The Small Number System

Philosophy of Science 87 (1):113-134 (2020)
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I argue that the human mind includes an innate domain-specific system for representing precise small numerical quantities. This theory contrasts with object-tracking theories and with domain-general theories that only make use of mental models. I argue that there is a good amount of evidence for innate representations of small numerical quantities and that such a domain-specific system has explanatory advantages when infants’ poor working memory is taken into account. I also show that the mental models approach requires previously unnoticed domain-specific structure and consequently that there is no domain-general alternative to an innate domain-specific small number system.

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Eric Margolis
University of British Columbia


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