Fodor and Aquinas : the architecture of the mind and the nature of concept acquisition
Japola, Justyna Marta.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Georgetown University, 2009.; Includes bibliographical references.; Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format. Fodor (1975 and 1981b) explains the paradigm empiricist method of concept acquisition as consisting in forming and testing hypotheses about objects that fall under a concept. This method, he notices, can only work for complex concepts, because we have to possess some concepts in order to form hypotheses. If so, then none of our simple (or primitive) concepts can be learned. If we still have them then they must be innate. Aquinas, on the other hand, is famous for his opposition to Platonic nativism, and is universally considered an empiricist with respect to cognition. In my dissertation I show that Fodor's and Aquinas's accounts of the architecture of the mind are quite similar. I argue that because one's position in the empiricism-nativism debate should be a function of one's account of the architecture of the mind, Fodor and Aquinas should be on the same side of the debate. My claim is that they should be on the side of nativism, but not the kind of radical concept nativism that Fodor is famous for. I attempt to show that it is Aquinas who is closer to a successful account of cognition with the required amount of and the right kind of innate elements. In the end, I aim to show how Aquinas could help Fodor to arrive at a more plausible account of concept acquisition.