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Mad Dog Nativism

Cowie, Fiona (1998) Mad Dog Nativism. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 49 (2). pp. 227-252. ISSN 0007-0882. doi:10.1093/bjps/49.2.227.

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In his recent book, Concepts: Where Cognitive Science Went Wrong, Jerry Fodor retracts the radical concept-nativism he once defended. Yet that position stood, virtually unchallenged, for more than twenty years. This neglect is puzzling, as Fodor's arguments against concepts being learnable from experience remain unanswered, and nativism has historically been taken very seriously as a response to empiricism's perceived shortcomings. In this paper, I urge that Fodorean nativism should indeed be rejected. I argue, however, that its deficiencies are not so obvious that they can simply be taken for granted. Fodor can counter extant objections by stressing two distinctions: between historicist and counterfactual semantic theories and between explaining reference and explaining concept-acquisition. But, I argue, this victory is pyrrhic. Reformulated as objections to his account qua theory of concept-acquisition, and not qua theory of reference, analogous difficulties are fatal to the Fodorean position.

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URLURL TypeDescription 10.1093/bjps/49.2.227DOIArticle
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Additional Information:© 1998 Oxford University Press. I am grateful for the help of David Hilbert, Kim Sterelny, and Jim Woodward in writing this paper.
Issue or Number:2
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:28758
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:22 Mar 2012 16:30
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 17:00

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