Ideas from 'The Elm and the Expert' by Jerry A. Fodor [1993], by Theme Structure

[found in 'The Elm and the Expert' by Fodor,Jerry A. [MIT 1995,0-262-56093-3]].

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2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 8. Naturalising Reason
A standard naturalist view is realist, externalist, and computationalist, and believes in rationality
                        Full Idea: There seems to be an emerging naturalist consensus that is Realist in ontology and epistemology, externalist in semantics, and computationalist in cognitive psychology, which nicely allows us to retain our understanding of ourselves as rational creatures.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §4)
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 5. Truth Bearers
Psychology has to include the idea that mental processes are typically truth-preserving
                        Full Idea: A psychology that can't make sense of such facts as that mental processes are typically truth-preserving is ipso facto dead in the water.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §1.3)
5. Theory of Logic / A. Overview of Logic / 4. Pure Logic
Inferences are surely part of the causal structure of the world
                        Full Idea: Inferences are surely part of the causal structure of the world.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §3)
13. Knowledge Criteria / C. External Justification / 5. Controlling Beliefs
Control of belief is possible if you know truth conditions and what causes beliefs
                        Full Idea: Premeditated cognitive management is possible if knowing the contents of one's thoughts would tell you what would make them true and what would cause you to have them.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §4)
                        A reaction: I love the idea of 'cognitive management'. Since belief is fairly involuntary, I subject myself to the newspapers, books, TV and conversation which will create the style of beliefs to which I aspire. Why?
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 3. Experiment
An experiment is a deliberate version of what informal thinking does all the time
                        Full Idea: Experimentation is an occasional and more or less self-conscious exercise in what informal thinking does all the time without thinking about it.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §4)
We can deliberately cause ourselves to have true thoughts - hence the value of experiments
                        Full Idea: A creature that knows what makes its thoughts true and what would cause it to have them, could therefore cause itself to have true thoughts. …This would explain why experimentation is so close to the heart of our cognitive style.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §4)
Interrogation and experiment submit us to having beliefs caused
                        Full Idea: You can put yourself into a situation where you may be caused to believe that P. Putting a question to someone who is in the know is one species of this behaviour, and putting a question to Nature (an experiment) is another.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §4)
Participation in an experiment requires agreement about what the outcome will mean
                        Full Idea: To be in the audience for an experiment you have to believe what the experimenter believes about what the outcome would mean, but not necessarily what the outcome will be.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §4)
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 1. Scientific Theory
Theories are links in the causal chain between the environment and our beliefs
                        Full Idea: Theories function as links in the causal chains that run from environmental outcomes to the beliefs that they cause the inquirer to have.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §4)
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 1. Mind / e. Questions about mind
I say psychology is intentional, semantics is informational, and thinking is computation
                        Full Idea: I hold that psychological laws are intentional, that semantics is purely informational, and that thinking is computation (and that it is possible to hold all of these assumptions at once).
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §4)
                        A reaction: When he puts it baldly like that, it doesn't sound terribly persuasive. Thinking is 'computation'? Raw experience is irrelevant? What is it 'like' to spot an interesting connection between two propositions or concepts? It's not like adding 7 and 5.
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 1. Consciousness / f. Higher-order thought
We are probably the only creatures that can think about our own thoughts
                        Full Idea: I think it is likely that we are the only creatures that can think about the contents of our thoughts.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §4)
                        A reaction: I think this is a major idea. If you ask me the traditional question - what is the essential difference between us and other animals? - this is my answer (not language, or reason). We are the metathinkers.
17. Mind and Body / A. Mind-Body Dualism / 2. Interactionism
Cartesians consider interaction to be a miracle
                        Full Idea: The Cartesian view is that the interaction problem does arise, but is unsolvable because interaction is miraculous.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §4)
                        A reaction: A rather unsympathetic statement of the position. Cartesians might think that God could explain to us how interaction works. Cartesians are not mysterians, I think, but they see no sign of any theory of interaction.
Semantics v syntax is the interaction problem all over again
                        Full Idea: The question how mental representations could be both semantic, like propositions, and causal, like rocks, trees, and neural firings, is arguably just the interaction problem all over again.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §4)
                        A reaction: Interesting way of presenting the problem. If you seem to be confronting the interaction problem, you have probably drifted into a bogus dualist way of thinking. Retreat, and reformulate you questions and conceptual apparatus, till the question vanishes.
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 1. Physical Mind
Type physicalism equates mental kinds with physical kinds
                        Full Idea: Type physicalism is, roughly, the doctrine that psychological kinds are identical to neurological kinds.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], App A n.1)
                        A reaction: This gets my general support, leaving open the nature of 'kinds'. Presumably the identity is strict, as in 'Hesperus is identical to Phosphorus'. It seems unlikely that if you and I think the 'same' thought, that we have strictly identical brain states.
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 4. Connectionism
Hume has no theory of the co-ordination of the mind
                        Full Idea: What Hume didn't see was that the causal and representational properties of mental symbols have somehow to be coordinated if the coherence of mental life is to be accounted for.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §4)
                        A reaction: Certainly the idea that it all somehow becomes magic at the point where the brain represents the world is incoherent - but it is a bit magical. How can the whole of my garden be in my brain? Weird.
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 2. Propositional Attitudes
Propositional attitudes are propositions presented in a certain way
                        Full Idea: Propositional attitudes are really three-place relations, between a creature, a proposition, and a mode of presentation (which are sentences of Mentalese).
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §2.II)
                        A reaction: I'm not sure about 'really'! Why do we need a creature? Isn't 'hoping it will rain' a propositional attitude which some creature may or may not have? Fodor wants it to be physical, but it's abstract?
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 5. Rationality
Rationality has mental properties - autonomy, productivity, experiment
                        Full Idea: Mentalism isn't gratuitous; you need it to explain rationality. Mental causation buys you behaviours that are unlike reflexes in at least three ways: they're autonomous, they're productive, and they're experimental.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §4)
                        A reaction: He makes his three ways sound all-or-nothing, which is (I believe) the single biggest danger when thinking about the mind. "Either you are conscious, or you are not..."
18. Thought / C. Content / 1. Content
Is content basically information, fixed externally?
                        Full Idea: I assume intentional content reduces (in some way) to information. …The content of a thought depends on its external relations; on the way that the thought is related to the world, not the way that it is related to other thoughts.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §1.2)
                        A reaction: Does this make Fodor a 'weak' functionalist? The 'strong' version would say a thought is merely a location in a flow diagram, but Fodor's 'mentalism' includes a further 'content' in each diagram box.
Knowing the cause of a thought is almost knowing its content
                        Full Idea: If you know the content of a thought, you know quite a lot about what would cause you to have it.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §4)
                        A reaction: I'm not sure where this fits into the great jigsaw of the mind, but it strikes me as an acute and important observation. The truth of a thought is not essential to make you have it. Ask Othello.
18. Thought / C. Content / 5. Twin Earth
XYZ (Twin Earth 'water') is an impossibility
                        Full Idea: There isn't any XYZ, and there couldn't be any, and so we don't have to worry about it.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §2.I)
                        A reaction: Jadeite and Nephrite are real enough, which are virtually indistinguishable variants of jade. You just need Twin Jewellers instead of Twin Earths. We could build them, and employ twins to work there.
18. Thought / C. Content / 6. Broad Content
Truth conditions require a broad concept of content
                        Full Idea: We need the idea of broad content to make sense of the fact that thoughts have the truth-conditions that they do.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §2.II)
                        A reaction: There seems to be (as Dummett points out) a potential circularity here, as you can hardly know the truth-conditions of something if you don't already know its content.
18. Thought / C. Content / 7. Narrow Content
Concepts aren't linked to stuff; they are what is caused by stuff
                        Full Idea: If the words of 'Swamp Man' (spontaneously created, with concepts) are about XYZ on Twin Earth, it is not because he's causally connected to the stuff, but because XYZ would cause his 'water' tokens (in the absence of H2O).
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], App B)
                        A reaction: The sight of the Eiffel tower causes my 'France' tokens, so is my word "France" about the Eiffel Tower? What would cause my 'nothing' tokens?
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 3. Ontology of Concepts / b. Concepts as abilities
In the information view, concepts are potentials for making distinctions
                        Full Idea: Semantics, according to the informational view, is mostly about counterfactuals; what counts for the identity of my concepts is not what I do distinguish but what I could distinguish if I cared to (even using instruments and experts).
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §2.I)
                        A reaction: We all differ in our discriminations (and awareness of expertise), so our concepts would differ, which is bad news for communication (see Idea 223). The view has some plausibility, though.
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 1. Meaning
If meaning is information, that establishes the causal link between the state of the world and our beliefs
                        Full Idea: It is the causal connection between the state of the world and the contents of beliefs that the reduction of meaning to information is designed to insure.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §4)
                        A reaction: I'm not clear why characterising the contents of a belief in terms of its information has to amount to a 'reduction'. A cup of tea isn't reduced to tea. Connections imply duality.
Semantic externalism says the concept 'elm' needs no further beliefs or inferences
                        Full Idea: It is the essence of semantic externalism that there is nothing that you have to believe, there are no inferences that you have to accept, to have the concept 'elm'.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §2.I)
                        A reaction: [REMINDER: broad content is filed in 18.C.7, under 'Thought' rather than under language. That is because I am a philospher of thought, rather than of language.
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 4. Meaning as Truth-Conditions
To know the content of a thought is to know what would make it true
                        Full Idea: If you know the content of a thought, you thereby know what would make the thought true.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §4)
                        A reaction: The truthmaker might by physically impossible, and careful thought might show it to be contradictory - but that wouldn't destroy the meaning.
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 7. Meaning Holism / b. Language holism
For holists no two thoughts are ever quite the same, which destroys faith in meaning
                        Full Idea: If what you are thinking depends on all of what you believe, then nobody ever thinks the same thing twice. …That is why so many semantic holists (Quine, Putnam, Rorty, Churchland, probably Wittgenstein) end up being semantic eliminativists.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §1.2b)
                        A reaction: If linguistic holism is nonsense, this is easily settled. What I say about breakfast is not changed by reading some Gibbon yesterday.
19. Language / B. Reference / 4. Descriptive Reference / a. Sense and reference
It is claimed that reference doesn't fix sense (Jocasta), and sense doesn't fix reference (Twin Earth)
                        Full Idea: The standard view is that Frege cases [knowing Jocasta but not mother] show that reference doesn't determine sense, and Twin cases [knowing water but not H2O] show that sense doesn't determine reference.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §1.3)
                        A reaction: How about 'references don't contain much information', and 'descriptions may not fix what they are referring to'? Simple really.
19. Language / C. Assigning Meanings / 2. Semantics
Broad semantics holds that the basic semantic properties are truth and denotation
                        Full Idea: Broad semantic theories generally hold that the basic semantic properties of thoughts are truth and denotation.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §1.2b)
                        A reaction: I think truth and denotation are the basic semantic properties, but I am dubious about whole-hearted broad semantic theories, so I seem to have gone horribly wrong somewhere.
19. Language / C. Assigning Meanings / 6. Truth-Conditions Semantics
Externalist semantics are necessary to connect the contents of beliefs with how the world is
                        Full Idea: You need an externalist semantics to explain why the contents of beliefs should have anything to do with how the world is.
                        From: Jerry A. Fodor (The Elm and the Expert [1993], §4)
                        A reaction: Since externalist semantics only emerged in the 1970s, that implies that no previous theory had any notion that language had some connection to how the world is. Eh?