Cognition without classical architecture

Synthese 100 (2):291-306 (1994)
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  Fodor and Pylyshyn (1988) argue that any successful model of cognition must use classical architecture; it must depend upon rule-based processing sensitive to constituent structure. This claim is central to their defense of classical AI against the recent enthusiasm for connectionism. Connectionist nets, they contend, may serve as theories of the implementation of cognition, but never as proper theories of psychology. Connectionist models are doomed to describing the brain at the wrong level, leaving the classical view to account for the mind.This paper considers whether recent results in connectionist research weigh against Fodor and Pylyshyn's thesis. The investigation will force us to develop criteria for determining exactly when a net is capable of systematic processing. Fodor and Pylyshyn clearly intend their thesis to affect the course of research in psychology. I will argue that when systematicity is defined in a way that makes the thesis relevant in this way, the thesis is challenged by recent progress in connectionism



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James W. Garson
University of Houston