So How Does the Mind Work?
Pinker (Steven)
Source: Mind and Language, Volume 20, Number 1, February 2005, pp. 1-24(24)
Paper - Abstract

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Philosophers Index Abstract

  1. In my book "Pinker (Steven) - How the Mind Works", I defended the theory that the human mind is a naturally selected system of organs of computation.
  2. Jerry Fodor claims that ‘the mind doesn’t work that way’ (in a book1 with that title) because
    1. Turing Machines cannot duplicate2 humans’ ability to perform abduction (inference to the best explanation);
    2. though a massively modular system could succeed at abduction, such a system is implausible on other grounds; and
    3. evolution adds nothing to our understanding of the mind. In this review I show that these arguments are flawed.
  3. Response
    1. First, my claim that the mind is a computational system is different from the claim Fodor attacks (that the mind has the architecture of a Turing Machine); therefore the practical limitations of Turing Machines are irrelevant.
    2. Second, Fodor identifies abduction with the cumulative accomplishments of the scientific community over millennia. This is very different from the accomplishments of human common sense, so the supposed gap between human cognition and computational models may be illusory.
    3. Third, my claim about biological specialization, as seen in organ systems, is distinct from Fodor's own notion of encapsulated modules, so the limitations of the latter are irrelevant. Fourth, Fodor's arguments dismissing of the relevance of evolution to psychology are unsound.



In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: See "Fodor (Jerry) - The Mind Doesn't Work That Way - The Scope and Limits of Computational Psychology".


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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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