Coping with informational atomism - one of Jerry Fodor’s legacies

Pierre Jacob


Abstract: Fodor was passionately unwilling to compromise. Of his several commitments, I focus here on informational atomism. Fodor staunchly rejected semantic holism for two conspiring reasons. He took it to threaten his commitment to the nomic character of psychological explanation. He also took it to pave the way towards relativism, which he found deeply offensive. In this paper, I reconstruct the strands of Fodor’s commitment to the computational version of the representational theory of mind that led him to informational atomism. I take issue with three features of informational atomism. First, I argue that it deprives content from its expected causal role in psychological explanation. Secondly, I take issue with Fodor’s claim that only informational atomism can meet the requirements of the principle of compositionality. Finally, I argue that informational atomism yields a bloated or unwieldy category of nomic properties.

Keywords: Informational Atomism; Representational Theory of Mind; Psychological Explanation; Principle of Compositionality; Jerry A. Fodor


Fare i conti con l’atomismo informazionale: uno dei lasciti di Jerry Fodor

Riassunto: Fodor è stato fortemente maldisposto al compromesso. Tra le molte cose di cui si è occupato, intendo qui concentrarmi sull’atomismo informazionale. Fodor ha coerentemente rifiutato l’olismo semantico per due ragioni convergenti. Lo vedeva come minaccia per il suo impegno verso il carattere nomico della spiegazione psicologica e come porta aperta verso il relativismo, cosa che considerava profondamente minacciosa. In questo lavoro, intendo riprendere le fila dell’impegno di Fodor verso la versione computazionale della teoria rappresentazionale della mente che lo ha portato all’atomismo informazionale, chiarendo tuttavia che non sono d’accordo con tre aspetti dell’atomismo informazionale. In primo luogo, mostrerò come questo sottragga al contenuto il suo ruolo causale nella spiegazione psicologica. In secondo luogo, non sono d’accordo con l’affermazione di Fodor  per cui solo l’atomismo informazionale possa soddisfare i requisiti del principio di composizionalità. Illustrerò infine come l’atomismo informazionale ceda il passo a un insieme di proprietà nomiche ampio o difficile da gestire.

Parole chiave: Atomismo informazionale; Teoria rappresentazionale della mente; Spiegazione psicologica; Principio di composizionalità; Jerry A. Fodor

Parole chiave

Informational Atomism; Representational Theory of Mind; Psychological Explanation; Principle of Compositionality; Jerry A. Fodor

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