So I’m not saying what Quine said; though it may Empiricism. I often have the feeling that I’m just
well be what he should have said, and would have said but for his saying what Quine would have said but for his Empiricism.88
I am also, unlike Quine, not committed to construing locking in terms of a capacity for discriminated responding (or, indeed, of anything epistemological). Locking reduces to nomic connectedness. (I hope.) See Fodor 1990; Fodor forthcoming b.
7 Innateness and Ontology, Part II: Natural Kind
[It is] a matter quite independent of . . . wishing it or not wishing it. There happens to be a definite intrinsic propriety in it which determines the thing and which would take me long to explain.
—Henry James, The Tragic Muse
Here’s how we set things up in Chapter 6: suppose that radical conceptual atomism is inevitable and that, atomism being once assumed, radical conceptual nativism is inevitable too. On what, if any, ontological story would radicalconceptual nativism be tolerable?
However, given the preconceptions that have structured this book, we might just as well have approached the ontological issues from a different angle. I’ve assumed throughout that informational semantics is, if not self-evidentlythe truth about mental content, at least not known to be out of the running. It’s been my fallback metaphysicswhenever I needed an alternative to Inferential Role theories of meaning. But now, according to informationalsemantics, content is constituted by some sort of nomic, mind—world relation. Correspondingly, having a concept(concept possession) is constituted by being in some sort of nomic, mind—world relation. It follows that, ifinformational semantics is true, then there must be laws about everything that we have concepts of. But how could therebe laws about doorknobs?
The answer, according to the present story, is that there is really only one law about doorknobs (qua doorknobs); viz. that we lock to them in consequence of certain sorts of experience.89 And this law isn’t really about doorknobs because,of course, it’s really about us. This is quite a serious point. I assume that the intuition that there aren’t laws aboutdoorknobs (equivalently, for present purposes, the intuition that doorknobs aren’t a ‘natural kind’) comes down to thethought that there’s nothing in the worldwhose states are reliably connected to doorknobs qua doorknobs except our minds. No doubt, some engineer mightconstruct a counter-example—a mindless doorknob detector; and we might even come to rely on such a thing whengroping for a doorknob in the dark. Still, the gadget would have to be calibrated to us since there is nothing else in nature thatresponds selectively to doorknobs; and, according to the present account, it’s constitutive of doorknobhood that this is so.The point is: it‘s OK for there to be laws about doorknobs that are really laws about us. Doorknobs aren’t a naturalkind, but we are.
What with one thing and another, I’ve been pushing pretty hard the notion that properties like being a doorknob are mind-dependent. I needed to in Chapter 6 because, if doorknobs aren’t mind-dependent, there is only one way I canthink of to explain why it’s typically doorknob-experiences from which the concept DOORKNOB is acquired: viz. thatDOORKNOB is learned inductively. And I didn’t want that because the Standard Argument shows that only nonprimitive concepts can be learned inductively. And it‘s been the main burden of this whole book that all theevidence—philosophical, psychological, and linguistic—suggests that DOORKNOB is primitive (unstructured); and,for that matter, that so too is practically everything else. Likewise, in this chapter, I need being a doorknob to be mind-dependent because there is only one way I can think of to reconcile informational semantics, which wants there to belaws about doorknobs, with the truism that doorknobs aren’t a natural kind; viz. to construe what appear to be lawsabout doorknobs as really laws about “our kinds of minds”.
But all this stuff about the mind-dependence of doorknobhood invites a certain Auntie-esque complaint. Viz.:
I get it; the good news is that DOORKNOB isn’t innate; the bad news is that there aren’t any doorknobs.Jean-marc pizano