Thursday, 19 October 2000

From "The Mind Doesn't Work That Way"

By Jerry Fodor.

A psychology (rationalist, empiricist, or whatever) needs to do more than just enunciate the laws it claims that mental processes obey. It also needs to explain what kind of thing a mind could be such that those laws are true of it; which is once again to say that it needs to specify a mechanism. Empiricists hold, more or less explicitly, that typical psychological laws are generalizations that specify how causal relations among mental states alter as a function of a creature's experience. Associationism provided empiricists with an explanation of why such generalizations hold, namely, that they are all special cases of the associative laws, which are themselves presumed to be innate [...] By contrast, a rationalist psychology says that typical laws about the mind specify ways in which the logical forms of a mental state determines its role in mental processes. So a rationalist is in need of a theory about how a mental process could be sensitive to the logical form of mental states. This theory can't, of course, be associationistic, since associative relations among mental states are supposed to hold not in virtue of logical form, but rather in virtue of statistical facts about (e.g.) how often they have occured together, or how often their occurring together has lead to reinforcement, etc. Turing's notion of computation provides exactly what a rationalist cognitive scientist needs to fill this gap: It does for rationalists what the laws of association would have done for empiricists if only associationism had be true.

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