Massive modularity? The relationship between context-relevance, information encapsulation and functional specialization
Acorn Independent College, London, UK
In this article, I discuss the debate between domain-specificity and content-generality in regard to the human mind. My main objective is to argue that the human mind can both be understood as a content-dependent machinery, as well as a general-purpose system that encapsulates information and manifests it accordingly. In evolutionary psychology a strong case is made for the mind’s domain-specific architecture but assumptions of domain-general importance could also be taken into account. In evolutionary terms, it is argued that the mind is composed of content-dependent and specialized functions that have evolved in order to help humans deal with adaptive problems. The mind’s evolved functionality of domain-specific systems has helped humans not only to survive but also to be creative in their relationships to others and the environment. However, advocates of behaviourist models and learning theories have proposed that the mind is a content-independent device which encapsulates information of a general nature. In this paper, domain specificity will be explained in terms of functional specialization, and content-generality in terms of informational encapsulation. My main aim will be to argue that both assumptions can be viewed in context-relevance to each other.