分类: - DISCOVERING TRUTHS and ANNOUNCING THEM
 
Fodor's new book has been getting alot of play around the interwebs. You might want to see my old blog post for background. Here's a selection of reviews.

Rutgers alum Brian Switek has a review at his (excellent) blog Laelaps: Jerry Fodor: still getting it wrong about evolution.

PZ Myers reviews the book over at Pharyngula in a post entitled Fodor and Piatelli-Palmarini get everything wrong.

Michael Ruse has a review at boston.com: The origin of the specious.

Then there's Mary Midgley at the Grauniad: Review: What Darwin Got Wrong.

The money review is of course Ned Block & Phil Kitcher's at the Boston Review: Misunderstanding Darwin.

I commented on this review. Here's what I said:

Block & Kitcher say that if Fodor's right, all causal explanations are in jeopardy. I don't think they're correct on this point.

To the best of my knowledge, Fodor has a view of causation where a causes b just in case there is a covering law: A -> B, such that a has A and b has B. So whenever a causes b, there'll be a fact of the matter which property or properties of a are such that in virtue of them, a caused b, namely all those properties X such that there is a law X -> B, where a has X and b has B (for some B). So according to Fodor, there are lots of facts of the matter about what causes what, and in virtue of what.

But when there's no covering law, there's no real causation. Fodor's example is that of history. Suppose Frenchman tend to lose battles and all and only Frenchman are short. Is it because they're short or because they're French that they lose? Or because of some other property correlated with Frenchness and shortness? Well, none of the above. There's no fact of the matter because there are no laws of the form: French -> lose or short -> lose. There just aren't any laws of history, not even ceteris paribus laws.

This is also Fodor's view regarding natural history (evolution). White polar bears proliferate. Is it because they're white or because they're snow-colored? No fact of the matter *because* there's no law of the form snow-colored -> proliferate, and no law of the form white -> proliferate. There aren't even ceteris paribus laws of this form.

Furthermore, as I read Fodor, this is what the "seeing" metaphor is doing. Natural selection can't "see" the counterfactuals like 'had the bears been white but not snow-colored, they'd've not proliferated' because they aren't entailed by biological laws, because there aren't any such things. These counterfactuals are true, but not sufficient to ground causal claims involving phenotypic properties-- because they're true in virtue of the laws of fundamental physics, and the physical state of the world, not laws of biology involving phenotypes.

I'm not saying Fodor's right. I just think that on at least this point, Block & Kitcher have his view wrong. [end comment]

Finally, there's an interview with none other than Jerry himself over at Salon.com: What Darwin Got Wrong: Taking down the father of evolution.

I won't comment on the quality of these reviews: that's for you to decide. If you see more around, I'm happy to add them to the list.

Michael Johnson