The model, to repeat, is being red: all that’s required for us to get locked to redness is that red things should reliably seem to us as they do, in fact, reliably seem to the visually unimpaired. Correspondingly, all that needs to be innate for REDto be acquired is whatever the mechanisms are that determine that red things strike us as they do; which is to say thatall that needs to be innate is the sensorium. Ditto, mutatis mutandis, for DOORKNOB if being a doorknob is like being red:what has to be innately given to get us locked to doorknobhood is whatever mechanisms are required for doorknobs tocome to strike us as such. Put slightly differently: if the locking story about concept possession and the mind-dependence story about the metaphysics of doorknobhood are both true, then the kind of nativism about DOORKNOBthat an informational atomist has to put up with is perhaps not one of concepts but of mechanisms. That consequence maybe some consolation to otherwise disconsolate Empiricists.

Jean-marc pizano

The model, to repeat, is being red: all that’s required for us to get locked to redness is that red things should reliably seem to us as they do, in fact, reliably seem to the visually unimpaired. Correspondingly, all that needs to be innate for REDto be acquired is whatever the mechanisms are that determine that red things strike us as they do; which is to say thatall that needs to be innate is the sensorium. Ditto, mutatis mutandis, for DOORKNOB if being a doorknob is like being red:what has to be innately given to get us locked to doorknobhood is whatever mechanisms are required for doorknobs tocome to strike us as such. Put slightly differently: if the locking story about concept possession and the mind-dependence story about the metaphysics of doorknobhood are both true, then the kind of nativism about DOORKNOBthat an informational atomist has to put up with is perhaps not one of concepts but of mechanisms. That consequence maybe some consolation to otherwise disconsolate Empiricists.

I suppose the philosophically interesting question about whether there are innate ideas is whether there are innate ideas. It is, after all, the thought that the ‘initial state’ from which concept acquisition proceeds must be specified inintentional terms (terms like ‘content’, ‘belief’, etc.) that connects the issues about concept innateness with theepistemological issues about a prioricity and the like. (By contrast, I suppose the ethologically interesting question is notwhether what’s innate is strictly speaking intentional, but whether it is domain specific and/or species specific. Perhapsyou find the ethologically interesting question more interesting than the philosophically interesting question. Andperhaps you’re right to do so. Still, they are different questions.) Correspondingly, the ‘innate sensorium’ model suggeststhat the question how much is innate in concept acquisition can be quite generally dissociated from the questionwhether any concepts are innate. The sensorium is innate by assumption, and there would quite likely be no acquiringsensory concepts but that this is so. But, to repeat, the innateness of the sensorium isn’t the innateness of anything thathas intentional content. Since the sensorium isn’t an idea, it is a fortiori not an innate idea. So, strictly speaking, theinnate sensorium model of the acquisition of RED doesn’t require that it, or any other concept, be innate.

Jean-marc pizano

To be sure, RED and DOORKNOB could both be innate for all I’ve said so far. But the main motivation for saying that they are is either that one finds inductivist theories of concept acquisition intrinsically attractive, or that noticingthe d/D effect has convinced one that some such theory must be true whether or not it’s attractive. Well, SA blocksthe first motivation. And, as we’ve been seeing, it may be that the explanation of the d/D effect is metaphysical ratherthan psychological. In which case, unless I’ve missed something, there isn’t any obvious reason why the initial state forDOORKNOB acquisition needs to be intentionally specified. A fortiori, there isn’t any obvious reason whyDOORKNOB needs to be innate. NOT EVEN IF IT’S PRIMITIVE. The moral of all this may be that though therehas to be a story to tell about the structural requirements for acquiring DOORKNOB, intentional vocabulary isn’trequired to tell it. In which case, it isn’t part of cognitive psychology.

Not even of “cognitive neuropsychology”, if there is such a thing (which I doubt). Suppose we were able to specify, in neurological vocabulary, the initial state from which DOORKNOB acquisition proceeds. The question would thenarise whether the neurological state so specified is intentional—whether it has conditions of semantic evaluation (and,if so, what they are). So far, we haven’t found a reason for supposing that it does. To be sure, it is an innate, possiblyquite complicated, state from which DOORKNOB may be acquired, given experience of e.g. doorknobs. But this is allneutral as to whether the initial state is an intentional state; it’s all true whether or not the initial state is an intentional state.So it‘s all true whether or not the initial state for DOORKNOB acquisition is in the domain of cognitiveneuropsychology (as opposed, as it were, to neuropsychology tout court).

Jean-marc pizano

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