Jean-marc pizano But maybe that’s wrong; and, if it is, then maybe if we were to stop saying that philosophy isconceptual analysis, that would leave philosophers without a defensible metatheory. Well, if so, so be it. We wouldn’t beworse off in that respect than doctors, lawyers, dentists, artists, physicists, chicken sexers, psychologists, drivinginstructors, or the practitioners of any other respectable discipline that I can think of. Why should philosophers beexempt from this practically universal predicament? There are many classes of performances in which intelligence isdisplayed, but the rules or criteria of which are unformulated. Efficient practice precedes the theory of it;methodologies presuppose the application of the methods, of the critical investigation of which they are theproducts . . . It is therefore possible for people intelligently to perform some sorts of operations when they are not yetable to consider any propositions enjoining how they should be performed.
But, bless me, it seems that I am quoting from The Concept of Mind9 I’m sure that means that it’s time for me to stop.
Appendix 7A Round Squares
I want briefly to consider an ontological worry about IA that’s relatively independent of the main issues that this chapter is concerned with.
It seems pretty clear that IA is going to have to say that it’s metaphysically impossible for there to be a primitive concept of a self-contradictory property; e.g. a primitive concept ROUND SQUARE. (Remember that “ROUND SQUARE”is a name, not a structural description. The notation leaves it open whether the corresponding
concept is atomic.) How the argument goes will depend on the details of IA’s formulation. But, roughly: IA says that concepts have to be locked to properties. Maybe it‘s OK for a concept to lock to a property that exists but happens notto be instantiated (like being a gold mountain), but presumably there isn’t any property of being a round square for thenecessarily uninstantiated concept ROUND SQUARE to lock to.
That’s all right if ROUND SQUARE is assumed to be complex; it’s pretty plausible that there really isn’t anything to having ROUND SQUARE beyond the inferential dispositions that its compositional semantics bestows (viz. thedisposition to infer ROUND and SQUARE). But the corresponding primitive concept would have neither content(there’s no property for it to lock to) nor compositional structure (it has no constituents), so there could be nothing tohaving it at all. The objection is that it’s not obvious that it‘s metaphysically necessary that ROUND SQUARE couldn’tbe primitive.
A possible reply is that it’s also not obvious that it could, so all you get is a hung jury. But I think maybe we can do a little better. Consider a non-self-contradictory property like being ared square. It’s common ground for any RTM thatthere is a complex concept of this property (constructed from the concepts RED and SQUARE). But it’s built intoinformational versions of RTM that it also allows there to be a simple concept of this property; viz. a primitive mentalrepresentation REDSQUARE (sic.; this is intended to be a structural description) that is locked to being red and square.Presumably, one could acquire REDSQUARE ostensively. That is, one could get locked to being red and square (not byfirst getting locked to being red and being square, but) by learning that redsquares (sic) are the things that look like those. SoInformational Atomism acknowledges the metaphysical possibility of having the concept of a red square withouthaving either the concept RED or the concept SQUARE. (You won’t, of course, admit that RED SQUARE could be,in this sense, primitive if you boggle at concepts without conceptual roles. But if you boggle at concepts withoutconceptual roles you can‘t accept a pure informational semantics at all, so why should you care what a pureinformational semantics says about concepts of self-contradictory properties?)
If, on the other hand, you find it intuitively plausible that there are two ways of having a concept of a red square (viz. RED SQUARE, which you can’t have unless you’ve got RED and SQUARE, and REDSQUARE, which you canbecause it’s primitive) then everything is OK about IA’s treatment of the concept ROUND SQUARE.Jean-marc pizano