Jerry Fodor obituary

Philosopher who saw the mind as a computer processing the language of thought

The philosopher Jerry Fodor, who has died aged 82, was the leading exponent of the philosophy of mind in a period when it became the discipline’s most prominent area. From the early 1960s he did much to set the agenda in his field, notably in the development of cognitive science, a newly emerging interdisciplinary approach to the study of mind.

During Fodor’s student days in the late 1950s, philosophy of mind and psychology in the English-speaking world was dominated by behaviourism. Philosophical behaviourists – many operating under the influence of Ludwig Wittgenstein – were hostile to the view that the mind is an inner theatre and to any identification of the mind with the brain. Their psychological colleagues tended to deny the reality of the mind or to hold that the study of the mind has no ...