How Jerry Fodor slid down the slippery slope to Anti-Darwinism, and how we can avoid the same fate

European Journal for Philosophy of Science 3 (1):1-17 (2013)
  Copy   BIBTEX


There is only one physically possible process that builds and operates purposive systems in nature: natural selection. What it does is build and operate systems that look to us purposive, goal directed, teleological. There really are not any purposes in nature and no purposive processes ether. It is just one vast network of linked causal chains. Darwinian natural selection is the only process that could produce the appearance of purpose. That is why natural selection must have built and must continually shape the intentional causes of purposive behavior. Fodor’s argument against Darwinian theory involves a biologist’s modus tollens which is a cognitive scientist’s modus ponens. Assuming his argument is valid, the right conclusion is not that Darwin’s theory is mistaken but that Fodor’s and any other non-Darwinian approaches to the mind are wrong. It shows how getting things wrong in the philosophy of biology leads to mistaken conclusions with the potential to damage the acceptance of a theory with harmful consequences for human well-being. Fodor has shown that the real consequence of rejecting a Darwinian approach to the mind is to reject a Darwinian theory of phylogenetic evolution. This forces us to take seriously a notion that otherwise would not have much of a chance: that when it comes to the nature of mental states, indeterminacy rules. This is an insight that should have the most beneficial impact on freeing cognitive neuroscience from demands on the adequacy of its theories that it could never meet



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 91,122

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Against darwinism.Jerry Fodor - 2008 - Mind and Language 23 (1):1–24.
Why concepts can't be theories.Jack M. C. Kwong - 2006 - Philosophical Explorations 9 (3):309-325.
What Darwin got wrong.Jerry A. Fodor - 2010 - New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Edited by Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini.
Fodor on cognition, modularity, and adaptationism.Samir Okasha - 2003 - Philosophy of Science 70 (1):68-88.
La teoría de la selección natural darwiniana (The Darwinian Theory of Natural Selection).Santiago Ginnobili - 2010 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 25 (1):37-58.
Concepts: Where Cognitive Science Went Wrong.Jerry A. Fodor - 1998 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Darwin's principles of divergence and natural selection: Why Fodor was almost right.Robert J. Richards - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43 (1):256-268.
Natural selection and self-organization.Bruce H. Weber & David J. Depew - 1996 - Biology and Philosophy 11 (1):33-65.
Ruse's Treatment of the Evidence for Evolution: A Reconsideration.Alexander Rosenberg - 1980 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1980:83 - 93.
Fodor: Language, Mind and Philosophy.Mark J. Cain - 2002 - Malden, MA: Polity Press.


Added to PP

160 (#113,421)

6 months
9 (#185,978)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Alex Rosenberg
Duke University

Citations of this work

The Natural Origins of Content.Daniel D. Hutto & Glenda Satne - 2015 - Philosophia 43 (3):521-536.
What’s wrong with evolutionary biology?John J. Welch - 2017 - Biology and Philosophy 32 (2):263-279.
How to Think about the Debate over the Reality of Beliefs.Krzysztof Poslajko - 2022 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 13 (1):85-107.

View all 8 citations / Add more citations