Mentalese not spoken here: Computation, cognition and causation

Philosophical Psychology 10 (4):413-35 (1997)


Classical computational modellers of mind urge that the mind is something like a von Neumann computer operating over a system of symbols constituting a language of thought. Such an architecture, they argue, presents us with the best explanation of the compositionality, systematicity and productivity of thought. The language of thought hypothesis is supported by additional independent arguments made popular by Jerry Fodor. Paul Smolensky has developed a connectionist architecture he claims adequately explains compositionality, systematicity and productivity without positing any language of thought, and without positing any operations over a set of symbols. This architecture encodes the information represented in linguistic trees without explicitly representing those trees or their constituents, and indeed without employing any representational vehicles with constituent structure. In a recent article, Fodor (1997; Connectionism and systematicity, Cognition , 62, 109-119) argues that Smolensky's proposal does not work. I defend Smolensky against Fodor's attack, and use this interchange as a vehicle for exploring and criticising the “Language of Thought” hypothesis more generally and the arguments Fodor adduces on its behalf.

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Jay Garfield
Smith College

Citations of this work

Connectionism.James Garson - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Idealist Origins: 1920s and Before.Martin Davies & Stein Helgeby - 2014 - In Graham Oppy & Nick Trakakis (eds.), History of Philosophy in Australia and New Zealand. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. pp. 15-54.
What's New Here?Bruce Mangan - 1999 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22 (1):160-161.

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