Feb 24th, 2010 by ravi
Block and Kitcher review Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini

Remember that Fodor accepts evolutionary history; what he denies is that there is a theory or a science. So he accepts that some traits caused greater reproductive success, and even that there is a sense in which this fact explained why those traits became prevalent. What Fodor disputes is the mechanism: Darwinism, Fodor claims, has it that traits that would cause greater success are selected for — this is meant to explain why they became prevalent. And he has some pretty compelling arguments against this idea.

Now maybe Block and Kitcher are dancing around the claim that this is a mischaracterization of the commitments of Darwinism. I suspect that that critique might be right. But the way to evaluate it is to look at the details of how claims about selection are used in evolutionary biology. And anyway, they don’t say that that’s what they’re doing. They say that Fodor is committing to denying natural causation. And this just strikes me as way off.

I remember feeling that in the first series of responses to Fodor’s LRB article, penned primarily by biologists (but also by philosophers including Kitcher), were altogether missing Fodor’s point. That is not the case with this review.

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