Re: Modularity & Domain-Specificity

From: Harnad, Stevan (
Date: Mon Feb 24 1997 - 20:56:34 GMT

> From: Hawkins, Sean <>
> I am a little unclear as to the difference between modularity and
> domain-specificity. According to Fodor, domain specificity is an
> essential property of a modular faculty of mind - it distinguishes the
> way of conceiving of mental architecture as structured, from another to
> which the division cross-cut domains.

It's really very simple. Domain-specificity is just that. Something
it is specific to a domain. What is a domain? It can be anything
from a whole sensory modality (sight, hearing, touch) or to a type of
task (like playing chess, reading, writing).

A module of the mind is a part of the mind that functions independently
of the rest of the mind and can be explained independently of the rest
of the mind.

So obviously if something is going to be a module, it's going to be
specific to some domain, such as a sensory modality, or a medium
(reading, writing, emailing) or task.

Most mental modules that cognitive theorists talk about are
hypothetical, because not enough is known yet to be sure they are
functionally independent. Some of the candidates for being independent
modules are pattern vision, speech perception (and production), and
(universal) grammar. Some unlikely candidates are chess-playing,
arithmetic and water-polo.

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