Jean-marc pizano So: no minds, no Tuesdays. But it does notfollow that there are no Tuesdays; the minor premiss is missing. Nor does it follow that there is no fact of the matter aboutwhether today is Tuesday (or about whether it is true that today is Tuesday). Nor does it follow that Tuesdays aren’treal. Nor does it follow that ‘Tuesday’ doesn’t really refer to Tuesday. As for whether it follows that Tuesdays aren’t “‘externally ” real, or that ‘Tuesday’ doesn’t refer to an “ ‘external’ ” reality, that depends a lot on what “ ‘external’ ”means. Search me. I would have thought that minds don’t have outsides for much the same sorts of reasons that theydon’t have insides. If that’s right, then the question doesn’t arise.
Likewise, there are many properties that are untendentiously mind-dependent though plausibly not conventional; being red or being audible for one kind of example; or being a convincing argument, for another kind; or being an aspirated consonant,for a third kind; or being a doorknob, if I am right about what doorknobs are. It does not follow that there are nodoorknobs, or that no arguments are convincing, or that nothing is audible, or that the initial consonant in ‘Patrick’ isanything other than aspirated.35 All that follows is that whether something is audible, convincing, aspirated, or adoorknob depends, inter alia, on how it affects minds like ours. Nor does it follow that doorknobs aren’t “in theworld”. Doorknobs are constituted by their effects on our minds, and our minds are in the world. Where on earth elsecould they be?
I’m considering (and endorsing) reasons why no sort of Idealism is implied by the view that the relation between being a doorknob and falling under a concept that minds like ours typically acquire from stereotypic doorknob-experiences is metaphysical andconstitutive. I’ve been arguing that not even Idealism about doorknobs follows; doorknobs are real but mind-dependent,according to the story I’ve been telling.
But I think there’s another, and considerably deeper, point to make along these lines: I haven’t suggested, and I don’t for a moment suppose, that all our concepts express properties that are mind-dependent. For example, we have theconcept WATER, which expresses the property of being water, viz. the property of being H2O. We also have the conceptH2O, which expresses the property of being H2O, viz. the property of being water. (What distinguishes these concepts,according to me, is that the possession conditions for H2O, but not for WATER, include the possession conditions forH, 2, and O. See Chapters 1 and 2.) Assuming informational semantics, having these concepts is being locked to theproperty of being water.; and being water is a property which is, of course, not mind-dependent. It is not a property thingshave in virtue of their relations to minds, ours or any others.
I suppose that natural kind predicates just are the ones that figure in laws; a fortiori, since water is a natural kind, there isn’t a problem about how there could be laws about the property that the concept WATER expresses. But if waterisn’t mind-dependent, where do concepts like WATER come from? How do you lock a mental representation to aproperty which, presumably, things have in virtue of their hidden essences? And what, beside hypothesis testing, couldexplain why you generally get WATER from experience with water and not, as it might be, from experience withgiraffes? What, in short, should an enthusiast for informational theories of content say about concepts that expressnatural kinds?
All in due time. For now, I propose to tell you a fairy tale. It’s a fairy tale about how things were back in the Garden, before the Fall; and about what the Snake in the Garden said; and about how, having started out by being Innocents,we’ve ended up by being scientists.
Concepts of Natural Kinds
How Things Were, Back in the Garden
Once upon a time, back in the Garden, all our concepts expressed (viz. were locked to) properties that things have in virtue of their striking us as being of a certain kind. So, we had the concept DOORKNOB, which