This is a blog to discuss philosophy, chess, politics,
C. S. Lewis, or whatever it is that I'm in the mood to discuss.
i would be interested in what you would say about fodor's language of thought hypothesis, or conceptual role semantics as explanations of intentionality.
But what about the abductive case for evolution? If you throw out abductive arguments from past clues in general, then there goes Craig's and Wright's argument for the resurrection of Jesus, too.
Just read the full interview that the Discovery Institute pulled the quote from.Congratulations to Fodor for catching up to 20-year old biology. Hopefully he'll keep at it, and someday realize it is important to study brains if we want to understand the human mind.If you look at the entire interview, this is stuff that evolutionary developmental biologists have been saying for a couple of decades now. Genes are connected to one another, the mapping from genotype to phenotype is incredibly complicated. This makes it much harder to reconstruct evolutionary histories.Duh. Biology is messy. Biology is hard to do well. Welcome to Biology, Mr Fodor.
Anon: Fodor isn't doubting evolution, but explanations that rely too heavily on natural selection as the driving force behind evolution. We can reconstruct phylogenetic trees based on genome analysis. The harder part is figuring out the causes of branching in the tree. How often does natural selection actually work on single traits in isolation from other traits?This is an open empirical question. As Fodor points out, because genes tend to have multiple consequences, and often the expression of one gene is linked to the expression of another gene, it becomes a much more complicated question.This is his main point. Fodor is a die-hard atheist, isn't questioning evolution, but bringing up points people like Kaufman did in his book 'Origins of Order', or the evo-devo crew has been focusing on (in philosophy William Wimsatt was one of the first to really push these ideas).What's silly is the Discovery Institute is once again making it seem as if the choice is between darwinism (whatever that is) and creationism/ID. That's completely bogus, nobody has ever thought that natural selection was the only mechanism of evolution. Again, I welcome Mr Fodor to the world of biology. It's about time.
"Duh. Biology is messy. Biology is hard to do well. Welcome to Biology, Mr Fodor."Why so defensive?
"What's silly is the Discovery Institute is once again making it seem as if the choice is between darwinism (whatever that is) and creationism/ID."Could you explain how you came to this conclusion? I've read the article too.... I didn't pick that up at all.You are reacting pretty emotionally to this. I'm guessing you have more invested in it than me. Something that's leading you to jump to the conclusion of "their forcing a choice".But again, maybe you can spell out the area where you see that being forced.
Ichabod: I'm ribbing Fodor because he has been well-known for ignoring biology. Especially his philosophy of mind he is notorious for claiming that neuroscience isn't relevant. It's funny he catches up, in evolutionary biology, to what people were thinking 20 years ago, and presents it as some unique contribution.Generally I actually like Fodor, but this has to be just funny to anyone who has followed his biases over the years. (In effect he seems to be once again take up a Chomskian line of thought, the latter well known for controversially doubting that language could evolve purely via natural selection...of course Chomsky has also spent a career ignoring biology, constructing speculative models in theoretical psychology).The irony is funny.Anon: At the linked page they say Fodor is making "evolutionists" unhappy, and pointing out what is wrong with "modern evolutionary theory." In fact, he's just pointing out well-known problems with panselectionism and how difficult it is to do good evolutionary biology. Panselectionism ~= modern evolutionary biology. I hope that helps.
What is "ignoring biology"?I mean, I get what it means to ignore biology - but how is that impacting the validity of their positions?It seems like if anyone disagrees with some notions of evolution anyone could just say "oh, they're just ignoring biology".
"Especially his philosophy of mind he is notorious for claiming that neuroscience isn't relevant."Would you mind giving us a source for this? I've never heard of this. Actually I have never read of anyone who thinks that brainscience is unimportant, including Descartes and Leibniz. The more interesting question is: how important is brainscience for which aspect of a theory?"It's funny he catches up, in evolutionary biology, to what people were thinking 20 years ago, and presents it as some unique contribution."A lot of people claim that his critique is false, not that it is old. If the situation were as you present it this would be rather surprising. I haven't read his book though, so I can't comment.
pom: see the first section of his book the Language of Thought for starters. Neuroscience just provides irrelevant, mere implementation-level details of what is discovered by psychologists. That's sort of his schtick, starting with that book, expressed most clearly in his article with Pylyshyn where the 'mere implementation' stuff came out.Fodor versus connectionism is sort of a key theme in 1990s philosophy of mind that's where all this came out.
I think it's actually the core of any functionalist approach to the mind that the brain is "mere" implementation. This was one of the central motives for the shift from classical identity theory to functional physicalism. What do you think the brain is, if not the implementation of mental states?
pom: yes. The problem is with the additional assumption that we can discover the correct functional decomposition without doing the biology. That was Fodor's position in the Language of Thought (section on physiological reductionism). People tried the input-output approach with digestion and ended up with fanciful beautiful elegant theories of digestion that were just wrong (Bill Bechtel has some great stuff about this).Obviously we want the psychological and neural level theories to co-evolve. Fodor was one extreme that few people accept anymore. There is more cross-fertilization and interdisciplinary work.
ichabod: see my response to pom. This is all in the context of the dominant trend of functionalism back when Fodor began his shtick, he represents an excess of confidence some people had in theoretical psychology to discover the correct functional decomposition without looking under the hood. It was a perhaps understandable overcorrection to a flat-footed mind-brain identity theory.As one friend said, if you ignore the biology with digestion, you end up a lot of bullshit.
BDK, don't be a simp. Fodor is well aware of what evo-devo proponents have been claiming. Their observations make up a chunk of his argument. If anyone needs to "catch up to 20-year old biology", it's quite a lot of neo-darwinists. Who are a group squarely in Fodor's crosshairs.And please, knock off the whines about the excessive confidence of others when you A) always exhibit plenty yourself, and B) play the "no one takes them seriously" card, while forgetting that the same can be said of the more precious views of the Churchlands, who you're quite the fan of.Try being a little more honest.
BDK:I haven't read the book and probably will never get around to doing so, but from what little I've read about it, your criticisms seem misplaced. Fodor (plus coauthor guy) doesn't seem to be arguing that since different traits are correlated, we can't say which are selected for. Rather, he seems to be saying that since any given trait is going to be coextensive with millions of others, and since there are no laws that can tell us which one of these is "really" being selected for, evolutionary explanations are impossible. What biology from the last 20 years do you think challenges this?
Mark: sorry I didn't address your good point that Fodor does say tht one implication of the biology is that we can't find specific laws for specific traits.It becomes an empirical question, is my hunch, whether a pure selectionist 'covering law' type explanation will work, or whether the developmental constraints (and information about the environment and such) are enough to make us think such a simplistic selectionist explanation will work.For instance, in explaining the evolution of bacterial resistance to antibiotics, a fairly pure selectionist account seems right. However, for something like the evolution of the amount of hair on one's back, the kinds of things Fodor is talking about are probably really important.Hence, how far we should follow Fodor down the antiselectionist rabbit hole depends on how far he wants to take it. Note also that the 'covering law' model of explanation, the typical model of explantion in physics, isn't really the dominant model of explanation in biology. In biology it's more about mechanistic explanation and functional decomposition (Bill Bechtel is the master of explaining all this), and deductive-nomological explanations are the exception. What Fodor seems to be doing is pointing out how when we consider mechanisms a bit more, the DN models seem to break down.This seems right, and again, welcome to biology Jerry.
Anon: so you agree that Fodor is making points the evo-devo folks have known about for years. Thanks, that was sort of my initial point when I said "this is stuff that evolutionary developmental biologists have been saying for a couple of decades now". What is funny is that it is Fodor that has been awakened to biological details.As for your constant personal invective, have fun with that.
If you look at the entire interview, this is stuff that evolutionary developmental biologists have been saying for a couple of decades now. Genes are connected to one another, the mapping from genotype to phenotype is incredibly complicated. This makes it much harder to reconstruct evolutionary histories.Yes. Fodor generally sounds as if he just found out Darwin can't explain heredity and genetics; or maybe he read Behe emergence stuff (actually, Dr. Behe's an entertaining quack--and at least suggests the possibility of something like...vedantic monism...). Whoa. The "Discovery" people misread it, anyway. Fodor also doesn't seem to quite get the macro aspect of evolution, ala descent with modifications, not to say fossils, r-c dating, etc. That said, the Chomsky-Fodor school are not worthless insofar that they separate humans (and higher-level thinking, language, cognition, phil. of mind etc) from the evolutionists/biologists' programme. Darwinian ideas (along with genetics) generally suffice for describing the evo. of horses, or finches, or flowers, but not so well, with say Beethoven or Bertrand Russell......
Reading Block and Kitcher's review of Fodor's book, I am starting to think I was much too soft on Fodor. Seems he really did try to take his arguments too far, not as cautionary arguments as I had thought, but as some kind of universal critique of selectionist explanations.In my response to Mark above I got at why I don't go down that rabbit hole.Well, leave it to Fodor to reduce himself to absurdity. First, his theory of mind leads him to conclude that the concept of 'spark plug' is innate, now this. :) Oh well.
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