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The Mind Doesn't Work That Way: The Scope and Limits of Computational Psychology Paperback – September 1, 2001
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For a close to a quarter of a century, Jerry Fodor has been delighting his friends and confounding his enemies in his take-no-prisoners campaign on behalf of the computational theory of cognition, the modularity of mind, and the innateness hypothesis. Many cognitive scientists have been won over and have sent as their goal a comprehensive theory of mind that rests on just these ideas. In this forcefully argued monograph, Fodor confounds these friends by making the case that this trio of ideas cannot explain what may be the most distinctive aspect of our mental life: its global flexibility.―Jerry Samet, Department of Philosophy, Brandeis University
About the Author
- Item Weight : 5.6 ounces
- Paperback : 144 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0262561468
- ISBN-13 : 978-0262561464
- Dimensions : 5.38 x 0.25 x 8 inches
- Publisher : A Bradford Book; 1st edition (September 1, 2001)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,466,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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But maybe you'll like it. Pinker is a bit of a joke, and A.I. is clearly overrated -- yet this book didn't make me emerge with that much greater insight into either of these opinions.
And instead i got... this
Let's start with writing. It's typical Fodor, which means it would put a coked-up Tigger to sleep and requires a Latin dictionary and the patience of Job to slog through. It's boring and difficult to read. But since it's a Fodor book, you probably already knew that. He's a fun guy and in previous books had some good points but man is he boring
But i didn't expect good writing, good structure or brevity. i expected good ideas. But unless they're hiding on the last page (sorry, i can't keep reading this thing), there are none in this book. You might wonder why a philosopher whose interest is in symbolic logic and grammar is writing a book about psychologists who use a very loose analogy about the mind being like computer software. After reading this book, so am i
So why is Pinker and everyone else in cognitive science wrong? Fodor's argument in a nutshell - because computer subroutines can't access information outside of the subroutine. To use Fodor's example (of which he has *very* few), you want to go to Chicago. It's not windy. Is that good? If you're sailing a boat, yes, otherwise no. A computer can't figure that out because it lacks context - it needs to know how you're traveling before judging the meaning of wind conditions. And computers, Fodor argues, can't do that. Since computers have subroutines and subroutines have no access to relevant data, computers can't solve simple problems and so the mind can't be like a computer. Take that Pinker! Makes sense? Of course not
Fodor approaches the topic of psychology and computers from a logician's standpoint, which is to say he makes some really bad, sweeping assumptions then uses really high level logic to prove that reality doesn't exist. For Fodor, it's just 5 steps - 1.A mental representation must have a syntax, 2.If you change the sytax the "Turing machine" can no longer function, 3.Therefore syntax can't vary by context, 4.Therefore mental processes can't be affected by context 5.But they are so the mind isn't a computer and cognitive science is wrong. (He later adds Principle M(CTM) which says sunroutines can access external data but an exhaustive search/tablescan of all memory would be needed and that would be stupid so cognitive science is stupid)
The book is a one trick pony. Computers supposedly can't solve the simple problems he describes (logical abduction), they are required to solve them based on the way he chose to define his terms and therefore the field and its theories are irretrievably broken. The book is laced with numerous, sweeping, unfounded assumptions that are glaringly wrong to anyone familiar with computers. The book lacks common sense. The book's main and only objection is an academic exercise completely divorced from anything resembling cognitive science
Fodor argues that while "computational" models of the mind (roughly, theories that the mind is just a computer) may be able to explain how the mind's modules work, they fail to explain how the mind's central processor works. (If the theory of modules and central processors is unfamiliar to you, then you MUST first read Fodor's excellent book "The Modularity of Mind" in order to understand "The Mind Doesn't Work That Way.") The primary problem, as Fodor sees it, is that central processors are general-problem solvers (or, more accurately, general-interest learners). They work with large databases of beliefs and are bombarded by immense amounts of information. If the mind were like a computer, it would experience the problem of "combinatorial explosion" as it tried to analyze all of this information, that problem being that with so many sentences in the language of thought, there would be far too many calculations to perform over these sentences in anything like a reasonable amount of time. Put another way, if you think your computer is slow loading Windows 2000, just wait until it had to load and analyze the entire database of a person's beliefs AND chew gum at the same time.
Although the problem of combinatorial explosion is the driving problem in the book, Fodor addresses many other interesting topics in his typically witty and insightful way. He gives glancing blows to connectionism, Darwinian approaches to psychology, the theory of heuristics, and more.
As always, Fodor presents many forceful and ingenious arguments, and even when I disagree with him (as I often do), I always walk away from his books understanding difficult issues more clearly and having a profound respect for his penetrating intellect.
This book is not a good introduction to Fodor's work or to philosophy of mind, but for those with some grasp of both, I highly recommend "The Mind Doesn't Work That Way." If only he had come up with a better title....