Content and computation : a critical study of some themes in Jerry Fodor's philosophy of mind
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In this thesis I address certain key issues in contemporary philosophy of mind and psychology via a study of Jerry Fodor's hugely important contributions to the discussion of those issues. The issues in question are: (i) the nature of scientific psychology; (ii) the individuation of psychological states for the purposes of scientific psychological explanation; and (iii) the project of naturalising mental content. I criticise many of Fodor's most significant and provocative claims but from within a framework of shared assumptions. I attempt to motivate and justify many of these shared assumptions. Chapter 1 constitutes an overview of the key themes in Fodor's philosophy of mind. In Chapter 2 an account of scientific psychology within the orthodox computationalist tradition is developed according to which that discipline is concerned with explaining intentionally characterised cognitive capacities. Such explanations attribute both semantic and syntactic properties to subpersonal representational states and processes. In Chapters 3 and 5 Fodor's various arguments for the conclusion that scientific psychology does (or should) individuate psychological states individualistically are criticised.I argue that there are pragmatic reasons why scientific psychology should sometimes attribute contents that are not locally supervenient. In Chapter 4 I consider Marr's theory of vision and conclude that the contents that Marr attributes to the states of the visual module are locally supervenient. Inconsistency is avoided by stressing the continuity of scientific psychological content with folk psychological content. In Chapter 6 I develop an account of the project of naturalising mental content that vindicates that project. In Chapter 7 I address the question of whether Fodor's theory of content constitutes a successful engagement in that project. I argue for a negative answer before drawing some morals as to how we should proceed in the light of the failure of Fodor's theory.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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