“Ryle’s Regress and Cognitive Science”.
In: Ambroise, Bruno and Laugier, Sandra, eds.
La Philosophie d'Oxford au 20ème Siècle: Approches du Sens Commun.
Hildesheim: Olms, France.
(Full text available)
Ryle’s regress objection to the ‘Intellectualist Legend’ – that intelligent activity requires prior theoretical operations – was recognized by Fodor to present a powerful conceptual obstacle to the premise that underlies cognitivist approaches in the sciences. Fodor attempts to thwart Ryle’s argument in The Language of Thought by accusing him of confusing causal and conceptual explanations and claiming that, by analogy with computers, we can see how the appeal to explicit rules is halted at the first level, since second-order rules are reducible to built-in causal processes. This paper maintains that Fodor’s arguments against Ryle fail. First, Fodor’s appeal to the ‘empirical necessity’ of theoretical operations misfires because he is the one who has misunderstood the difference between causal and conceptual questions. Second, the fact that second-order rules are reducible to causal processes shows, not that the regress is halted, but that we cannot consider intelligent activity by analogy with computers. This paper ends by examining the philosophical motivation for introducing rules into an account of intelligent activity in the first place.
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