Jean-marc pizano Two of these are particularly relevant. The first is familiar and quite general (see Chapter 1 andFodor and Lepore 1992) and I won’t go on about it here. Suffice it that if the individuation of concepts is literallyrelativized to whole belief systems, then no two people, and no two time slices of a given person, are ever subsumed bythe same intentional generalizations, and the prospects for robust theories in intentional psychology are negligible.
But I do want to say a word or so about the second objection, which is that holism about content individuation doesn’t square with key principles of the theory theory itself. Consider, in particular, the idea that new concepts get introduced,in the course of theory change, by a kind of implicit theoretical definition. In all the examples I’ve heard of, a theorycan be used to effect the implicit definition of a new term only if at least some of its vocabulary is isolated from meaningchanges of the sorts that holists say that concept introduction brings about. That’s hardly surprising. Intuitively, implicitdefinition determines the meaning of a new term by determining its inferential relations to terms in the host theorythat are presumed to be previously understood. It is, to put it mildly, hard to see how this could work if introducing a newconcept into a theory ipso facto changes what all the old terms mean. For then the expressions by reference to which theneologism is introduced aren’t ‘previously understood’ after all: they are just homophones of the previously understoodexpressions.23
Consider, for a familiar example, the introduction by implicit definition of a logical constant like ‘A’. The idea is that to determine that ‘A’ has the same sense as the (truth conditional, inclusive) English ‘or’, it’s sufficient to stipulate that:
But the plausibility of claiming that these stipulations determine that ‘A’ means ‘or’ depends on supposing that they preserve the standard interpretations of ‘’ (= conjunction), ‘D(= negation), and ‘^’ (= truth-functional implication).That, however, implies that the interpretation of ‘’, H, and ‘^’ must be assumed to be isolated from whatever meaningchanges adding ‘A’ to the host theory is supposed to bring about; an assumption that is contrary, apparently, to theholist thesis that the semantic effects of theory change reverberate throughout the vocabulary of the theory. (I say thatit’s ‘apparently contrary to the holist thesis because I know of no formulation of semantic holism that is preciseenough to yield unequivocal entailments about which changes of theory effect which changes of meaning.)
This isn’t just a technical problem; texts that flout it tend to defy coherent exegesis. Consider, for one example among very many, Gopnik’s suggestion24 that
An ‘object’ is a theoretical entity which explains sequences of what (for lack of a better term) we might call object-appearances at the evidential level… At the very earliest stage infants seem to have a few rules about the relations between their own actions and object-appearances, for example, infants seem to know that objects disappear whenyou turn away from them and reappear when you turn back to them. (1988: 205)
(and so forth, mutatis mutandis, for further ‘rules’ that the child gets later).
How are we to interpret this passage? Notice the tell-tale aporia (where are you, Jacques Derrida, now that we need you?). The rule with which the infants are credited is said to be about “relations between their own actions and object-appeamncei’ (my emphasis). But, when an instance of such a rule is offered, it turns out to be that “objects [my emphasis]disappear when you turn away from them”. Question: what does ‘objects’ mean in this rule? In particular, what does itmean to the infant who, we’re supposing, learns the concept OBJECT by a process that involves formulating andadopting the rule?25 If it means object-appearances, then (quite aside from traditional worries about how an appearancecould reappear) it doesn’t do what Gopnik wants; since it specifies a relation among object-appearances, it doesn’t givethe infant information about the relation between objects and object-appearances.
So, maybe ‘object’ means theoretical entity which explains sequences of what (for lack of a better term) we might call object-appearances at the evidential level.Jean-marc pizano