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Hayek, Connectionism, and Scientific Naturalism

Hayek in Mind: Hayek's Philosophical Psychology

ISBN: 978-1-78052-398-9, eISBN: 978-1-78052-399-6

Publication date: 6 December 2011


Purpose – To better understand the relation between Friedrich Hayek's “theoretical psychology” and contemporary connectionist theories of mind.

Methodology/approach – There is much in The Sensory Order that recommends the oft-made claim that Hayek anticipated connectionist theories of mind. To the extent that this is so, contemporary arguments against and for connectionism, as advanced by Jerry Fodor, Zenon Pylyshyn, and John Searle, are shown as applicable to theoretical psychology. However, the final section of this chapter highlights an important disanalogy between theoretical psychology and connectionist theories of mind.

Findings – While Hayek can be construed as a connectionist, it is argued that Hayek's ontological presuppositions are not shared by contemporary theorists of mind. In particular, modern critiques of Hayek's theoretical psychology qua connectionism assume that he attempts to provide an account of the mind within the confines of scientific naturalism. This essay argues that this assumption is false. Hayek's ontological presuppositions are more akin to Kant's, implying that Hayek's question is importantly different from those asked by contemporary theorists of mind.

Originality/value of the chapter – At a certain level of abstraction, a Hayakian machine is not unlike certain versions of a connectionist machine. However, to adequately assess the significance of The Sensory Order on its own terms, Hayek's project must be disentangled from our own ontological preoccupations.



Rust, J. (2011), "Hayek, Connectionism, and Scientific Naturalism", Marsh, L. (Ed.) Hayek in Mind: Hayek's Philosophical Psychology (Advances in Austrian Economics, Vol. 15), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 29-50.



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