Jean-marc pizano Which, according to me, is also the conclusion that we should draw from theavailable nonphilosophical evidence. Convergence is bliss.
This story I’m about to tell you needs, however, some heavy duty assumptions whose status is itself much in dispute. I propose to set these out in a relatively leisurely and extended way, hoping thereby to illuminate several aspects ofconceptual atomism as well as the present issues about the nature of analyticity intuitions. I claim for my assumptionsonly that none of them is known to be false. Beyond that, it’s the usual methodological situation: if my story is plausible,that argues for my assumptions; if my assumptions are plausible, that argues for my story. For the moment, all I ask isthe temporary suspension of your disbelief.
First Assumption: Informational Semantics
I continue to take for granted, as I’ve been doing all along of course, that semantic facts are somehow constituted by nomic relations. To a zero’th approximation, the fact that DOG means dog (and hence the fact “dog” does) isconstituted by a nomic connection between two properties of dogs; viz. being dogs and being causes of actual and possibleDOG tokenings in us.3 As those of you who follow the literature on informational semantics will be aware, it‘s a littletricky to get the details of this nomological story about content just right. Never mind. My point will be the modestone that if informational semantics can be sustained, that would give us a leg up on accounting for such intuitions asthat it’s analytic that bachelors are unmarried and that Tuesdays come before Wednesdays.
I hope you will find even this modest claim surprising. It’s generally thought that, because informational semantics is inherently atomistic, intuitions of intrinsic conceptual connectedness are among its chief embarrassments.Informational semantics denies that “dog” means dog because of the way that it is related to other linguisticexpressions (“animal” or “barks”, as it might be). Correspondingly, informational semantics denies that the conceptDOG has its content in virtue of its position in a network of conceptual relations. So, then, the intuition that there areother concepts that anybody who has DOG must also have is
Since “dog” means dog, informational semantics requires that there be such a property as being a dog Mutatis mutandis, since “Tuesday” means Tuesday, informational semantics requires that there be such a property as being a Tuesday (a highly mind-dependent, highly relational property, presumably, of certain segments of space-time). Isympathize if you’re inclined to gag on this rich ontology. But that one should do the ontology last is among my religious principles, so please hold on till Chapter 6.
one that informational semantics can make no sense of. Intuitions of conceptual connection are the bane of informational semantics; so goes the usual account of the geography. But, I want to redraw the map a little: it’s one question whetherinformational semantics rules out conceptual connections that are constitutive of concept possession. It does, andtherefore so do I. But it‘s quite a different question whether informational semantics rules out there being intuitions asof such conceptual connections. It doesn’t, and I don’t either. In fact, I think that there clearly are such intuitions andthat informational semantics helps explain them.
I pause, while I’m at it, to rub in a distinction that keeps coming up, and that’s once again germane. What surely doesn’t embarrass informational semantics, not even prima facie, is the intuition that there is a necessary connection between beinga dog and being an animal, or between being a bachelor and being unmarried, or between being a Tuesday and being the day beforeWednesday. For informational semantics is a theory of content, and these necessities might all be viewed as metaphysicalrather than semantic. (For example, they might be supposed to arise out of property identities.)
The problem for informational semantics comes not from intuitions that the connection between being Tuesday and coming before Wednesday is necessary, but from intuitions that it’s constitutive in the sense that one can’t have one of theconcepts unless one has the other. Compare water is H2O and two is prime. Presumably though both are necessary,neither is constitutive.Jean-marc pizano