Philosophical Studies

, Volume 157, Issue 2, pp 299-322

First online:

Is even thought compositional?

  • Lenny ClappAffiliated withInstituto de Investigaciones Filosoficas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva S/N, Cuidad Universitaria Email author 

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Fodor (Mind Lang 16:1–15, 2001) endorses the mixed view that thought, yet not language, is compositional. That is, Fodor accepts the arguments of radical pragmatics that language is not compositional, but he claims these arguments do not apply to thought. My purpose here is to evaluate this mixed position: Assuming that the radical pragmaticists are right that language is not compositional, what arguments can be provided in support of the claim that thought is compositional? Before such arguments can be evaluated, the relevant notion of compositionality must be clarified. So I first clarify this notion of compositionality, and then consider three arguments in support of the mixed position. All three of these arguments are found to be inadequate, and thus I conclude that the mixed position is unstable: If one endorses the arguments of radical pragmatics against the compositionality of language, then one should also reject the compositionality of thought.


Compositionality Language of thought Fodor Radical pragmatics Systematicity Productivity