A collection of eleven essays dealing with methodological and empirical issues in cognitive science and in the philosophy of mind, Representations convincingly connects philosophical speculation to concrete empirical research.
One of the outstanding methodological issues dealt with is the status of functionalism considered as an alternative to behavioristic and physicalistic accounts. of mental states and properties. The other issue is the status of reductionism considered as an account of the relation between the psychological and physical sciences. The first chapters present the main lines of argument which have made functionalism the currently favored philosophical approach to ontology of the mental.
The outlines of a psychology of propositional attitudes which emerges from consideration of current developments in cognitive science are contained in the remaining essays.
Not all of these essays are re-presentations. The new introductory essay seeks to present an overview and gives some detailed proposals about the contribution that functionalism makes to the solutions of problems about intentionality. The concluding essay, also not previously published, is a sustained examination of the relation between theories about the structure of concepts and theories about how they are learned. Finally, the essay "Three cheers for propositional attitudes", a critical examination of some of D. C. Dennett's ideas, has been completely rewritten for this volume.
A Bradford Book.
About the Author
Jerry A. Fodor is State of New Jersey Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University. He is the author of The Mind Doesn’t Work That Way: The Scope and Limits of Computational Psychology (MIT Press) and other books.
"This is bold and provocative Fodor at his best."
—Daniel C. Dennett
"Fodor's reflections of the methodological assumptions of cognitive science arethe most radical and most vigorousavailable. Whether one takes them to bea defense or a reductio ad absurdum ofthe field, one must certainly take themseriously indeed."
"I would say that these excursions intothe implications of functionalism,intentionality, innateness, and the formalist approach to mentalism wouldhave to rank among the most importantworks on the philosophical foundations of cognitive science available today."
"In a time of much talk of naturalizedepistemology and of interdisciplinarywork between philosophy and science,Fodor is one of the very few who genuinely engages in it... He reveals therich theoretical significance of empiricalresearch at the same time as establishingprincipled ways of dealing with philosophical speculation about it. Fodor hasthereby raised the discussion of the traditional mind/body problems to an important new level of theoretical sophistication. Anyone concerned with thoseproblems, whether in philosophy, psychology, or artificial intelligence, cannotpossibly afford to disregard his work."
"Many of these essays are well known and have been widely discussed, but together they are even more impressive than the best of them alone. Cumulatively they constitute a bold and sophisticated theory about the nature of the cognitive mind, and about the status and strategy of the science that studies it. This makes Representations sound like a heavy and important book, and in a sense that is a fair assessment. These essays will shape discussion in the philosophy of psychology for years to come. But such a description also suggests that this is a serious and somber book, and nothing could be farther from the truth. Fodor's style is casual and cheerful, now and again almost cheeky. When polemics are in order, as they often are, Fodor's style is to tweak his opponents' noses goodnaturedly."
—Stephen P. Stich, Contemporary Psychology