Analytic Philosophy

Jerry Fodor

What is Fodor’s surprising view of evolution?

Fodor is by no flight of the imagination a creationist. However, he does not accept an evolutionary psychology account of human cognition without qualification. Consider what he wrote in 1998:

Nothing is known about how the structure of our minds depends on the structure of our brains. Nobody even knows which brain structures it is that our cognitive capacities depend on. Unlike our minds, our brains are, by any gross measure, very like those of apes. So it looks as though relatively small alterations of brain structure must have produced very large behavioural discontinuities in the transition from the ancestral apes to us. If that’s right, then you don’t have to assume that cognitive complexity is shaped by the gradual action of Darwinian selection on prehuman behavioural phenotypes.

In other words, Fodor claims that it might be unnecessary to posit specific environmental conditions, or even a progression of adaptive changes, in order to account for the complexity of the human mind. For all we know, one small mutation might have made all the important mental difference between apes and us.


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