Ideas of Jerry A. Fodor, by Theme

[American, 1935 - 2017, A pupil of Noam Chomsky. Professor at Rutgers University.]

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1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 3. Philosophy Defined
Who cares what 'philosophy' is? Most pre-1950 thought doesn't now count as philosophy
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 3. Analysis of Preconditions
Definitions often give necessary but not sufficient conditions for an extension
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 4. Conceptual Analysis
It seems likely that analysis of concepts is impossible, but justification can survive without it
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 7. Limitations of Analysis
Despite all the efforts of philosophers, nothing can ever be reduced to anything
2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 8. Naturalising Reason
A standard naturalist view is realist, externalist, and computationalist, and believes in rationality
Turing invented the idea of mechanical rationality (just based on syntax)
2. Reason / D. Definition / 13. Against Definition
We have no successful definitions, because they all use indefinable words
2. Reason / E. Argument / 2. Transcendental Argument
Transcendental arguments move from knowing Q to knowing P because it depends on Q
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 5. Truth Bearers
Psychology has to include the idea that mental processes are typically truth-preserving
5. Theory of Logic / A. Overview of Logic / 4. Pure Logic
Inferences are surely part of the causal structure of the world
5. Theory of Logic / E. Structures of Logic / 2. Logical Connectives / d. and
A truth-table, not inferential role, defines 'and'
5. Theory of Logic / F. Referring in Logic / 1. Naming / a. Names
'Jocasta' needs to be distinguished from 'Oedipus's mother' because they are connected by different properties
Names in thought afford a primitive way to bring John before the mind
'Paderewski' has two names in mentalese, for his pianist file and his politician file
5. Theory of Logic / K. Features of Logics / 2. Consistency
P-and-Q gets its truth from the truth of P and truth of Q, but consistency isn't like that
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 2. Types of Existence
If 'exist' is ambiguous in 'chairs and numbers exist', that mirrors the difference between chairs and numbers
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 7. Emergent Properties
The world is full of messy small things producing stable large-scale properties (e.g. mountains)
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 10. Properties as Predicates
A particle and a coin heads-or-tails pick out to perfectly well-defined predicates and properties
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 6. Dispositions / c. Dispositions as conditional
Empiricists use dispositions reductively, as 'possibility of sensation' or 'possibility of experimental result'
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 6. Platonic Forms / b. Partaking
Don't define something by a good instance of it; a good example is a special case of the ordinary example
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 1. Possibility
There's statistical, logical, nomological, conceptual and metaphysical possibility
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 4. Belief / d. Cause of beliefs
Some beliefs are only inferred when needed, like 'Shakespeare had not telephone'
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 4. Belief / e. Belief holism
How do you count beliefs?
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 6. Knowing How
Knowing that must come before knowing how
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 3. Idealism / c. Empirical idealism
Berkeley seems to have mistakenly thought that chairs are the same as after-images
12. Knowledge Sources / A. A Priori Knowledge / 3. Innate Knowledge / a. Innate knowledge
Contrary to commonsense, most of what is in the mind seems to be unlearned
Evolution suggests that innate knowledge of human psychology would be beneficial
Sticklebacks have an innate idea that red things are rivals
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 6. Inference in Perception
Maybe explaining the mechanics of perception will explain the concepts involved
12. Knowledge Sources / C. Rationalism / 1. Rationalism
Rationalism can be based on an evolved computational brain with innate structure
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 2. Associationism
Associations are held to connect Ideas together in the way the world is connected together
Associationism can't explain how truth is preserved
According to empiricists abstraction is the fundamental mental process
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 3. Pragmatism
Pragmatism is the worst idea ever
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 5. Empiricism Critique
Rationalists say there is more to a concept than the experience that prompts it
13. Knowledge Criteria / C. External Justification / 5. Controlling Beliefs
Control of belief is possible if you know truth conditions and what causes beliefs
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 3. Experiment
Participation in an experiment requires agreement about what the outcome will mean
We can deliberately cause ourselves to have true thoughts - hence the value of experiments
Interrogation and experiment submit us to having beliefs caused
An experiment is a deliberate version of what informal thinking does all the time
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 1. Scientific Theory
Theories are links in the causal chain between the environment and our beliefs
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 1. Mind / b. Purpose of mind
The function of a mind is obvious
Empirical approaches see mind connections as mirrors/maps of reality
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 1. Mind / c. Features of mind
Mental states have causal powers
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 1. Mind / e. Questions about mind
In CRTT thought may be represented, content must be
I say psychology is intentional, semantics is informational, and thinking is computation
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 1. Consciousness / f. Higher-order thought
We are probably the only creatures that can think about our own thoughts
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 4. Intentionality / a. Nature of intentionality
How does anything get outside itself? [Martin,CB]
Do intentional states explain our behaviour?
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 4. Intentionality / b. Intentionality theories
Is intentionality outwardly folk psychology, inwardly mentalese? [Lyons]
We can't use propositions to explain intentional attitudes, because they would need explaining
Intentionality doesn't go deep enough to appear on the physicists' ultimate list of things
Intentional science needs objects with semantic and causal properties, and which obey laws
Intentional states and processes may be causal relations among mental symbols
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 7. Seeing Resemblance
The different types of resemblance don't resemble one another
16. Persons / B. Nature of the Self / 6. Self as Higher Awareness
If I have a set of mental modules, someone had better be in charge of them!
17. Mind and Body / A. Mind-Body Dualism / 2. Interactionism
Cartesians consider interaction to be a miracle
Semantics v syntax is the interaction problem all over again
17. Mind and Body / A. Mind-Body Dualism / 6. Epiphenomenalism
Either intentionality causes things, or epiphenomenalism is true
17. Mind and Body / B. Behaviourism / 4. Behaviourism Critique
Behaviourism has no theory of mental causation
17. Mind and Body / C. Functionalism / 1. Functionalism
Functionalists see pains as properties involving relations and causation
17. Mind and Body / C. Functionalism / 2. Machine Functionalism
Any piece of software can always be hard-wired
In the Representational view, concepts play the key linking role
17. Mind and Body / C. Functionalism / 4. Causal Functionalism
Causal powers must be a crucial feature of mental states
17. Mind and Body / C. Functionalism / 6. Homuncular Functionalism
Mind is a set of hierarchical 'homunculi', which are made up in turn from subcomponents [Lycan]
17. Mind and Body / D. Property Dualism / 2. Anomalous Monism
Contrary to the 'anomalous monist' view, there may well be intentional causal laws
17. Mind and Body / D. Property Dualism / 3. Property Dualism
Are beliefs brains states, but picked out at a "higher level"? [Lyons]
Why bother with neurons? You don't explain bird flight by examining feathers
17. Mind and Body / D. Property Dualism / 5. Supervenience of mind
Supervenience gives good support for mental causation
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 1. Physical Mind
Type physicalism equates mental kinds with physical kinds
Type physicalism is a stronger claim than token physicalism
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 4. Connectionism
Hume's associationism offers no explanation at all of rational thought
Hume has no theory of the co-ordination of the mind
Modern connectionism is just Hume's theory of the 'association' of 'ideas'
Only the labels of nodes have semantic content in connectionism, and they play no role
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 7. Anti-Physicalism / a. Physicalism critique
If mind is just physical, how can it follow the rules required for intelligent thought?
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 7. Anti-Physicalism / b. Multiple realisability
Lots of physical properties are multiply realisable, so why shouldn't beliefs be?
Most psychological properties seem to be multiply realisable
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 1. Thought
We may be able to explain rationality mechanically
The goal of thought is to understand the world, not instantly sort it into conceptual categories
Connectionism gives no account of how constituents make complex concepts
Associative thinking avoids syntax, but can't preserve sense, reference or truth
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 2. Propositional Attitudes
Propositional attitudes are propositions presented in a certain way
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 4. Folk Psychology
Folk psychology is the only explanation of behaviour we have
Folk psychology explains behaviour by reference to intentional states like belief and desire
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 5. Rationality / a. Rationality
Rationality has mental properties - autonomy, productivity, experiment
18. Thought / B. Mechanics of Thought / 3. Modularity of Mind
Mental modules are specialised, automatic, and isolated [Okasha]
Modules have encapsulation, inaccessibility, private concepts, innateness
Something must take an overview of the modules
Obvious modules are language and commonsense explanation
Blindness doesn't destroy spatial concepts
Rationality rises above modules
Modules make the world manageable
Modules have in-built specialist information
Babies talk in consistent patterns
Modules analyse stimuli, they don't tell you what to do
18. Thought / B. Mechanics of Thought / 4. Language of Thought
Since the language of thought is the same for all, it must be something like logical form [Devlin]
We must have expressive power BEFORE we learn language
Belief and desire are structured states, which need mentalese
Language is ambiguous, but thought isn't
Mentalese may also incorporate some natural language
Mentalese doesn't require a theory of meaning
Ambiguities in English are the classic reason for claiming that we don't think in English
18. Thought / B. Mechanics of Thought / 5. Mental Files
Mental representations name things in the world, but also files in our memory
We think in file names
18. Thought / B. Mechanics of Thought / 6. Artificial Thought / a. Artificial Intelligence
Is thought a syntactic computation using representations? [Rey]
Frame Problem: how to eliminate most beliefs as irrelevant, without searching them?
18. Thought / C. Content / 1. Content
Maybe narrow content is physical, broad content less so [Lyons]
18. Thought / C. Content / 2. Ideas
Mental representations are the old 'Ideas', but without images
18. Thought / C. Content / 5. Twin Earth
XYZ (Twin Earth 'water') is an impossibility
If concept content is reference, then my Twin and I are referring to the same stuff
18. Thought / C. Content / 6. Broad Content
Truth conditions require a broad concept of content
How could the extrinsic properties of thoughts supervene on their intrinsic properties?
18. Thought / C. Content / 7. Narrow Content
Obsession with narrow content leads to various sorts of hopeless anti-realism
Concepts aren't linked to stuff; they are what is caused by stuff
18. Thought / C. Content / 9. Conceptual Role Semantics
Content can't be causal role, because causal role is decided by content
18. Thought / C. Content / 10. Causal Semantics
Do identical thoughts have identical causal roles?
Knowing the cause of a thought is almost knowing its content
18. Thought / C. Content / 12. Informational Semantics
Is content basically information, fixed externally?
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 2. Origin of Concepts / a. Origin of concepts
Nobody knows how concepts are acquired
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 2. Origin of Concepts / c. Nativist concepts
If concept-learning is hypothesis-testing, that needs innate concepts to get started [Margolis/Laurence]
Fodor is now less keen on the innateness of concepts [Lowe]
Experience can't explain itself; the concepts needed must originate outside experience
We have an innate capacity to form a concept, once we have grasped the stereotype
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 3. Ontology of Concepts / a. Concepts as representations
It is essential to the concept CAT that it be satisfied by cats
Having a concept isn't a pragmatic matter, but being able to think about the concept
Concepts have two sides; they are files that face thought, and also face subject-matter
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 3. Ontology of Concepts / b. Concepts as abilities
In the information view, concepts are potentials for making distinctions
I prefer psychological atomism - that concepts are independent of epistemic capacities
Are concepts best seen as capacities?
For Pragmatists having a concept means being able to do something
Cartesians put concept individuation before concept possession
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 3. Ontology of Concepts / c. Fregean concepts
Frege's puzzles suggest to many that concepts have sense as well as reference
If concepts have sense, we can't see the connection to their causal powers
Belief in 'senses' may explain intentionality, but not mental processes
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 4. Structure of Concepts / a. Conceptual structure
You can't think 'brown dog' without thinking 'brown' and 'dog'
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 4. Structure of Concepts / b. Analysis of concepts
Definable concepts have constituents, which are necessary, individuate them, and demonstrate possession
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 4. Structure of Concepts / d. Concepts as prototypes
Many concepts lack prototypes, and complex prototypes aren't built from simple ones
Maybe stereotypes are a stage in concept acquisition (rather than a by-product)
One stereotype might be a paradigm for two difference concepts
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 4. Structure of Concepts / f. Theory theory of concepts
The theory theory can't actually tell us what concepts are
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 4. Structure of Concepts / g. Conceptual atomism
For the referential view of thought, the content of a concept is just its reference
Compositionality requires that concepts be atomic
18. Thought / E. Abstraction / 2. Abstracta by Selection
Abstractionism claims that instances provide criteria for what is shared
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 1. Meaning
Semantic externalism says the concept 'elm' needs no further beliefs or inferences
If meaning is information, that establishes the causal link between the state of the world and our beliefs
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 3. Meaning as Speaker's Intention
Grice thinks meaning is inherited from the propositional attitudes which sentences express
It seems unlikely that meaning can be reduced to communicative intentions, or any mental states
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 4. Meaning as Truth-Conditions
Whatever in the mind delivers falsehood is parasitic on what delivers truth
To know the content of a thought is to know what would make it true
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 5. Meaning as Verification
Many different verification procedures can reach 'star', but it only has one semantic value
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 6. Meaning as Use
The meaning of a sentence derives from its use in expressing an attitude
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 7. Meaning Holism / b. Language holism
Meaning holism is a crazy doctrine
For holists no two thoughts are ever quite the same, which destroys faith in meaning
If to understand "fish" you must know facts about them, where does that end?
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 7. Meaning Holism / c. Meaning by Role
Very different mental states can share their contents, so content doesn't seem to be constructed from functional role
'Inferential-role semantics' says meaning is determined by role in inference
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 8. Synonymy
Mental states may have the same content but different extensions
19. Language / B. Reference / 1. Reference theories
Co-referring terms differ if they have different causal powers
We refer to individuals and to properties, and we use singular terms and predicates
19. Language / B. Reference / 4. Descriptive Reference / a. Sense and reference
It is claimed that reference doesn't fix sense (Jocasta), and sense doesn't fix reference (Twin Earth)
19. Language / C. Assigning Meanings / 2. Semantics
Broad semantics holds that the basic semantic properties are truth and denotation
English has no semantic theory, just associations between sentences and thoughts
Semantics (esp. referential semantics) allows inferences from utterances to the world
Semantics relates to the world, so it is never just psychological
19. Language / C. Assigning Meanings / 6. Truth-Conditions Semantics
Externalist semantics are necessary to connect the contents of beliefs with how the world is
19. Language / E. Analyticity / 3. Analytic and Synthetic
Analysis is impossible without the analytic/synthetic distinction
19. Language / F. Communication / 4. Private Language
The theory of the content of thought as 'Mentalese' explains why the Private Language Argument doesn't work
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / a. Practical reason
Before you can plan action, you must decide on the truth of your estimate of success
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 9. Counterfactual Claims
Laws are true generalisations which support counterfactuals and are confirmed by instances