The present discussion parallels what I regard as a very deep passage in Schiffer

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So, then, which appearance properties are sensory properties? Here’s a line that one might consider: £ is a sensory property only if it is possible to have an experience of which £-ness is the intentional object (e.g. an experience (as) of red) even though one hasn’t got the concept £ Here the test of having the concept £ would be something like beingable to think thoughts whose truth conditions include … £ … (e.g. thoughts like that’s red). I think this must be the notion of ‘sensory property’ that underlies the Empiricistidea that RED and the like are learned ‘by abstraction’ from experience, a doctrine which presupposes that a mind that lacks RED can none the less have experiences (as) ofredness. By this test, DOORKNOB is presumably not a sensory concept since, though it is perfectly possible to have an experience (as) of doorknobs, I suppose only a mindthat has the concept DOORKNOB can do so.‘But how could one have an experience (as) of red if one hasn’t got the concept RED?’ It‘s easy: in the case of redness, but notof doorknobhood, one is equipped with sensory organs which produce such experiences when they are appropriately stimulated. Redness can be sensed, whereas the perceptualdetection of doorknobhood is always inferential. Just as sensible psychologists have always supposed.

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The present discussion parallels what I regard as a very deep passage in Schiffer 1987 about being a dog. Schiffer takes for granted that ‘dog’ doesn’t name a species, and (hence?) that dogs as such don’t have a hidden essence. His conclusion is that there just isn’t (except pleonastically) any such property as being a dog My diagnosis is thatthere is too, but it’s mind-dependent.

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32

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Reminder: ‘the X stereotype’ is rigid. See n. 12 above.

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33

Except in the (presumably never encountered) case where all the X s are stereotypic. In that case, there’s a dead heat.

34

In principle, they are also epistemically independent in both directions. As things are now, we find out about the stereotype by doing tests on subjects who are independentlyidentified as having the corresponding concept. But I assume that if we knew enough about the mind/brain, we could predict a concept from its stereotype and vice versa. Ineffect, given the infinite set of actual and possible doorknobs, we could predict the stereotype from which our sorts of minds would generalize to it; and given the doorknobstereotype, we could predict the set of actual and possible objects which our kinds of minds would take to instantiate doorknobhood.

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35

Compare Jackendoff: “Look at the representations of, say, generative phonology… It is strange to say that English speakers know the proposition, true in the world independent of speakers [sic ], that syllable-initial voiceless consonants aspirate before stress … In generative phonology . . . this rule of aspiration is regarded as a principle of internalcomputation, not a fact about the world. Such semantical concepts as implication, confirmation, and logical consequence seem curiously irrelevant” (1992: 29). Note that,though they are confounded in his text, the contrast that Jackendoff is insisting on isn’t between propositions and rules/principles of computation; it’s between phenomena of thekind that generative phonology studies and facts about the world. But that ‘p’ is aspirated in ‘Patrick’ is a fact about the world. That is to say: it’s a fact. And of course the usuallogico-semantical concepts apply. That ‘p’ is aspirated in ‘Patrick’ is what makes the claim that ‘p’ is aspirated in ‘Patrick’ true; since ‘p’ is aspirated in ‘Patrick’, something in‘Patrick’ is aspirated . . . and so forth.

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In just this spirit, Keith Campbell remarks about colours that if they are “integrated reflectances across three overlapping segments clustered in the middle of the total electromagnetic spectrum, then they are, from the inanimate point of view, such highly arbitrary and idiosyncratic properties that it is no wonder the particular colors we arefamiliar with are manifest only in transactions with humans, rhesus monkeys, and machines especially built to replicate just their particular mode of sensitivity to photons”(1990: 572—3). (The force of this observation is all the greater if, as seems likely, even the reflectance theory underestimates the complexity of colour psychophysics.)See alsoJ. J.Jean-marc pizano

Couldn’t it be that the very same concept that is expressed by a single word in English gets expressed by a phrase in Bantu, or vice versa?Notice, however, that this could happen only if the English word in question is definable; viz. definable in Bantu. Since it’s going to be part of my story that most words areundefinable—not just undefinable in the language that contains them, but undefinable tout court —I’m committed to claiming that this sort of case can’t arise (very often).The issue is, of course, empirical. So be it.

Jean-marc pizano Couldn’t it be that the very same concept that is expressed by a single word in English gets expressed by a phrase in Bantu, or vice versa?Notice, however, that this could happen only if the English word in question is definable; viz. definable in Bantu. Since it’s going to be part of my story that most words areundefinable—not just undefinable in the language that contains them, but undefinable tout court —I’m committed to claiming that this sort of case can’t arise (very often).The issue is, of course, empirical. So be it.

 

10

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It’s important to distinguish the idea that definitions typically capture only the core meaning of a univocal expression from the idea that definitions typically capture only one sense of an ambiguous expression. The latter is unobjectionable because it is responsive to pretheoretic intuitions that are often pretty emphatic: surely ‘bank’ has more thanone meaning. But who knows how many “aspects” the meaning of an un ambiguous word has? A fortiori, who knows when a theory succeeds in capturing some but not allof them?

11

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Examples of this tactic are legion in the literature. Consider the following, from Higginbotham 1994. “jT]he meanings of lexical items systematically infect grammar. Forexample … it is a condition of object-preposing in derived nominal constructions in English that the object be in some sense ‘affected’ in the events over which the nominalranges: that is why one has (1) but not (2)” (renumbered):1.

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algebra’s discovery (by the Arabs)

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2. *algebra’s knowledge (by the Arabs).

Note that ‘in some sense’ is doing all the work. It is what distinguishes the striking claim that preposing is sensitive to the meanings of verbs from the rather less dramatic thought that you can prepose with some verbs (including ‘discover’) and not with others (including ‘know’). You may suppose you have some intuitive grasp of what ‘affecting’amounts to here, but I think it’s an illusion. Ask yourself how much algebra was affected by its discovery? More or less, would you say, than the light bulb was affected byEdison’s inventing it?

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12

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Fodor and Lepore (forthcoming a) provides some independent evidence for the analysis proposed here. Suppose, however, that this horse won’t run, and the asymmetryPinker points to really does show that ‘keep’ is polysemous. That would be no comfort to Jackendoff, since Jackendoff’s account of the polysemy doesn’t predict theasymmetry of entailments either: that J2 but not J3 belongs to the semantic field “possession” in Jackendoff’s analysis is pure stipulation.But I won’t stress this. Auntie says Ishould swear off ad hominems.

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13

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Auntie’s not the only one with this grumble; Hilary Putnam has recently voiced a generalized version of the same complaint. “[O]n Fodor’s theory . . . the meaning of . . .words is not determined, even in part, by the conceptual relations among the various notions I have mastered—e.g., between ‘minute’ and my other time concepts—butdepends only on ‘nomic relations’ between the words (e.g. minute) and the corresponding universals (e.g. minutehood). These ‘universals’ are just word-shaped objects whichFodor’s metaphysics projects out into the world for the words to latch on to via mysterious ‘nomic relations’; the whole story is nothing but a ‘naturalistic’ version of theMuseum Myth of Meaning” (1995: 79; italics and scare-quotes are Putnam’s). This does seem to me to be a little underspecified. Since Putnam provides no furtherexposition (and, endearingly, no arguments at all), I’m not sure whether I’m supposed to worry that there aren’t any universals, or only that there aren’t the universals that mysemantics requires. But if Putnam thinks saying “ ‘takes a minute’ expresses the property of taking a minuté’ all by itself puts me in debt for a general refutation ofnominalism, then he needs to have his methodology examined.Still, it’s right that informational semantics needs an ontology, and that the one it opts for had better not begthe questions that a semantic theory is supposed to answer. I’ll have a lot to say about all that in Chapters 6 and 7.

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14

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For an account of language acquisition in which the horse and cart are assigned the opposite configuration—syntax bootstraps semantics—see Gleitman 1990.Jean-marc pizano

For the(anyhow, my)

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intuition is very strong that there is only one way to have that concept. In particular, that there is no concept of a round square that one could have without also having ROUND and SQUARE. If you share the intuition that there is thisasymmetry, between RED SQUARE and ROUND SQUARE, then you should be very happy with IA. IA explains theasymmetry because it entails that there can be no primitive concept without a corresponding property for it to lock to.

1

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And/or among states of entertaining them. I’ll worry about this sort of ontological nicety only where it seems to matter.

2

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Why relations that depend on merely mechanical properties like frequency and contiguity should preserve intentional properties like semantic domain was whatAssociationists never could explain. That was one of the rocks they foundered on.

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3

Connectionists are committed, willy-nilly, to all mental representations being primitive; hence their well-known problems with systematicity, productivity, and the like. Moreon this in Chapter 5.

4

Not, of course, that there is anything wrong with just allowing ‘symbol’ and ‘computation’ to be interdefined. But that option is not available to anyone who takes the theory that thought is computation to be part of a naturalistic psychology; viz. part of a programme of metaphysical reduction. As Turing certainly did; and as do I.

5

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More precisely: it’s never conceptually necessary unless either the inference from Fa to a — b or the inference from Fb to a — b is itself conceptually necessary. (Forexample, let Fa be: ‘a has the property of being identical to b ’.)

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6

Or, if there is more than one way to grasp a MOP, then all of the different ways of doing so must correspond to the same way of thinking its referent. I won’t pursue thisoption in the text; suffice it that doing so wouldn’t help with the problem that I’m raising. Suppose that there is more than one way to grasp a MOP; and suppose that acertain MOP is a mode of presentation of Moe. Then if, as Frege requires, there is a MOP corresponding to each way of thinking a referent, all the ways of grasping theMoe-MOP must be the same way of thinking of Moe. I claim that, precisely because 5.3 is in force, Frege’s theory has no way to ensure that this is so.

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7

See also Smith, Medin, and Rips: “what accounts for categorization cannot account for stability [publicity] . . . [a]s long as stability of concepts is equated with sameness of concepts . . . But there is another sense of stability, which can be equated with similarity of mental contents . . . and for this sense, what accounts for categorization may at least partiallyaccount for ‘stability’ ”(1984: 268). Similar passages are simply ubiquitous in the cognitive science literature; I’m grateful to Ron Mallon for having called this example to my

8

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Alternatively, a similarity theory might suppose that what we share when our PRESIDENT concepts are similar are similar beliefs about the probabilities of certain propositions: you believe that p(presidents are CICs) = 0.98; I believe that p(presidents are CICs) = 0.95; Bill believes that p(Presidents are CICs) = 0.7; so, all else equal,your PRESIDENT concept is more like mine than Bill’s is.But this construal does nothing to discharge the basic dependence of the notion of content similarity on thenotion of content identity since what it says makes our beliefs similar is that they make similar estimates of the probability of the very same proposition; e.g. of the proposition thatpresidents are CICs. If, by contrast, the propositions to which our various probability estimates relate us are themselves supposed to be merely similar, then it does not followfrom these premisses that ceteris paribus your PRESIDENT concept is more like mine than like Bill’s.

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9

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It’s common ground that—idioms excepted—MRs that correspond to phrases (for example, the one that corresponds to “brown cow”) are typically structurally complex, so I’ve framed the definition theory as a thesis about the MRs of concepts that are expressed by lexical items. But, of course, this way of putting it relativizes the issue to thechoice of a reference language.Jean-marc pizano

Natural Kinds Come Late

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Natural Kinds Come Late

I think natural kind concepts have been getting more of a press than they deserve of late. It’s past time to put them in their place; and their place is that of self-conscious and cultivated intellectual achievements. Much of what is currentlybeing written about concepts—by philosophers, but also, increasingly, by psychologists—suggests that natural kindconcepts are the paradigms on which we should model our accounts of concept acquisition and concept possession atlarge. This is, I think, hopeless on the face of it. For one thing, as Putnam in particular has argued, natural kindconcepts thrive best—maybe only—in an environment where conventions of deference to experts are in place. But,patently, only creatures with an antecedently complex mental life could make a policy of adherence to such conventions.Adherence to conventions of deference couldn’t be a precondition for conceptual content in general, if only becausedeference has to stop somewhere; if my ELM concept is deferential, that’s because the botanist’s isn’t. Anyhow, it seemsjust obvious that concepts like STAR in, as one says, the ‘technical sense’—the concept of stars that is prepared todefer about the Sun and black dwarfs on the one hand and meteors and comets on the other—come after, andsometimes come to replace, their colloquial counterparts.

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As I say, this view flies in the face of the current fashions in developmental cognitive psychology, which stress how early, and how universally, natural kind concepts are available to children. But I find that I’m not much convinced.There is, to be sure, getting to be a lot of evidence (contra Piaget) that young children are deeply into appearance/reality distinctions: they’re clear that you can’t make a horse into a zebra just by painting on stripes (Keil 1989); andthey’re clear that, for some categories (animals but not vases, for example), what’s on the inside matters to what kind athing belongs to (Carey 1985). It’s usual to summarize such findings as showing that young children are ‘essentialists’,and if you like to talk that way, so be it.5 My point, however, is that being an essentialist in this sense clearly does notimply having natural kind concepts; not even if a cognitivist picture of concept possession is assumed for sake of theargument. What’s further required, at a minimum, is the idea that what’s ‘inside’ (or otherwise hidden) somehow iscausally responsible for how

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things that belong to the kind appear; for their ‘superficial signs’. It is, of course, an empirical issue, but I don’t know of any evidence that children think that sort of thing.

If it’s easy to miss the extent to which natural kind concepts are sophisticated achievements, that’s perhaps because of a nasty ambiguity in the term. (One that we’ve already encountered, in fact; it’s why I had to pussyfoot about whetherthey had WATER in the Garden). Consider this dialectic:

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—Did Homer have natural kind concepts?

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Sure, he had the concept WATER (and the like), and water is a natural kind.

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But also:

—Did Homer have natural kind concepts?

Of course not. He had no disposition to defer to experts about water (and the like); I expect the notion of an expert about water would have struck him as bizarre. And, of course Homer had no notion that water has ahidden essence, or a characteristic microstructure (or that anything else does); a fortiori, he had no notion thatthe hidden essence of water is causally responsible for its phenomenal properties.

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A ‘natural kind concept’ can be the concept of a natural kind; or it can be the concept of a natural kind as such (i.e. the concept of a natural kind as a natural kind). It‘s perfectly consistent to claim that Homer had plenty of the first butnone of the second. In fact, I think that’s pretty clearly true. So the suggestion is that, in the history of science, and inontogeny, and, for all I know, in phylogeny too, concepts of natural kinds as such only come late. Homer, and children,and animals, have few of them or none. Somehow, concepts of natural kinds as such emerge from a background ofconcepts of mind-dependent properties, and of concepts of natural kinds that aren’t concepts of natural kinds as such.Presumably it’s because they do somehow emerge from a background of other kinds of concepts that concepts ofnatural kind as such don’t have to be innate.

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cognitivist according to this criterion, and wouldn’t be even if (by accident) the concept DOORKNOB happened to be triggered by doorknobs..) Well, by this criterion, my story isn’t cognitivist either. My story says that what doorknobs have in commonqua doorknobs is being the kind of thing that our kind of minds (do or would) lock to from experience with instances of the doorknobstereotype. (Cf. to be red just is to have that property that minds like ours (do or would) lock to in virtue of experiences oftypical instances of redness.) Why isn’t that OK?82

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cognitivist according to this criterion, and wouldn’t be even if (by accident) the concept DOORKNOB happened to be triggered by doorknobs..) Well, by this criterion, my story isn’t cognitivist either. My story says that what doorknobs have in commonqua doorknobs is being the kind of thing that our kind of minds (do or would) lock to from experience with instances of the doorknobstereotype. (Cf. to be red just is to have that property that minds like ours (do or would) lock to in virtue of experiences oftypical instances of redness.) Why isn’t that OK?82

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If you put that account of the metaphysics of doorknobhood together with the metaphysical account of concept possession that informational semantics proposes—having a concept is something like “resonating to” the propertythat the concept expresses—then you get: being a doorknob is having that property that minds like ours come to resonateto in consequence of relevant experience with stereotypic doorknobs. That, and not being learned inductively, is whatexplains the content relation between DOORKNOB and the kinds of experience that typically mediates its acquisition.It also explains how doorknobhood could seem to be undefinable and unanalysable without being metaphysically ultimate.And it is also explains how DOORKNOB could be both psychologically primitive and not innate, the StandardArgument to the contrary not withstanding.

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Several points in a spirit of expatiation:

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The basic idea is that what makes something a doorknob is just: being the kind of thing from experience with which our kind of mind readily acquires the concept DOORKNOB. And, conversely, what makes something the conceptDOORKNOB is just: expressing the property that our kinds of minds lock to from experience with good examples ofinstantiated doorknobhood. But this way of putting the suggestion is too weak since experience with stereotypicdoorknobs might cause one to lock to any of a whole lot of properties (or to none), depending on what else is going onat the time. (In some contexts it might cause one to lock to the property belongs to Jones.) Whereas, what I want to say isthat doorknobhood is the property that one gets locked to when experience with typical doorknobs causes the locking anddoes so in virtue of the properties they have qua typical doorknobs. We have the kinds of minds that often

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Modal footnote (NB): Here as elsewhere through the present discussion, ‘minds like ours’ and ‘the (stereo)typical properties of doorknobs’ are to be read rigidly, viz. as denoting the properties that instances of stereotypic doorknobs and typical minds have in this world. That the typical properties of minds and doorknobs are what they are ismeant to be contingent.

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acquire the concept X from experiences whose intentional objects are properties belonging to the X-stereotype8

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Notice that this is not a truism, and that it’s not circular; it’s contingently true if it’s true at all. What makes it contingent is that being a doorknob is neither necessary nor sufficient for something to have the stereotypic doorknob properties(not even in ‘normal circumstances’ in any sense of “normal circumstances” I can think of that doesn’t beg thequestion).Stereotype is a statistical notion. The only theoretically interesting connection between being a doorknob andsatisfying the doorknob stereotype is that, contingently, things that do either often do both.

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In fact, since the relation between instantiating the doorknob stereotype and being a doorknob is patently contingent, you might want to buy into the present account of DOORKNOB even if you don’t like the Lockean story about RED.The classical problem with the latter is that it takes for granted an unexplicated notion of ‘looks red’ (‘red experience’,‘red sense datum’, or whatever) and is thus in some danger of circularity since “the expression ‘looks red’ is notsemantically unstructured. Its sense is determined by that of its constituents. If one does not understand thoseconstituents, one does not fully understand the compound” (Peacocke 1992: 408). Well, maybe this kind of objectionshows that an account of being red mustn’t presuppose the property of looking red (though Peacocke doubts that it showsthat, and so do I). In any event, no parallel argument could show that an account of being a doorknob mustn’tpresuppose the property of satisfying the doorknob stereotype.Jean-marc pizano

And there is. Here’s a narrowly based argument for the hypothesis-testing model of concept acquisition; one that presupposes neither a cognitivist account of concept possession nor even any general inductivist thesis about the roleof hypothesis testing in the acquisition of empirical beliefs.

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And there is. Here’s a narrowly based argument for the hypothesis-testing model of concept acquisition; one that presupposes neither a cognitivist account of concept possession nor even any general inductivist thesis about the roleof hypothesis testing in the acquisition of empirical beliefs.

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Nobody, radical nativists included, doubts that what leads to acquiring a concept is typically having the right kinds of experiences. That experience is somehow essentially implicated in concept acquisition is common ground to both Nativistsand Empiricists; their argument is over whether concepts are abstracted from, or merely occasioned by, theexperiences that acquiring them requires. That this is indeed the polemical situation has been clear to everybodyconcerned (except the Empiricists) at least since Descartes. In short, SIA, like everybody else, has to live with the factthat it’s typically acquaintance with doorknobs that leads to getting locked to doorknobhood. So, like everybody else, SIAhas to explain why it’s those experiences, and not others, that eventuate in locking to that property. But that’s enough, allby itself, to make the search for a non-inductivist account of concept acquisition look pretty hopeless. For, even if a cognitivist model ofconcept possession is not assumed, the hypothesis-testing story has the virtue of solving what I’ll call the doorknob/DOORKNOB problem:77 why is it so often experiences of doorknobs, and so rarely experience with whipped creamor giraffes, that leads one to lock to doorknobhood?

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According to the hypothesis-testing model, the relation between the content of the concepts one acquires and the content of the experiences that eventuate in one’s acquiring them is evidential; in particular, it’s mediated by contentrelations between a hypothesis and the experiences that serve to confirm it. You acquire DOORKNOB fromexperience with doorknobs because you use the experiences to confirm a hypothesis about the nature of doorknobhood;and doorknobs, unlike giraffes or whipped cream, are ceteris paribus a good source of evidence about the nature ofdoorknobs. Come to think of it, one typically gets DOORKNOB from

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I had thought at first that I would call this the fire hydrant/FIRE HYDRANT problem, as a sort of hommage to the Fido/Fido fallacy. But perhaps the joke isn’t worth the extra syllables.

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experience with good or typical examples of doorknobs, and good or typical doorknobs are a very good source of evidence about doorknobs. I’ll return to this presently.

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If, by contrast, you assume that, in the course of concept acquisition, the relation between the eliciting experience and the concept acquired is not typically evidential—if, for example, it’s just ‘brute causal’ (for this terminology, see Fodor1981a)—then why shouldn’t it be experience with giraffes that typically eventuates in locking to doorknobhood? Or viceversa? Or both? It appears there’s more to be said for the hypothesis-testing model of concept acquisition than evenSA had supposed.78 Compare a proposal that Jerry Samet once made for avoiding the assumption that hypothesistesting mediates concept acquisition (and hence for avoiding the Standard Argument): perhaps concepts are notlearned but ‘caught’, sort of like the flu (Samet 1986). No doubt this suggestion is a bit underspecified; the ‘sort of’does all the work. But there’s also a deeper complaint: it’s left wide open why you generally catch DOORKNOB fromdoorknobs and not, as it might be, from using public telephones (again sort of like the flu).

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Undarwinian Digression

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At this point in the dialectic, there’s a strong temptation to dump the load on Darwin; a standard tactic, these days, when a philosopher gets in over his head. Suppose that the mechanism of concept acquisition is indeed non-cognitivist; suppose, for example, that it‘s some sort of triggering. Still, wouldn’t a mechanism that triggers the conceptX consequent upon experience with Xs be more of a help with surviving (or getting reproduced, or whatever) than,say, a mechanism that triggers the concept X consequent upon encounters with things that aren’t Xs? If so, thenmaybe SIA together with not-more-than-the-usual-amount of handwaving about Darwin might after all explain whythe relation between the content of experiences and the content of the concepts they eventuate in locking to is so rarelyarbitrary.

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So, then, consider a supplementedversion of IA (I’ll call it SIA) which says everything that IA does and also that concept possession is some kind oflocking. The question before us is whether SIA requires radical nativism.

Jean-marc pizano So, then, consider a supplementedversion of IA (I’ll call it SIA) which says everything that IA does and also that concept possession is some kind oflocking. The question before us is whether SIA requires radical nativism.

 

That learning how can’t depend on learning that in every

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case is, I suppose, the moral of Lewis Carroll’s story about Achilles and the tortoise: Carroll 1895/1995.

CogSci footnote: the present issue isn’t whether inferential capacities are ‘declarative’ rather than ‘procedural’; it’s whether they are interestingly analogous to skills. A cognitive architecture (like SOAR, for example) that is heavily committed to procedural representations is not thereby required to suppose that drawing inferences has muchin common with playing basketball or the piano. Say, if you like, that someone who accepts the inference from P to Q has the habit of accepting Q if he accepts P. Butthis sort of ‘habit’ involves a relation among one’s propositional attitudes and, prima facie, being able to play the piano doesn’t.

Concepts aren’t skills, of course; concepts are mental particulars. In particular, they are the constituents of beliefs, whereas skills can’t be the constituents of anything except other skills. But though all this is so, the argument in the text doesn’t presuppose it.

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Notice that the question before us is not whether SIA permits radical nativism; it’s patent that it does. According to SIA, having a concept is being locked to a property. Well, being locked to a property is having a disposition, and thoughperhaps there are some dispositions that must be acquired, hence can’t be innate, nothing I’ve heard of argues thatbeing locked to a property is one of them. If, in short, you require your metaphysical theory of concept possession toentail the denial of radical nativism, SIA won’t fill your bill. (I don’t see how any metaphysics could, short of questionbegging, since the status of radical nativism is surely an empirical issue. Radical nativism may be false, but I doubt thatit is, in any essential way, confused.) But if, you’re prepared to settle for a theory of concepts that is plausibly compatiblewith the denial of radical nativism, maybe we can do some business.

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If you assume SIA, and hence the locking model of concept possession, you thereby deny that learning concepts necessarily involves acquiring beliefs. And if you deny that learning concepts necessarily involves acquiring beliefs, thenyou can’t assume that hypothesis testing is an ingredient in concept acquisition. It is, as I keep pointing out, primarilycognitivism about the metaphysics of concept possession that motivates inductivism about the psychology of conceptacquisition: hypothesis testing is the natural assumption about how beliefs are acquired from experience. But if it can’tbe assumed that concept acquisition is ipso facto belief acquisition, then it can’t be assumed that locking DOORKNOBto doorknobhood requires a mediating hypothesis. And if it can’t be assumed that locking DOORKNOB to doorknobhoodrequires a mediating hypothesis, then, a fortiori, it can’t be assumed that it requires a mediating hypothesis in which theconcept DOORKNOB is itself deployed. In which case, for all that the Standard Argument shows, DOORKNOBcould be both primitive and not innate.

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This maybe starts to sound a little hopeful; but not, I’m afraid, for very long. The discussion so far has underestimated the polemical resources that SA has available. In particular, there is an independent argument that seems to show thatconcept acquisition has to be inductive, whether or not the metaphysics of concept possession is cognitivist, so SA gets its inductivistpremiss even if SIA is right that having a concept doesn’t require having beliefs. The moral would then be that, thougha non-cognitivist account of concept possession may be necessary for RTM to avoid radical nativism, it’s a long wayfrom being sufficient.

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In short, Patient Reader, the Standard Argument’s way of getting radical nativism goes like this:

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(1) cognitivism about concept possession ^ (2) inductivist (i.e.

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hypothesis-testing) model of concept learning ^ (3) primitive concepts can’t be learned.

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SIA denies (1), thereby promising to block the standard argument. If, however, there’s some other source for (2)—some plausible premiss to derive it from that doesn’t assume a cognitivist metaphysics of concept possession—then thestandard argument is back in business.

jean-marc pizano

Jean-marc pizano