most trivial sorts of examples; it is therefore as near to certain as anything in cognitive science ever gets that the structure of concepts is not statistical. Theories of categorization, concept acquisition, lexical meaning and the like, which assume the contrary simply don't work. We commence with a general discussion of the constraints that an account of concepts must meet if their compositionality is to explain their productivity. We'll then turn to a criticism of proposals that OS2 and KP make for coping with some specific cases. (shrink)
It's an achievement of the last couple of decades that people who work in linguistic semantics and people who work in the philosophy of language have arrived at a friendly, de facto agreement as to their respective job descriptions. The terms of this agreement are that the semanticists do the work and the philosophers do the worrying. The semanticists try to construct actual theories of meaning (or truth theories, or model theories, or whatever) for one or another kind of expression (...) in one or another natural language; for example, they try to figure out how the temperature could be rising compatibly with the substitutivity of identicals. The philosophers, by contrast, keep an eye on the large, foundational issues, such as: what's the relation between sense and denotation; what's the relation between thought and language; whether translation is determinate; and whether life is like a fountain. Every now and then the philosophers and the semanticists are supposed to get together and compare notes on their respective progress. Or lack thereof. (shrink)
"Twim earth" examples have motivated a number of proposals for the lexicography of kind terms in natural languages. it is argued that these proposals create unacceptable difficulties for the analysis of de dicto propositional attitudes. a conservative solution of the twin earth problems is then proposed according to which they reflect pragmatic features of language use rather than semantic features of lexical content.