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The Modularity of Mind

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The Modularity of Mind

MIT Press,

15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

How do people think? Analysts of our mental processes debate how modular our minds are, and explain why it matters.

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Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


This classic in cognitive science has a great deal to say, but an awkward way of saying it. Author Jerry A. Fodor’s style is academic and dense, a potential barrier to all but the most determined, well-prepared reader. Arcane and brilliant, Fodor intersperses colloquial jests with jargon-burdened exposition, leading one to believe that he could have written a book more accessible to the lay reader had he wished to do so. finds, however, that the book repays the persistent, dedicated reader. The reward is a fascinating exploration of the mind, drawing on the literature of epistemology and psychology, with occasional detours down the rarely explored byways of phrenology.


Faculty Psychology

Faculty psychology - based on human, mental faculties - suggests that different psychological mechanisms must interact to account for the way the mind functions. Faculty psychology takes very seriously the differences between such mental acts as perception, learning and language. Faculty psychologists see such behaviors as the outcome of the interaction of various psychological mechanisms. This field of psychology postulates that mental life depends to some extent on innate characteristics. Thus, faculty psychology differs from the empirical tradition that produced various other "associationist" theories, such as behaviorism. This exploration of faculty psychology has several objectives:

  • To distinguish the so-called modularity thesis from the better known general notion of psychological faculties.
  • To identify some consequences of modularity in cognitive systems.
  • To speculate about which mental processes are modular.
  • To address the question of whether there are limits to human knowledge.


Behavioral structure is the consequence of mental structure. However, there is not a sole, clear explanation...

About the Author

Jerry A. Fodor is a philosopher who has written numerous books about the philosophy of mind and cognitive science.

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