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The Elm and the Expert: Mentalese and Its Semantics

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Overview

Bound to be widely read and much discussed, The Elm and the Expert, written in Jerry Fodor's usual highly readable, irreverent style,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.

There is a general consensus among philosophers that a referential semantics for mental representation cannot support a robust account of intentional explanation. Fodor has himself espoused this view in previous publications, and it is widespread (if tacit) throughout the cognitive science community. This book is largely a reconsideration of the arguments that are supposed to ground this consensus. Fodor concludes that these considerations are far less decisive than has been supposed. He offers a theory sketch in which psychological explanation is intentional, psychological processes are computational, and the semantic properties of mental representations are referential. Connections with the problem of "naturalizing" intentionality are also explored.

The four lectures in The Elm and the Expert were originally delivered in Paris in the spring of 1993 to inaugurate the Jean Nicod Lecture series. The Jean Nicod Lectures are delivered annually by a leading philosopher of mind or philosophically oriented cognitive scientist. The 1993 lectures marked the centenary of the birth of the French philosopher and logician Jean Nicod (1893-1931). The lectures are sponsored by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) as part of its effort to develop the interdisciplinary field of cognitive science in France.

Jean Nicod series

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Four lectures delivered in Paris in spring 1993 to inaugurate an annual series of interdisciplinary cognitive talks. Fodor (philosophy, Rutgers and City U. of New York) reassesses and amplifies his extensive work on the relation between mind and meaning, in his accustomed playful style. Accessible to nonspecialists. No subject index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262560931
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/1995
  • Series: Jean Nicod Lectures
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 5.37 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet 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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Table of Contents

Series Foreword
Preface
1 If Psychological Processes Are Computational, How Can Psychological Laws Be Intentional? 1
2 Life without Narrow Content? 27
3 Rabbit Redux (or, 'Reference Scrutinized') 55
4 Why We Are So Clever; An Epistemological Postlude 81
Appendix A: Names 105
Appendix B: Meaning and History 115
Notes 121
References 127
Name index 129
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