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Does the Argument from the Systematicity of Thought to the Language of Thought Hypothesis Work?

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  1. Introduction
  2. The theory put forward by Fodor and Pylyshyn
  3. The idea that thought is not just systematic
  4. The set of problems discussed by Robert Cummins
  5. Conclusion
  6. Bibliography

One of the main arguments to support the language of thought hypothesis (LOTH), as proposed by Fodor (1975), is that of the systematicity of thought. This argument consists of the idea that the ability to entertain certain thoughts is linked to the ability to entertain certain other thoughts. This concept is quite hard to explain directly, so the easiest way to look at this theory is through the systematicity of language, as Fodor and Pylysyhn (1988) do. I believe that the analogy between systematicity of language and systematicity of thought is a valid one. However, through the work of R. Cummins (1996, 2001, in press), I hope to show that the argument for systematicity of thought does not show the concrete support for the LOTH that is usually prescribed to it. I believe that this will have the impact of eroding the LOTH, because if one of the main arguments for it is shown to be false, then the theory becomes open to criticism in this area.

[...] Due to this, I believe the LOTH to be damaged, because the ST argument is perhaps the strongest support for a language of thought. If this argument, as I believe, not as obvious and valid as is often suggested, the LOTH has to be seen at the very least as not fully justified. Bibliography Cummins, R (1996) ?Systematicity?, Journal of Philosophy, 93: 591-614. Cummins, et al (2001) ?Systematicity and the Cognition of Structured Domains?, Journal of Philosophy, 98: 167-185. Cummins et al (in press), ?What Systematicity Isn't?, Journal of Philosophical Research. [...]

[...] Cummins uses the following formulation of the systemacitiy of thought argument, which Wayne Davis (an advocate of systematicity of thought and LOTH) says is an obvious and non question- begging formulation: ?Anyone who can think the thought expressed by a sentence of the form Rab can think the thought expressed by the corresponding sentence of the form Rba?(to be known from now on as schema (Davis, On Begging the Systematicity Question, Journal of Philosophical Research, in press). Davis and Cummins do agree on one point, in that you can infer the ST from the systematicity of language argument, which Schema X clearly hints at. [...]

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