Jean-marc pizano But not, according to the present view, on one’s having any particular perceptual capacity (remember HelenKeller). Nor could the dependence of concept possession upon perceptual capacities turn out to be principled.Informational semantics says that a (certain kind of) nomic relation between DOGs and doghood, however mediated,suffices for content. But ‘however mediated’ should be read to include, in principle, nomic relations that aren’tmediated at all. There is nothing in informational semantics that stops content-making laws from being basic. For thatmatter, I suppose there’s nothing in metaphysics that stops any law from being basic; it’s just a fact about the world thatthe ones that are and the ones that aren’t aren’t. That being so, the centrality of perceptual mechanisms in mediatingthe meaning-making laws is also just a fact about the world, and not a fact about the metaphysics of content.Presumably God’s thoughts could have immediate semantic access to dogs: The law according to which His DOG-tokens are controlled by instantiated doghood could be basic for all that informational theology cares.
I pause to underline this last point: it is, I think, a great virtue of informational semantics that, unlike any version of Empiricism, it denies a constitutive status to the relation between content and perception. If you try to list the sorts ofperceptual environments in which dog-thoughts are likely to arise in a perceiver if he has the concept DOG at all, youwill find that the list is, on the one hand, open-ended and, on the other hand, closely dependent on what the perceiverhappens to know about, believe about, or want from, dogs. And if you try to list the sorts of perceptual environmentsin which dog-thoughts must arise if a creature has the concept DOG, you will find that there aren’t any: no landscape iseither so barren, or so well lit, that it is metaphysically impossible to fail to notice whether it contains a dog. That, in somecircumstances, perception primitively compels one to think of dogs is a psychophysical fact of capital significance:perception is one of the core mechanisms by which one’s semantic access to dogs is sustained. But the necessity of theconnection between having the concept and having perceptually driven dog-thoughtsis itself empirical, not metaphysical. It entails no constitutive constraints either on the content of one’s concept, or onthe conditions for possessing it. If informational semantics is anywhere near to being right, Empiricism is dead.
OK; kindly hold onto all that. There’s one more ingredient I want to add.
Back in 1983, Putnam wrote a paper about analyticity that one can see in retrospect to have been motivated by many of the same considerations that I’ve been discussing here. Putnam was an early enthusiast for Quine’s polemic againstanalyticities, definitions, constitutive conceptual connections, and the like. But he was worried about bachelors beingunmarried and Tuesdays coming before Wednesdays. These struck Putnam as boringly analytic in a way that F = MA,or even dogs are animals, is not. So Putnam had trouble viewing Tuesday before Wednesday and the like as bona fide cases oftheoretical centrality; and, as remarked above, theoretical centrality was all Quine had on offer to explain why sometruths seem to be conceptual. Putnam therefore proposed to tidy up after Quine.
Strictly speaking, according to Putnam, there are definitions, analyticities, and constitutive conceptual connections after all. But that there are isn’t philosophically interesting since they won’t do any of the heavy duty epistemological ormetaphysical work that philosophers have had in mind for them, and that they won’t is intrinsic to the nature ofconceptual connection. According to Putnam’s story, analyticity works only for concepts that lack centrality; only forconcepts that fail to exhibit any substantial intricacy of attachment to the rest of the web of belief; in short, only forconcepts that lack precisely what philosophers care about about concepts. The very facts that permit there to beconceptual truths about bachelors and Tuesdays prohibit there being such truths in the case of more amusing conceptslike DOG, CAUSE, or TRIANGLE; to say nothing of PHYSICAL OBJECT, GOD, PROTON, or GOOD. So,anyhow, Putnam’s story was supposed to make it turn out.