Making sense of the modularity debate

New Ideas in Psychology 75:101108 (2024)
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For several decades scientists and philosophers studying how the mind works have debated the issue of modularity. Their main disagreements concern the massive modularity hypothesis, according to which all (or most) of our cognitive mechanisms are modular in nature. Pietraszewski and Wertz (2022) have recently suggested that the modularity debate is based on a confusion about the levels of analysis at which the mind can be explained. This article argues that their position suffers from three major problems: (1) the argument is unsound, with untrue premises; (2) it glosses over important empirical issues; and (3) the guidelines it offers are not sufficient for avoiding future confusions. As these criticisms are developed, this article will provide a way of making sense of the modularity debate—with an eye for what really is at stake both conceptually and empirically—and, by identifying a false assumption often shared by proponents and opponents of the massive modularity hypothesis alike, it will sketch out some guidelines for moving the debate forward.

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Jonathan Egeland
University of Agder


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