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Learning Matters: The Role of Learning in Concept Acquisition


  • This paper was fully collaborative; the order of the authors' names is arbitrary. EM would like to thank Canada's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for supporting this research.

Eric Margolis, University of British Columbia, Department of Philosophy, 1866 Main Mall, E370, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1, Canada.


In LOT 2: The Language of Thought Revisited, Jerry Fodor argues that concept learning of any kind—even for complex concepts—is simply impossible. In order to avoid the conclusion that all concepts, primitive and complex, are innate, he argues that concept acquisition depends on purely noncognitive biological processes. In this paper, we show (1) that Fodor fails to establish that concept learning is impossible, (2) that his own biological account of concept acquisition is unworkable, and (3) that there are in fact many promising general models for explaining how concepts are learned.