Fodor and the innateness of all (Basic) concepts

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


This chapter reviews Fodor's contribution to the epic Chomsky-Piaget Royaumont debate. The issue that was under discussion was a familiar one, namely, what psychological processes underlie concept learning. Piaget thought concept learning involved the formation and confirmation of hypotheses that a learner generates through the construction and organization of stimuli gathered from the environment, and modifying them when they proved to be inconsistent. However, Fodor pointed out a fundamental flaw in this theory: it is silent about the origin of the concepts used in generating the hypotheses. Fodor argued that in order for these hypotheses to be tested, let alone generated, they needed to have been readily available to the learner, suggesting that all primitive concepts are innate, and that concept acquisition relies on the process of triggering these concepts that are innately available to the learner, and not through construction by means of progressive guesses and trial-and-error.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOn Concepts, Modules, and Language
Subtitle of host publicationCognitive Science at its Core
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9780190464783
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Analyticity
  • Atomism
  • Cognitive science
  • Concept acquisition
  • Concept nativism
  • Concepts
  • Definitions
  • Epistemology
  • Innateness
  • Intensionality
  • Language acquisition
  • Language and mind
  • Learnability
  • Philosophy of mind
  • Primitive concepts
  • Psycholinguistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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