Supported by NIH grant HD 18381. I thank Clark Barrett, Arthur Charlesworth, Helena Cronin, Dan Dennett, Rebecca Goldstein, and John Tooby for invaluable comments.
So How Does the Mind Work?
Article first published online: 3 FEB 2005
Mind & Language
Volume 20, Issue 1, pages 1–24, February 2005
How to Cite
Pinker, S. (2005), So How Does the Mind Work?. Mind & Language, 20: 1–24. doi: 10.1111/j.0268-1064.2005.00274.x
- Issue published online: 3 FEB 2005
- Article first published online: 3 FEB 2005
Abstract: In my book How the Mind Works, I defended the theory that the human mind is a naturally selected system of organs of computation. Jerry Fodor claims that ‘the mind doesn’t work that way’(in a book with that title) because (1) Turing Machines cannot duplicate humans’ ability to perform abduction (inference to the best explanation); (2) though a massively modular system could succeed at abduction, such a system is implausible on other grounds; and (3) evolution adds nothing to our understanding of the mind. In this review I show that these arguments are flawed. First, my claim that the mind is a computational system is different from the claim Fodor attacks (that the mind has the architecture of a Turing Machine); therefore the practical limitations of Turing Machines are irrelevant. Second, Fodor identifies abduction with the cumulative accomplishments of the scientific community over millennia. This is very different from the accomplishments of human common sense, so the supposed gap between human cognition and computational models may be illusory. Third, my claim about biological specialization, as seen in organ systems, is distinct from Fodor's own notion of encapsulated modules, so the limitations of the latter are irrelevant. Fourth, Fodor's arguments dismissing of the relevance of evolution to psychology are unsound.