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.
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)
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.
Some philosophers hold that philosophy is what you do to a problem until it’s clear enough to solve it by doing science. Others hold that if a philosophical problem succumbs to empirical methods, that shows it wasn’t really philosophical to begin with. Either way, the facts seem clear enough: questions first mooted by philosophers are sometimes coopted by people who do experiments. This seems to be happening now to the question: “what are propositional attitudes?” and cognitive psychology is the science (...) of note. (shrink)
Darwinism consists of two parts: a phylogenesis of biological species (ours included) and the claim that the primary mechanism of the evolution of phenotypes is natural selection. I assume that Darwin’s account of phylogeny is essentially correct; attention is directed to the theory of natural selection. I claim that Darwin’s account of evolution by natural selection cannot be sustained. The basic problem is that, according to the consensus view, evolution consists in changes of the distribution of phenotypic traits in populations (...) of organisms. An evolutionary theory must therefore explicate not just the notion of organisms being selected, but also the notion of organisms being selected for their phenotypic traits. I argue that that there is no way for a theory of natural selection to do so, and that Darwin’s assumption to the contrary was likely the consequence of placing too much weight on the analogy between natural selection and artificial selection. The paper ends with the suggestion that selectionist explanations, insofar as they are convincing, are best construed as post hoc historical narratives: natural history rather than biology. (shrink)
Hume? Yes, David Hume, that's who Jerry Fodor looks to for help in advancing our understanding of the mind. Fodor claims his Treatise of Human Nature as the foundational document of cognitive science: it launched the project of constructing an empirical psychology on the basis of a representational theory of mind. Going back to this work after more than 250 years we find that Hume is remarkably perceptive about the components and structure that a theory of mind requires. Careful study (...) of the Treatise helps us to see what is amiss with much twentieth-century philosophy of mind, and to get on the right track. You don't have to know much about Hume to enjoy this inventively argued, provocative, and stimulating defence of the representational theory of mind, which is looking increasingly hard to resist. (shrink)