(Copyright © 2000 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
Fodor is widely known as the man who defended: 1. the computational theory
of mind (that the mind if a computer), 2. the theory of modular cognition
(that cognition is structured in modules) and 3. the theory of nativism
(that some knowledge is innate).
In this book he attacks all three views as premature and incomplete.
Fodor argues that these three postulates alone cannot "prove" the mind,
In the face of the overwhelming success that those three postulates have
encountered, Fodor first refreshes our minds as to what they stood for
originally: cognitive processes are syntactic. Then he confesses his fear
that this approach cannot model nonlocal reasoning, i.e. common sense and
specifically abduction (he doesn't explain why he is not happy with the
countless Artificial Intelligence systems that have modeled abduction).
At the same time, he shows that even worse drawbacks are incurred by
connectionists (here, again he doesn't really explain what is wrong
with learning common sense via neural network training).
Fodor then devotes a chapter to explaining why he doesn't found convincing that the computational model of cognition can be integrated with a Darwinian model of evolution, in other words that the innate knowledge comes from adaptation. In his opinion it is not plausible and it is founded on a misunderstanding of Chomsky's nativism.
Fodor's book sounds more like an extended review of Pinker's and Plotkin's recent bestsellers than an independent essay on mind. Fodor wrote a reminder that Pinker and Plotkin may have found analogies between philosophy, psychology and biology, but analogies do not make a new science.