First Advisor

Angela Coventry

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Philosophy and University Honors




Jerry A. Fodor. Hume variations -- Criticism and interpretation, David Hume (1711-1776), Bayesian statistical decision theory, Philosophy of mind




In his 2003 book Hume Variations, Jerry Fodor argues the Computational Theory of Mind (CTM) has obviated the need for Hume's associationism and faculty of imagination. Contrary to Fodor, in this paper I argue that contemporary Bayesian models of cognitive science suggest that Hume’s account continues to comprise a viable theory of mental operations. I propose a Bayesian interpretation of Hume's associationism wherein the "liberty of the imagination to transpose and change its ideas" is accounted for by the contributions of randomness, noise, or stochasticity--i.e., probability.

If my analysis is on track, Fodor has misconstrued the Humean mind by interpreting Hume's fundamentally graded and probabilistic cognitive architecture in terms of the crisp formal logic required by the Computational Theory of Mind (CTM). I show how the probabilistic Bayesian interpretation thus developed might allow the Humean to address Fodor’s objections.


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