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Language, Cognition, and Human Nature$
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Steven Pinker

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199328741

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199328741.001.0001

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So How Does the Mind Work?

So How Does the Mind Work?

Chapter:
(p.269) 10 So How Does the Mind Work?
Source:
Language, Cognition, and Human Nature
Author(s):

Steven Pinker

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199328741.003.0010

The theory that the human mind is a naturally selected system of organs of computation was defended in How the Mind Works. Jerry Fodor claims that ‘the mind doesn’t work that way’ because (1) Turing Machines cannot duplicate humans’ ability to perform abduction; (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. This chapter shows that these arguments are flawed. The claim that the mind is a computational system is different from the claim Fodor attacks. 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. And, the claim about biological specialization, as seen in organ systems, is distinct from Fodor’s own notion of encapsulated modules.

Keywords:   evolution, evolutionary psychology, modularity, innateness, nature-nurture debate, cognition, cognitive science, Jerry Fodor

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