Coping with informational atomism – one of Jerry Fodor’s legacies

By Pierre Jacob

Abstract Fodor was passionately unwilling to compromise. Of his several commitments, I focus here on informational atomism. Fodor staunchly rejected semantic holism for two conspiring reasons. He took it to threaten his commitment to the nomic character of psychological explanation. He also took it to pave the way towards relativism, which he found deeply offensive. In this paper, I reconstruct the strands of Fodor’s commitment to the computational version of the representational theory of mind that led him to informational atomism. I take issue with three features of informational atomism. First, I argue that it deprives content from its expected causal role in psychological explanation. Secondly, I take issue withFodor’s claim that only informational atomism can meet the requirements of the principle of composi- tionality. Finally, I argue that informational atomism yields a bloated or unwieldy category of nomic properties.