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Précis of The Modularity of Mind

  • Jerry A. Fodor (a1)

The Modularity of Mind proposes an alternative to the “New Look” or “interaetionist” view of cognitive architecture that has dominated several decades of cognitive science. Whereas interactionism stresses the continuity of perceptual and cognitive processes, modularity theory argues for their distinctness. It is argued, in particular, that the apparent plausibility of New Look theorizing derives from the failure to distinguish between the (correct) claim that perceptual processes are inferential and the (dubious) claim that they are unencapsidated, that is, that they are arbitrarily sensitive to the organism's beliefs and desires. In fact, according to modularity theory, perceptual processes are computationally isolated from much of the background knowledge to which cognitive processes have access. The postulation of autonomous, domain-specific psychological mechanisms underlying perceptual integration connects modularity theory with the tradition of faculty psychology, in particular, with the work of Franz Joseph Call. Some of these historical affinities, and some of the relations between faculty psychology and Cartesianism, are discussed in the book.

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