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Minds and Machines

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 467–471 | Cite as

Jerry A. Fodor and Xenon W. Pylyshyn: Minds Without Meanings: An Essay in the Content of Concepts

MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2015, 208 pp, $32.00, ISBN 978-0-262-02790-8
  • Sean Welsh
Article
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Written with verve and style, Minds without Meanings is a defence and elaboration of a “galaxy of related theses” in cognitive science that apparently no one believes except for Fodor and Pylyshyn.

The book’s main theses are:
  1. 1.

    Tokens of beliefs, desires and the like are tokens of relations between minds and mental representations;

     
  2. 2.

    Mental representations are language-like (discursive);

     
  3. 3.

    Reference is the only semantic property of mental or linguistic representations;

     
  4. 4.

    There are no such things as word meanings or conceptual contents.

     
In much the same way as the Loch Ness Monster is a myth, meaning is also a myth. Meaning is just reference—there is no sense. According to Fodor and Pylyshin, the two-factor view of Frege should be replaced by a one-factor theory of “meaning” as boiling down to reference alone, not the two-factor theory of “meaning” as being made up of sense and reference.

The bulk of the first chapter “Working Assumptions” describes the tenets they base their...

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

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