Minds and Machines

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 423-434

First online:

Does Classicism Explain Universality?

  • Steven PhillipsAffiliated withCognitive and Behavioral Sciences Group, Neuroscience Research Institute, AIST

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One of the hallmarks of human cognition is the capacity to generalize over arbitrary constituents. Recently, Marcus (1998, 1998a, b; Cognition 66, p. 153; Cognitive Psychology 37, p. 243) argued that this capacity, called “universal generalization” (universality), is not supported by Connectionist models. Instead, universality is best explained by Classical symbol systems, with Connectionism as its implementation. Here it is argued that universality is also a problem for Classicism in that the syntax-sensitive rules that are supposed to provide causal explanations of mental processes are either too strict, precluding possible generalizations; or too lax, providing no information as to the appropriate alternative. Consequently, universality is not explained by a Classical theory.

Associativism Classicism Connectionism isomorphism structural consistency systematicity universality