Publication 2970

Bickhard M. H. (1991) The import of Fodor’s anti-constructivist argument. In: Steffe L. P. (ed.) Epistemological foundations of mathematical experience. Springer, New York: 14–25. Fulltext at http://cepa.info/2970
Excerpt: Fodor argues that the construction of genuinely novel concepts is impossible and, therefore, that all basic concepts available to human beings are already present as an innate endowment (1975, 1981). This radical innatism – along with related conclusions such as an innate modularity of available representations and a corresponding innate limitation in the potential knowledge that human beings might be capable of (1983) – has been seen by many as a reductio ad absurdum of Fodor’s position, and his arguments have consequently been dismissed. I will argue that Fodor’s arguments deserve much more careful attention than that: in particular, his arguments are a reductio of one of his essential presuppositions, but it happens to be a presupposition that he shares with virtually all of psychology and philosophy. Fodor’s conclusions, then, are reductios of the major portion of contemporary studies of cognition and epistemology (Campbell and Bickhard, 1987). Furthermore, even when the critical presupposition is isolated, it is difficult to construct a genuine alternative. Most attempts at correcting any part of the logical difficulties involved have inadvertently presupposed the pernicious premise elsewhere in the system (Bickhard, 1980a, 1982, 1987).

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