Fine. So now all I owe you is a story about what “emerging” comes to: and I have to tell this story in a way that an informational semantics can tolerate, viz. without assuming that there is more to concept possession than locking evenin the case of bona fide, full-blown, natural kind concepts as such. Then I get to go sailing.
I’ll start with natural kind concepts and informational semantic and just let the “emerging” emerge.
Natural Kinds and Informational Semantics
We’ve just distinguished between merely having a natural kind concept and having a natural kind concept as such. What I’m asking now is whether an atomistic informational semantics can honour that distinction. And I’m inviting you to share myconcern that, prima facie, it cannot. Prima facie an informational semantics has to say that whether you have theconcept WATER is a matter of whether you are locked to water; if you are then you do, and if you aren’t then youdon’t. Whereas (still prima facie) having WATER as a full-blown natural kind concept requires also having, forexample, concepts like MICROSTRUCTURE and HIDDEN ESSENCE and NATURAL KIND. Atomism andinformational semantics are natural allies, and it’s been my strategy throughout to enlist each in the other’s service. Butmaybe we’ve come to where their joint resources run out. If the possession conditions for full-blown natural-kind-as-such concepts invoke the possession conditions of concepts like NATURAL KIND, then they aren’t atomistic.
So, the issue is how an informational semantics should treat full-blown natural kind terms. That’s a large topic, and I wish I didn’t have to think about it. For what it’s worth, however, here’s a sketch of a story: whether Homer had the(our) concept WATER doesn’t depend on what other concepts he had (on whether he had HIDDEN ESSENCE andMICROSTRUCTURE, for example). Rather, it depends on whether he was locked to water as such; or was merelylocked to water in any reasonably nearby world.
Homer had (and children and animals have) a concept that is locked to water via its familiar phenomenological properties; via its ‘superficial signs’. So the locking Homer had was reliable only in worlds where water has the familiarphenomenological properties; which is to say only in nomologically possible worlds near ours. That is, I suppose, theusual, pretheoretic way of having a natural kind concept. The kind-constituting property is a hidden essence and youget locked to it via phenomenological properties the having of which is (roughly) nomologically necessary andsufficient for something to instantiate the kind. This explains, by the way, why concepts like WATER exhibit the d/Deffect. WATER, like DOORKNOB, is typically learned from its instances; but that’s not, of course, because being wateris mind-dependent. Rather, it’s because you typically lock to being water via its superficial signs; and, in point ofnomological necessity, water samples are the only things around in which those superficial signs inhere.
So much for the pretheoretic way of having natural kind concepts. By contrast, our official, full-blown, chemical concept of water is post-theoretic.
For us (but not for Homer), WATER is a concept whose locking to water is mediated by our adherence to a theory about what water is. Since, by assumption, this theory that we adhere to is true, the locking depends on a property thatwater has in every metaphysically possible world, not just in nomologically possible worlds that are near here. We’relocked to water via a theory that specifies its essence, so we’re locked to water in every metaphysically possible world. That, I’msuggesting, is what an informational semanticist should say that it is to have a concept of a natural kind as a naturalkind: it’s for the mechanism that effects the locking not to depend on the superficial signs of the kind, and hence tohold (ceteris paribus of course) even in possible worlds where members of the kind lacks those signs.
So, does this, or doesn’t it, amount to Homer’s having had the same concept of water that we do? Did they or didn’t they have the concept WATER back in the Garden?