Jean-marc pizano See below.) Now, the status of conceptual atomism depends, rather directly, on whether coreferenceimplies synonymy. For, if it doesn’t, and if it is inferential role that makes the difference between content and reference,then every concept must have an inferential role. But it’s also common ground that you need more than one concept todraw an inference, so if IRS is true, conceptual atomism isn’t. No doubt this line of thought could use a little polishing,but it’s surely basically sound.
So, then, if I’m going to push for an atomistic theory of concepts, I must not hold that one’s inferential dispositions determine, wholly or in part, the content of one’s concepts. Pure informational semantics allows me not to hold thatone’s inferential dispositions determine the content of one’s concepts because it says that content is constituted,exhaustively, by symbol—world relations.
It’s worth keeping clear on how the relation between concept possession and concept individuation plays out on an informational view: the content of, for example, BACHELOR is constituted by certain (actual and/or counterfactual)causal-cum-nomic relations between BACHELOR-tokenings and tokenings of instantiated bachelorhood. Presumablybachelorhood is itself individuated, inter alia, by the necessity of its relation to being unmarried. So, ‘bachelors are unmarried’is conceptually necessary in the sense that it’s guaranteed by the content of BACHELOR together with themetaphysics of the relevant property relations. It follows, trivially, that having BACHELOR is having a concept whichcan apply only to unmarried things; this is the truism that the interdefinability of concept individuation and conceptpossession guarantees. But nothing at all about the epistemic condition of BACHELOR owners (e.g. about theirinferential or perceptual dispositions or capacities) follows from the necessity of ‘bachelors are unmarried’; it doesn’t evenfollow that you can’t own BACHELOR unless you own UNMARRIED. Informational seman tics permits atomism aboutconcept possession even if (even though) there are conceptually necessary truths.9 This is a sort of point that will recurrepeatedly as we go along.
So much for why I want an informational semantics as part of my RTM. Since it is, of course, moot whether I can have one, the best I can hope for is that this book will convince you that conceptual atomism is OK unless there is adecisive, independent argument against the reduction of meaning to information. I’m quite prepared to settle for thissince I’mpretty sure that there’s no such argument. In fact, I think the dialectic is going to have to go the other way around:what settles the metaphysical issue between informational theories of meaning and inferential role theories of meaningis that the former, but not the latter, are compatible with an atomistic account of concepts. And, as I’ll argue at length,there are persuasive independent grounds for thinking that atomism about concepts must be true.
In fact, I’m going to be more concessive still. Given my view that content is information, I can’t, as we’ve just seen, afford to agree that the content of the concept H2O is different from the content of the concept WATER. But I amentirely prepared to agree that they are different concepts. In effect, I’m assuming that coreferential representations are ipso factosynonyms and conceding that, since they are, content individuation can’t be all that there is to concept individuation.
It may help make clear how I’m proposing to draw the boundaries to contrast the present view with what I take to be a typical Fregean position; one according to which concepts are distinguished along two (possibly orthogonal)parameters; viz. reference and Mode of Presentation. (So, for example, the concept WATER is distinct from the conceptDOG along both parameters, but it‘s distinct from the concept H2O only in respect of the second.) I’ve diverged fromthis sort of scheme only in that some Fregeans (e.g. Frege) identify modes of presentation with senses. By contrast, I’veleft it open what modes of presentation are, so long as they are what distinguish distinct but coreferential concepts. Sofar, then, I’m less extensively committed than a Fregean, but I don’t think that I’m committed to anything that aFregean is required to deny.