Bound to be widely read and much discussed, The Elm and the
Expert, written in Jerry Fodor's usual highly readable,
irreverent style, provides a lively discussion of semantic issues
about mental representation, with special attention to issues raised
by Frege's problem, Twin cases, and the putative indeterminacy of
reference. The book extends and revises a view of the relation
between mind and meaning that the author has been developing since his
1975 book The Language of Thought.
There is a general consensus among philosophers that a referential
semantics for mental representation cannot support a robust account of
intentional explanation. Fodor has himself espoused this view in
previous publications, and it is widespread (if tacit) throughout the
cognitive science community. This book is largely a reconsideration
of the arguments that are supposed to ground this consensus. Fodor
concludes that these considerations are far less decisive than has
been supposed. He offers a theory sketch in which psychological
explanation is intentional, psychological processes are computational,
and the semantic properties of mental representations are referential.
Connections with the problem of "naturalizing" intentionality are also
The four lectures in The Elm and the Expert were
originally delivered in Paris in the spring of 1993 to inaugurate the
Jean Nicod Lecture series. The Jean Nicod Lectures are delivered
annually by a leading philosopher of mind or philosophically oriented
cognitive scientist. The 1993 lectures marked the centenary of the
birth of the French philosopher and logician Jean Nicod (1893-1931).
The lectures are sponsored by the Centre National de la Recherche
Scientifique (CNRS) as part of its effort to develop the
interdisciplinary field of cognitive science in France.
Jean Nicod series