Fodor's Representational Theory

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In this essay I shall outline the Representational Theory of Mind, and in doing so, will explore some of its key features, and concepts that are implicit in the theory. I will give particular attention to Fodor and his (1975) Language of Thought Hypothesis, wherein cognition involves the medium of representation, sharing its central properties with principles found in linguistics. I will then describe reasons for thinking that all of cognition is representational, focusing on Fodor 's processing argument, which is grounded on the nature of cognition, with its essential characteristics of productivity and systematicity. The cognitive act of rational choice and the requirements for such a capacity will also be examined. Furthermore, after exploring …show more content…
The theory proposes that representations are symbolic structures which have similarities to natural languages, and these symbols are physically realised in the brain (Wilson 2011). For some, this process of cognition using representation can be thought of as thinking in a special inner language, which is referred to as Mentalese (Sterelny 1990: 24). For Fodor, thoughts are sentence-like, and this inner thought possesses some of the same features and structure of sentences in our natural languages (Sterelny 1990: 23). However, as Sterelny (1990: 24) pointed out, this does not mean that we will find tiny sentences of an individual 's natural language spelled out somewhere in the brain. Representations could be found within neural activity, where such activity can act as vehicles of content (Wilson 2011) and be employed by the brain for use in cognition. That being said, Fodor believes that the similarities between natural language and cognition using representational symbols are significant, and from this he developed his Language of Thought Hypothesis, aspects of which are important when we turn to the question of whether all of cognition is …show more content…
This argument is grounded on the nature of cognition, and states that cognitive processing possesses characteristics which require the acceptance of representation, and make the notion of a mental language necessary. Here I will specifically consider the cognitive process of 'rational choice '. Fodor argues that for an agent to undertake a cognitive task such as rational choice, the agent must be able to utilise many, even infinite, complex and varied representations, that stand for different outcomes and scenarios of possible choices. If an agent is processing the outcomes of competing choices, they must possess a language-like symbol system which will represent all the factors that the agent will weigh up to be able to make a rational choice. Without representation, we are left with the problem of how an agent can consider different options that only exist as internal mental states, so as to be able to make a rational choice. It is the language-like properties of Fodor 's model, namely productivity and systematicity, that allow for the representation of different and complex potential choices to be represented in the mind, and it is these two key properties that give further weight to the notion that representation is a necessary factor for

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