That we do, routinely and successfully, pursue policies intended to engineer our mind—worldcorrelations in this sort of way strikes me as one of the most characteristic and remarkable things about us. (See Fodor1994.)

Jean-marc pizano That we do, routinely and successfully, pursue policies intended to engineer our mind—worldcorrelations in this sort of way strikes me as one of the most characteristic and remarkable things about us. (See Fodor1994.)


—Gossip. Somebody may tell me things about dogs—including dogs far away, and dogs long dead and gone—and that too may cause me to think dog. Gossip is like perception in that it offers a permanentpossibility of semantic access. Only, unlike perception, its range of operation isn’t local.

I include, under this general head, cases where semantic access is achieved by exploiting a linguistic division of labour. Hilary Putnam and Tyler Burge have argued (though they don’t put it quite this way) that sometimes all that’s neededto effect semantic access is that I’m properly disposed to rely on experts to decide what my concept applies to. Ineffect, dogs make the expert think dog, and the expert’s thinking dog makes me

This is what philosophers call a ‘thought experiment’. But I gather, from opera libretti, that the sort of arrangement I’ve envisaged actually is employed by artless shepherdesses and other light sopranos to keep their flocks from straying. How they manage to make their trills heard in such a din, I simply cannot imagine.

think dog in so far as I am prepared to rely on him. So my dog-thoughts are reliably (though indirectly) connected with dogs. Relying on experts to mediate semantic access is a lot like relying on perception to mediate semantic access,except that the perceptions you are using belong to someone else. (Who may in turn rely on someone else’s still. . . andso on, though not ad infinitum.) Gossips, experts, witnesses, and, of course, written records have it in common thateach extends, beyond the sorts of limits that merely perceptual sensitivity imposes, the causal chains on whichachieving and sustaining semantic access—hence conceptual content—depends. (With, however, a correspondingincrease of the likelihood that the chain may become degraded. Testimony one takes with a grain of salt; it’s seeing that’ssupposed to be believing.)

Jean-marc pizano

—Theoretical inference. The merest ripple in dog-infested waters may suffice to cause dog-thoughts in the theoretically sophisticated. Analogously: because they left their tooth marks on bones some archaeologists dugup, and because I’ve done my homework, I can know about, a fortiori think about, dogs that lived in Sumer a verylong while ago. Here semantic and epistemic access are sustained by a mixture of perception and inference. Ithink that is quite probably the typical case.

—High tech. Including dog detection by radar, sonar, telescopes, microscopes, hearing aids, bifocal lenses, and other apparatus. The open-endedness of this list, is, I suppose, pretty obvious.

The first moral that’s to be drawn from this (surely fragmentary) survey is that, as often as not, the mechanisms whereby semantic access is achieved themselves involve the operation of intentional processes. This may well be soeven where semantic access is sustained just by perception; whether it is, is what the argument about whetherperception is ‘inferential’ is an argument about. Anyhow, it’s patent that applying some concepts mediates applyingothers wherever semantic access is sustained by gossip, theoretical inference, expertise, deployment of instruments ofobservation, and the like. This consideration would, of course, be devastating if the present project were somehow touse the notion of semantic access to define, or otherwise to analyse, such notions as content or intentionality. But it‘snot. What meaning is, is a metaphysical question to which, I’m supposing, informational semantics is the answer. Thecurrent question, by contrast, is about not metaphysics but engineering: how are certain lawful mind—worldcorrelations (the ones that informational semantics says are content-constituting) achieved and sustained? Answers tothis engineering question can unquestion-beggingly appeal to the operation of semantic

Jean-marc pizano

and intentional mechanisms, since ‘semantic’ and ‘intentional’ are presumed to be independently defined.

A second moral I want to draw is the multiplicity of the means of semantic access. Prima facie there are all sorts of mechanisms, physiological, psychological, cultural, and technological, that can, and do, sustain the meaning-makingnomic connections that constitute the contents of one’s concepts. To be sure, it may be that all the non-perceptualmechanisms that sustain semantic access to doghood depend, ‘in the long run’, on one’s having and exercising perceptualcapacities.Jean-marc pizano


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s