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The Elm and the Expert: Mentalese and Its Semantics (Jean Nicod Lectures) Paperback – August 28, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

The Elm and the Expert provides a lively discussion of semantic issues about mental representation, with special attention to issues raised by Frege's problem, twin cases, and the putative indeterminacy of reference. The book extends and revises a view of the relation between mind and meaning that the author has been developing since his 1975 book, The Language of Thought. Among philosophers, a general consensus exists that a referential semantics for mental representation cannot support a robust account of intentional explanation. This book is largely a reconsideration of the arguments that are supposed to ground this consensus. Fodor offers a theory sketch in which psychological explanation is intentional, psychological processes are computational, and the semantic properties of mental representations are referential.

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.
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Product Details

  • Series: Jean Nicod Lectures
  • Paperback: 143 pages
  • Publisher: A Bradford Book (August 28, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262560933
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262560931
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,699,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Fodor's task in EAE is to try and harmonize the following three beliefs: (1) Psychological laws exist and they necessarily include reference to entities like beliefs, desires, and the like; (2) The semantic content of such entities is determined by the causal relations that exist between intentional states and whatever object in the external world reliably causes them; and (3) Mental processes are computational processes; i.e., our minds are just very complicated symbol manipulators. The problem that arises for whoever holds all three of these views is that, apparently, (3) requires that intentional states be fixed by their *internal* relations, and (2) requires that intentional states (or at least their content anyway) be individuated by *external* relations. Oops. So, Fodor tries to find a way in which mental content can be externally fixed and reliably computationally implemented.
He claims that the coinstantiation of broad content with its computational implementers is both reliable and explicable, but metaphysically contingent. The book is divided into four lectures. In the first lecture, Fodor outlines the above problem and his proposal. In the second lecture, Fodor argues that it is plausible to believe that a mechanism exists which keeps broad mental content stuck to its computational implementers. He further claims that one who holds a broad view of content ought to treat Putnam and Frege cases as accidents. In fact, he claims that both broad and narrow views of content must maintain that Frege cases, though common, are unsystematic and exceptional in terms of how people normally behave. Put differently, both internalist and externalist views of content must allow that people tend to recognize the relevant identities in cases that are relevant to their behavior (e.g.
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The Elm and the Expert: Mentalese and Its Semantics (Jean Nicod Lectures)
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