, Volume 170, Issue 2, pp 251–274 | Cite as

Systematicity redux

  • Brian P. McLaughlinEmail author


One of the main challenges that Jerry Fodor and Zenon Pylyshyn (Cognition 28:3–71, 1988) posed for any connectionist theory of cognitive architecture is to explain the systematicity of thought without implementing a Language of Thought (LOT) architecture. The systematicity challenge presents a dilemma: if connectionism cannot explain the systematicity of thought, then it fails to offer an adequate theory of cognitive architecture; and if it explains the systematicity of thought by implementing a LOT architecture, then it fails to offer an alternative to the LOT hypothesis. Given that thought is systematic, connectionism can offer an adequate alternative to the LOT hypothesis only if it can meet the challenge. Although some critics tried to meet the challenge, others argued that it need not be met since thought is not in fact systematic; and some claimed not to even understand the claim that thought is systematic. I do not here examine attempts to answer the challenge. Instead, I defend the challenge itself by explicating the notion of systematicity in a way that I hope makes clear that thought is indeed systematic, and so that to offer an adequate alternative to the LOT hypothesis, connectionism must meet the challenge.


Cognitive architecture Connectionism Language of thought Systematicity Productivity Implementation Thought abilities Psychological laws 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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