Smolensky vs. Fodor and Pylyshyn

Fodor and Pylyshyn (1988)

Smolensky, Paul. Connectionist Mental States: A Reply to Fodor and Pylyshyn , Southern Journal of Philosophy, 26:Supplement (1988) p.137

Smolensky (1987/1988) On the Proper Treatment of Connectionism.

Recordings of 1988 talks contributed by Paul Smolensky Jan. 8th 2016.


The rumor seems to have gotten around that I think connectionism is the lousiest new idea in cognitive science. This rumor is entirely unfounded and I propose to scotch it this evening. In the first place, I don’t think connectionism’s a lousy idea, what I think it is is two lousy ideas, one about mental processes and one about learning. And in the second place, I don’t think it’s new. On the contrary,  it seems to me to be the reiteration, almost without elaboration, of a doctrine that I’m going to call primitive associationism, and I mean primitive in both respects…this is just another regression to this doctrine, and it will pass.






Hinton (2015: Aetherial Symbols) has this to say:

Verbal debate is not a good way to deal with people who are convinced that their approach is the only one that is viable (e.g. Fodor and Pylyshyn).

– What’s needed is a viable model of parallel intuitive reasoning.

Elman, J.L. (2014). Systematicity in the lexicon: On having your cake and eating it too. In P. Calvo and J. Symons (Eds.) . The Architecture of Cognition: Rethinking Fodor and Pylyshyn’s Systematicity Challenge. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Pp. 115-145. Adobe PDF version.

Another interesting chapter from the above book: How Limited Systematicity Emerges: A Computational Cognitive Neuroscience Approach

Fodor’s (1998) review of “How the mind works” claims that modularity has trouble with integrating knowledge from different modules.