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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 37, 2012

Víctor M. Verdejo
Pages 155-183
DOI: 10.5840/jpr2012377

Meeting the Systematicity Challenge Challenge
A Nonlinguistic Argument for a Language of Thought

From Fodor and Pylyshyn’s celebrated 1988 systematicity argument in favour of a language of thought (LOT ), a challenge to connectionist models arises in the form of a dilemma: either these models do not explain systematicity or they are implementations of LOT. From consideration of this challenge and of systematicity in domains other than language, defenders of connectionism have mounted a parallel systematicity argument against LOT which results in a new self-defeating dilemma, what I call here the systematicity challenge challenge (SCC): either LOT does not explain nonlinguistic systematicity, or it is in no better position than its rivals to explain any systematicity, even linguistic systematicity. In this paper, first, I critically examine the SCC and some considerations that seem to support it. Second, I offer a response to the SCC by: (1) showing that LOT was never meant to be a cognitive model restricted only to linguistic systematicity, and (2) formulating a new argument in favour of LOT from nonlinguistic systematicity. Third, I argue that there is a central assumption underlying the SCC and maintain that it is mistaken. I conclude that the classical systematicity challenge continues to be fully valid for linguistic and nonlinguistic domains.