Famous Creative Thinkers Joseph John Campbell and Jerry Fodor

FamousCreative Thinkers: Joseph John Campbell and Jerry Fodor

FamousCreative Thinkers: Joseph John Campbell and Jerry Fodor

Thelarge number of theories, principles, and concepts that are appliedtoday in different fields were developed by creative thinkers whointended to address specific challenges in the society. Although mostof the theories and other contributions have been in the process ofevolution, the contributions made by the founders of those conceptscannot be overlooked. This paper will address the contributions madeby Joseph John Campbell and Jerry Fodor, who were American creativethinkers. Joseph Campbell was an American speaker, writer,mythologist, and an anthropologist (Button, 2012). John was born in1904 in the city of New York and studied the Native American mythsbefore becoming a professor at Sarah Lawrence. Campbell made uniquecontributions in the fields of comparative mythology as well ascomparative religion. Jerry Alan Fodor, on the other hand, is anAmerican philosopher who has made unique contributions in the fieldof cognitive science. Fodor was born in 1935 in New York and studiedin different institutions, including the Columbia University andPrinceton University (Bildir, 2014). The contributions of the twoAmerican creative thinkers have significant contributions in thesociety to date.

Issuessolved and implementation of the ideas

Themain problem that Campbell tried to solve was the distinction betweenthe concept of elementary and folk ideas that revolve around thefield of mythology. Campbell developed the concept of monomyth, whichholds that mythic narratives are variations of one great narrative(Button, 2012). This means that the role played by traditional andformal mythical systems is now possessed by individual philosophersand artists. Campbell’s concepts have been implemented in severalartworks (such as the Star Wars film) that follow the monomythstructure.

Fodorintended to address the challenges and limitations of other theories,such as behaviorism and holism. To address the limitations of earliertheories, Fodor developed the theory of asymmetric causal and thehypothesis of the language of thought. The theory holds that theoccurrence of all symbols expresses different properties that serveas causes of the occurrence of such symbols. The LOT hypothesis isapplied in linguistic the learning process because it considers theprocess of learning the natural language as a confirmation andformation of some hypothesis in LOT.

Environmentsthat contributed to their creativity

Campbell’screativity was motivated by both social and political factors.Campbell valued social interactions with people from differentbackgrounds. For example, he traveled with his family to Europe in1924, a journey that gave an opportunity to interact and discussabout the Indian and the Hindu thoughts with Jiddu Krishnamurti(Cousineau, 2003). The Great Depression also influenced Campbellbecause he was forced study as an independent student, which latergave him an opportunity to meet with a budding writer named JohnSteinbeck. Social interaction with other people provided Campbellwith an opportunity to learn the myths of different communities,while the interaction with a writer was an inspiration to put downhis ideas in writing.

Fodor,on the other hand, was influenced by social as well as personalenvironments to develop the concepts of the language of thought andcausal symbolism. For example, Fodor married Dean Janet, who was aholder of Ph. D in linguistics (Fodor, 2014). In addition, thedepartment of psychology at MIT, where he began his professionalcareer was closely linked to the department of linguistics.Consequently, Fodor had an opportunity to collaborate with hislinguist wife and draw ideas from the linguistic discipline.


Campbell’screative process is characterized by inquisitiveness and the desireto know much about religious and traditional practices of othercommunities. The two factors, coupled with his academic pursuitsexpanded his knowledge about the myths. Financial constraint is oneof the major challenges that Campbell faced in his process ofcreativity. For example, the Great Depression forced him to live inreside in some rented shack and undertake independent studies insteadof pursuing his degree in a school-based program (Button, 2012). Hiscreativity process and ideas are compared with those of Thomas Mann,who influenced his creativity.

Fodor’screativity process, on the other hand, is characterized by the desireto explore the works of other people, identify their weaknesses, anddevelop solutions. For example, Fodor explored the concepts ofbehaviorism and holism, which give him an opportunity to identifytheir weaknesses and develop new concepts (such as the asymmetriccausal perspective), that addressed the limitations of earlierconcepts (Bildir, 2014). One of the barriers to Fodor’s creativeprocess is his inability to develop concrete concepts. Consequently,his work has attracted a lot of criticisms from differentphilosophers who feel that Fodor’s ideas are superfluous.

Critiqueof the ideas

Campbelladvanced the field of mythology by developing the monomyth structurethat is currently found in many mythic narratives in the modernworld. Campbell’s works fit in the existing framework in that heborrowed the monomyth term from a former writer, James Joyce(Finnegans, 1949). One thing that Campbell should have donedifferently is to ensure that the monomyth concept is not male bias.The idea of monomyth represents women exceptionally andindistinguishable from their counterpart male characters.

Fodor,on the other hand, advanced the field of cognitive science by layingthe foundation for the concept of modularity of the mind, whichenhances the understanding of relations between mental and individualrepresentations. Fodor borrowed significantly from the discipline oflinguistics, which based his work on the frameworks that existed inthe field of linguistic (Bildir, 2014). One thing that Fodor shouldhave done differently is to make it clear how the language of thoughdiffers from the natural language. This is because Fodor asserts thatthe natural language is learned through the confirmation of LOThypothesis, making it unclear whether LOT should be considered as alanguage in itself and how it should be learned.


JosephCampbell and Jerry Fodor are some of the American creative thinkerswho made significant contributions in their respective fields ofstudy. Campbell’s contribution in the field of comparativemythology is confirmed by the use of monomyth structure in manynarratives in the present world. Fodor, creative process resulted inthe development of significant ideas, such as the language of thoughtand modularity of the mind. The two thinkers made significantcontributions in spite of social and personal barriers that affectedtheir creative processes.


Bildir,H. (2014).Bibliographyof Jerry Alan Fodor.Paris: Poem Hunter.

Button,B. (2012). JosephCampbell: Bibliography.Leuk-Stadt: European Graduate School.

Cousineau,P. (2003). TheHero`s Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work. Novato:New World Library.

Finnegans,A. (1949).TheHero with a Thousand Faces.Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Fodor,A. (2004). ATheory of Content and Other Essays.Cambridge: The MIT Press.