Jerry Fodor

Jerry Fodor taught philosophy at MIT and later at Rutgers. He wrote for the LRB on topics as varied as Daniel Dennett, apes in fiction, Puccini, the case against natural selection and thinking without language. His many books include The Modularity of Mind and What Darwin Got Wrong.

C’est mon métier

Jerry Fodor, 24 January 2013

It would take at least two workaday philosophers to keep up with Hilary Putnam. Philosophy in an Age of Science is a case in point. It’s a collection of papers, most of them previously published, devoted among lots of other things to: the philosophical interpretation of quantum mechanics, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mathematics, philosophical...

What are trees about?

Jerry Fodor, 24 May 2012

Full disclosure: after a while, I began to skip. After a while longer, I began to skip a lot. That was reprehensible, but passages like: ‘but then a teleogenic process in which one critical dynamical component is a representational process that interprets its own teleodynamic tendency extends this convoluted causal circularity one level further’ started to get me down; as Deacon...

Fire the press secretary

Jerry Fodor, 28 April 2011

Sometimes, when I’m feeling dyspeptic, I wonder why psychologists have such a down on minds. Psychologists, of all people. In philosophy, ever since Plato, the mainstream opinion has been that the mind is the organ of thought; thinking is what the mind is for, and we act as we do because we think what we do. But psychologists, for the last hundred years or so, have mostly viewed that...

The crucial sentence in Peter Godfrey-Smith’s review of our book, What Darwin Got Wrong, is: ‘If one [but not the other of two linked traits] is causing increased reproductive success, it is being selected for, in the sense that matters to evolutionary theory’ (LRB, 8 July). A number of other reviewers of the book have made much the same suggestion, but it won’t do. The theory of natural selection...

Where is my mind?

Jerry Fodor, 12 February 2009

If there’s anything we philosophers really hate it’s an untenable dualism. Exposing untenable dualisms is a lot of what we do for a living. It’s no small job, I assure you. They (the dualisms, not the philosophers) are insidious, and they are ubiquitous; perpetual vigilance is required. I mention only a few of the dualisms whose tenability we have, at one time or other, felt called on to question: mind v. body; fact v. value; knowledge v. true belief; induction v. deduction; sensing v. perceiving; thinking v. behaving; denotation v. connotation; thought v. action; appearance v. reality … I could go on. It is, moreover, a mark of an untenable dualism that a philosopher who is in the grip of one is sure to think that he isn’t. In such a case, therapy can require millennia of exquisitely subtle dialectics. No wonder philosophers are paid so well.

It Got Eaten: Fodor v. Darwin

Peter Godfrey-Smith, 8 July 2010

In 1959 the psychological doctrine known as ‘behaviourism’ was at the peak of its influence. Pioneered in the early 20th century by Edward Lee Thorndike, Clark Hull and J.B. Watson,...

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Whirring away

P.N. Johnson-Laird, 18 October 1984

Who now remembers phrenology as anything other than a Victorian pastime? Yet it began as a serious scientific hypothesis. Its founder, the German anatomist Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828), argued...

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