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In Memoriam: Jerry Fodor

Jerry FodorOur department is very sad to report that our colleague University Professor Jerry Fodor died on November 29, 2017 after a long illness. He was a friend and mentor to many at Rutgers. Jerry’s arrival at Rutgers catapulted our department to the top ranks and he was instrumental to bringing other outstanding philosophers and cognitive scientists to Rutgers.

Jerry was indisputably the most important philosopher of psychology of his generation. He played a crucial role in reversing the Rylean and Wittgensteinian tide that engulfed philosophy of mind in the 1960s and in his seminal 1975 book, The Language of Thought, developed an alternative - the computational representation theory of mind (CRTM) - that took intentional mental processes seriously. The CRTM provided a framework both for the resolution of many traditional problems in the philosophy of mind, and for actual psychological research and experimentation, some of which Fodor himself pursued in the areas of modularity and natural language processing. In subsequent work he put the problem of naturalizing mental content in the forefront of research in philosophy of mind.

His views were often provocative and provoked an enormous secondary literature of responses. Among those views are “mad dog nativism”, “the modularity of mind”, “the atomicity of concepts” and his criticisms of Darwinian accounts of psychological capacities. He not only provoked; he often entertained and amused with his jokes and wit.  We will miss him.

- Barry Loewer

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