In The Algebraic Mind, Gary Marcus attempts to
integrate two theories about how the mind works, one that says that
the mind is a computer-like manipulator of symbols, and another
that says that the mind is a large network of neurons working
together in parallel. Resisting the conventional wisdom that says
that if the mind is a large neural network it cannot simultaneously
be a manipulator of symbols, Marcus outlines a variety of ways in
which neural systems could be organized so as to manipulate
symbols, and he shows why such systems are more likely to provide
an adequate substrate for language and cognition than neural
systems that are inconsistent with the manipulation of symbols.
Concluding with a discussion of how a neurally realized system of
symbol-manipulation could have evolved and how such a system could
unfold developmentally within the womb, Marcus helps to set the
future agenda of cognitive neuroscience.