Author: Browne, D.
Source: Minds and Machines, Volume 6, Number 4, November 1996 , pp. 507-523(17)
Abstract:Jerry Fodor divides the mind into peripheral, domain-specific modules and a domain-general faculty of central cognition. John Tooby and Lisa Cosmides argue instead that the mind is modular all the way through; cognition consists of a multitude of domain-specific processes. But human thought has a flexible, innovative character that contrasts with the inflexible, stereotyped performances of modular systems. My goal is to discover how minds that are constructed on modular principles might come to exhibit cognitive versatility.
Cognitive versatility is exhibited in the ability to learn from experience. How can this ability emerge from the resources made available by earlier stages of cognitive specialization without sacrificing the many benefits of modularization? A transition into versatile cognition occurred in the history of our species. A similar development which occurs within individual ontogeny provides clues about the phylogenetic changes.
Annette Karmiloff-Smith describes an ontogenetic process in which the mind's representational resources are enriched. The key idea is that versatile thinkers have access to an inferentially integrated library of knowledge. A distinction between nonconceptual and conceptual representations helps to explain how smart minds can draw much finer-grained discriminations within their experience than can simple minds. This is an important though insufficient condition for cognitive versatility.
Document Type: Regular Paper
Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
Publication date: November 1, 1996