Just as it’s possible to dissociate the

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19

Just as it’s possible to dissociate the idea that concepts are complex from the claim that meaning-constitutive inferences are necessary, so too it’s possible to dissociate the idea that concepts are constituted by their roles in inferences from the claim that they are complex. See Appendix 5A.

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20

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More precisely, only with respect to conceptualy necessary inferences. (Notice that neither nomological nor metaphysical necessity will do; there might be laws about brown cows per se, and (who knows?) brown cows might have a proprietary hidden essence.) I don’t know what a Classical IRS theorist should say if it turns out that conceptuallynecessary inferences aren’t ipso facto definitional or vice versa. That, however, is his problem, not mine.

21

They aren’t the only ones, of course. For example, Keil remarks that “Theories . . . make it impossible … to talk about the construction of concepts solely on the basis ofprobabilistic distributions of properties in the world” (1987: 196). But that’s true only on the assumption that theories somehow constitute the concepts they contain. DittoKeil’s remark that “future work on the nature of concepts . . . must focus on the sorts of theories that emerge in children and how these theories come to influence thestructure of the concepts that they embrace” (ibid.).

22

There are exceptions. Susan Carey thinks that the individuation of concepts must be relativized to the theories they occur in, but that only the basic ‘ontological’commitments of a theory are content constitutive. (However, see Carey 1985: 168: “I assume that there is a continuum of degrees of conceptual differences, at the extremeend of which are concepts embedded in incommensurable conceptual systems.”) It’s left open how basic ontological claims are to be distinguished from commitments ofother kinds, and Carey is quite aware that problems about drawing this distinction are depressingly like the analytic/synthetic problems. But in so far as Carey has an accountof content individuation on offer, it does seem to be some version of the Classical theory.

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23

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This point is related, but not identical, to the familiar worry about whether implicit definition can effect a ‘qualitative change’ in a theory’s expressive power: the worry thatdefinitions (implicit or otherwise) can only introduce concepts whose contents are already expressible by the host theory. (For discussion, see Fodor 1975.) It looks to methat implicit definition is specially problematic for meaning holists even if it’s granted that an implicit definition can (somehow) extend the host theory’s expressive power.

24

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I don’t particularly mean to pick on Gopnik; the cognitive science literature is full of examples of the mistake that I’m trying to draw attention to. What’s unusual aboutGopnik’s treatment is just that it’s clear enough for one to see what the problem is.

25

As usual, it’s essential to keep in mind that when a de dicto intentional explanation attributes to an agent knowledge (rules, etc.), it thereby credits the agent with the conceptsinvolved in formulating the knowledge, and thus incurs the burden of saying what concepts they are. See the ‘methodological digression’ in Chapter 2.

26

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This chapter reconsiders some issues about the nativistic commitments of RTMs that I first raised in Fodor 1975 and then discussed extensively in 1981^. Casual familiaritywith the latter paper is recommended as a prolegomenon to this discussion.I’m especially indebted to Andrew Milne and to Peter Grim for having raised (essentially thesame) cogent objections to a previous version.

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27

For discussions that turn on this issue, see Fodor 1986; Antony and Levine 1991; Fodor 1991.

28

Actually, of course, DOORKNOB isn’t a very good example, since it’s plausibly a compound composed of the constituent concepts DOOR and KNOB. But let’s ignorethat for the sake of the discussion.

29

Well, maybe the acquisition of PROTON doesn’t; it’s plausible that PROTON is not typically acquired from its instances. So, as far as this part of the discussion is concerned, you are therefore free to take PROTON as a primitive concept if you want to. But I imagine you don’t want to.Perhaps, in any case, it goes without saying thatthe fact that the d/D effect is widespread in concept acquisition is itself contingent and a posteriori.

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So I’m not saying what Quine said; though it may Empiricism. I often have the feeling that I’m just

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So I’m not saying what Quine said; though it may Empiricism. I often have the feeling that I’m just

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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.

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7 Innateness and Ontology, Part II: Natural Kind

Concepts

[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

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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”.

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But all this stuff about the mind-dependence of doorknobhood invites a certain Auntie-esque complaint. Viz.:

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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

Linguistic footnote : as far as I can tell, linguists just take it for granted that the data that set a parameter in the course of language learning should generally bear some natural, unarbitrary relation to the value of the parameter that they set. It’s hearing sentences without subjects that sets the null subject parameter (maybe); what could be morereasonable? But, on second thought, the notion of triggering as such, unlike the notion of hypothesis testing as such, requires no particular relation between the state that’sacquired and the experience that occasions its acquisition. In principle any trigger could set any parameter. So, prima facie, it is an embarrassment for the triggering theory if thegrammar that the child acquires is reasonable in light of his data. It may be that here too the polemical resources of the hypothesis-testing model have been less than fullyappreciated.

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Linguistic footnote : as far as I can tell, linguists just take it for granted that the data that set a parameter in the course of language learning should generally bear some natural, unarbitrary relation to the value of the parameter that they set. It’s hearing sentences without subjects that sets the null subject parameter (maybe); what could be morereasonable? But, on second thought, the notion of triggering as such, unlike the notion of hypothesis testing as such, requires no particular relation between the state that’sacquired and the experience that occasions its acquisition. In principle any trigger could set any parameter. So, prima facie, it is an embarrassment for the triggering theory if thegrammar that the child acquires is reasonable in light of his data. It may be that here too the polemical resources of the hypothesis-testing model have been less than fullyappreciated.

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Well, maybe. But, of course, that’s cold comfort if what you want is a non-nativist version of SIA. You can only trigger a concept that’s there, genetically specified, waiting to be triggered. So the Darwinian/ethological story about conceptacquisition does no better than the old-fashioned hypothesis-testing story at making DOORKNOB not be innate. Outof one frying pan but into another; ethologists are nativists by definition.

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And, anyhow, even if the doorknob/DOORKNOB relation is selected for by evolution, what, if not inductive learning, could be the mechanism by which it is implemented? If concept acquisition isn’t inductive, then how doesMother Nature contrive to insure that it is instances of F-ness (and not of G-ness) that trigger the concept F in the courseof ontogeny? After all, if Mother N wants to select for the doorknob/DOORKNOB type of relation betweenconcepts and their experiential causes, she has to do so by selecting a mechanism that produces that relation between one’sconcepts and their causes. This is a special case of the entirely general truth that whenever Mother N wants to selectfor any phenotypic property she has to do so by selecting a proximal mechanism that produces it. The obviouscandidate to select if one wants to ensure that concept acquisition exhibits the d/D relation is inductive learning. Butwe have it on independent grounds that primitive concepts can’t be learned inductively. There may be a way for aconceptual atomist to get out of this dilemma, but waving his hands about Darwin certainly isn’t it.

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The preliminary moral, anyhow, is that radical nativism is very hard for a conceptual atomist to avoid. If he starts out thinking about concept acquisition the way Empiricists do—as a kind of hypothesis testing—radical concept nativismfollows; and if he starts out thinking about concept acquisition the way that ethologists do—as a kind oftriggering—radical concept nativism still follows. It looks like a conceptual atomist ends up being a radical conceptnativist pretty much however he starts out thinking about concept acquisition. So maybe conceptual atomism is justfalse.

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Or maybe radical concept nativism is true, despite its wide unpopularity in the philosophical community. Speaking just as a private citizen, I’ve always sort of thought it wouldn’t be all that surprising if radical concept nativism did turn outto be true. So it didn’t much embarrass me that all the roads from concept atomism seemed to lead there. It is, after all,God and not philosophers who gets to decide what creatures have genotypically built in. That is surely much the bestarrangement from the creature’s point of view.

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So, in any case, it seemed to me in 1975 or so. But maybe this relaxed stance won’t do after all. The problem with the theory that the primitive concepts are learned inductively was that it’s circular. But now we seem to

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have an apparently respectable argument that they must be learned inductively: nothing else appears likely to account for the content relation between the concept that’s acquired and the experience that mediates its acquisition. But look,it can’t be that inductivism about the acquisition of primitive concepts is both circular and mandatory.

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Please note that, though this is an embarrassment for those of us who are inclined towards atomism, it is also an embarrassment for those of you who aren’t.Jean-marc pizano

The three-year-old who thinks (perhaps out of Quinean scruples) that‘eating is acting’ is true but contingent will do just fine, so long as he’s prepared to allow that contingent truths canhave syntactic reflexes.

Jean-marc pizano The three-year-old who thinks (perhaps out of Quinean scruples) that‘eating is acting’ is true but contingent will do just fine, so long as he’s prepared to allow that contingent truths canhave syntactic reflexes.

 

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So much for the bootstrapping argument. I really must stop this grumbling about lexical semantics. And I will, except for a brief, concluding discussion of Pinker’s handling of (what he calls) ‘Baker’s Paradox’ (after Baker 1979). This tooamounts to a claim that ontogenetic theory needs lexical semantic representations; but it makes quite a different sort ofcase from the one we’ve just been looking at.

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The ‘Baker’s Paradox’ Argument

Pinker thinks that, unless children are assumed to represent ‘eat’ as an action verb (mutatis mutandis, ‘give’ as a verb of prospective possession, etc.). Baker’s Paradox will arise and make the acquisition of lexical syntax unintelligible. I’ll tellyou what Baker’s Paradox is in a moment, but I want to tell you what I think the bottom line is first. I think thatBaker’s Paradox is a red herring in the present context. In fact, I think that it’s two red herrings: on Pinker’s ownempirical assumptions, there probably isn’t a

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Baker’s Paradox about learning the lexicon; and, anyhow, assuming that there is one provides no argument that lexical items have semantic structure. Both of these points are about to emerge.

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Baker’s Paradox, as Pinker understands it, is a knot of problems that turn on the (apparent) fact that children (do or can) learn the lexical syntax of their language without much in the way of overt parental correction. Pinker discerns,“three aspects of the problem [that] give it its sense of paradox”, these being the child’s lack of negative evidence, theproductivity of the structures the child learns (“if children simply stuck with the argument structures that wereexemplified in parental speech . . . they would never make errors . . . and hence would have no need to figure out howto avoid or expunge them”), and the “arbitrariness” of the linguistic phenomena that the child is faced with (specifically“near synonyms [may] have different argument structures” (1989: 8—9)). If, for example, the rule of dative movementis productive, and if it is merely arbitrary that you can say ‘John gave the library the book’ but not *‘John donated thelibrary the book’, how, except by being corrected, could the child learn that the one is OK and the other is not?

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That’s a good question, to be sure; but it bears full stress that the three components do not, as stated and by themselves, make Baker’s Paradox paradoxical. The problem is an unclarity in Pinker’s claim that the rules the child isacquiring are ‘productive’. If this means (as it usually does in linguistics) just that the rules are general (they aren’t merelists; they go ‘beyond the child’s data’) then we get no paradox but just a standard sort of induction problem: the childlearns more than the input shows him, and something has to fill the gap. To get a paradox, you have to throw in theassumption that, by and large, children don’t overgeneralize; i.e. that, by and large, they don’t apply the productive rulesthey’re learning to license usages that count as mistaken by adult standards. For suppose that assumption is untrue andthe child does overgeneralize. Then, on anybody’s account, there would have to be some form of correction mechanismin play, endogenous or otherwise, that serves to expunge the child’s errors. Determining what mechanism(s) it is thatserve(s) this function would, of course, be of considerable interest; especially on the assumption that it isn’t parentalcorrection. But so long as the child does something that shows the world that he’s got the wrong rule, there is nothingparadoxical in the fact that information the world provides ensures that he eventually converges on the right one.

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To repeat, Baker’s Paradox is a paradox only if you add ‘no overgeneralizations’ to Pinker’s list. The debilitated form of Baker’s Paradox that you get without this further premiss fails to do what Pinker very much wants Baker’s Paradox todo; viz.Jean-marc pizano

So I’m not saying what Quine said; though it may Empiricism. I often have the feeling that I’m just

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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

Concepts

[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?

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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”.

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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

Just as it’s possible to dissociate the

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19

Just as it’s possible to dissociate the idea that concepts are complex from the claim that meaning-constitutive inferences are necessary, so too it’s possible to dissociate the idea that concepts are constituted by their roles in inferences from the claim that they are complex. See Appendix 5A.

20

More precisely, only with respect to conceptualy necessary inferences. (Notice that neither nomological nor metaphysical necessity will do; there might be laws about brown cows per se, and (who knows?) brown cows might have a proprietary hidden essence.) I don’t know what a Classical IRS theorist should say if it turns out that conceptuallynecessary inferences aren’t ipso facto definitional or vice versa. That, however, is his problem, not mine.

21

They aren’t the only ones, of course. For example, Keil remarks that “Theories . . . make it impossible … to talk about the construction of concepts solely on the basis ofprobabilistic distributions of properties in the world” (1987: 196). But that’s true only on the assumption that theories somehow constitute the concepts they contain. DittoKeil’s remark that “future work on the nature of concepts . . . must focus on the sorts of theories that emerge in children and how these theories come to influence thestructure of the concepts that they embrace” (ibid.).

22

There are exceptions. Susan Carey thinks that the individuation of concepts must be relativized to the theories they occur in, but that only the basic ‘ontological’commitments of a theory are content constitutive. (However, see Carey 1985: 168: “I assume that there is a continuum of degrees of conceptual differences, at the extremeend of which are concepts embedded in incommensurable conceptual systems.”) It’s left open how basic ontological claims are to be distinguished from commitments ofother kinds, and Carey is quite aware that problems about drawing this distinction are depressingly like the analytic/synthetic problems. But in so far as Carey has an accountof content individuation on offer, it does seem to be some version of the Classical theory.

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23

This point is related, but not identical, to the familiar worry about whether implicit definition can effect a ‘qualitative change’ in a theory’s expressive power: the worry thatdefinitions (implicit or otherwise) can only introduce concepts whose contents are already expressible by the host theory. (For discussion, see Fodor 1975.) It looks to methat implicit definition is specially problematic for meaning holists even if it’s granted that an implicit definition can (somehow) extend the host theory’s expressive power.

24

I don’t particularly mean to pick on Gopnik; the cognitive science literature is full of examples of the mistake that I’m trying to draw attention to. What’s unusual aboutGopnik’s treatment is just that it’s clear enough for one to see what the problem is.

25

As usual, it’s essential to keep in mind that when a de dicto intentional explanation attributes to an agent knowledge (rules, etc.), it thereby credits the agent with the conceptsinvolved in formulating the knowledge, and thus incurs the burden of saying what concepts they are. See the ‘methodological digression’ in Chapter 2.

26

This chapter reconsiders some issues about the nativistic commitments of RTMs that I first raised in Fodor 1975 and then discussed extensively in 1981^. Casual familiaritywith the latter paper is recommended as a prolegomenon to this discussion.I’m especially indebted to Andrew Milne and to Peter Grim for having raised (essentially thesame) cogent objections to a previous version.

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27

For discussions that turn on this issue, see Fodor 1986; Antony and Levine 1991; Fodor 1991.

28

Actually, of course, DOORKNOB isn’t a very good example, since it’s plausibly a compound composed of the constituent concepts DOOR and KNOB. But let’s ignorethat for the sake of the discussion.

29

Well, maybe the acquisition of PROTON doesn’t; it’s plausible that PROTON is not typically acquired from its instances. So, as far as this part of the discussion is concerned, you are therefore free to take PROTON as a primitive concept if you want to. But I imagine you don’t want to.Perhaps, in any case, it goes without saying thatthe fact that the d/D effect is widespread in concept acquisition is itself contingent and a posteriori.

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Linguistic footnote : as far as I can tell, linguists just take it for granted that the data that set a parameter in the course of language learning should generally bear some natural, unarbitrary relation to the value of the parameter that they set. It’s hearing sentences without subjects that sets the null subject parameter (maybe); what could be morereasonable? But, on second thought, the notion of triggering as such, unlike the notion of hypothesis testing as such, requires no particular relation between the state that’sacquired and the experience that occasions its acquisition. In principle any trigger could set any parameter. So, prima facie, it is an embarrassment for the triggering theory if thegrammar that the child acquires is reasonable in light of his data. It may be that here too the polemical resources of the hypothesis-testing model have been less than fullyappreciated.

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Linguistic footnote : as far as I can tell, linguists just take it for granted that the data that set a parameter in the course of language learning should generally bear some natural, unarbitrary relation to the value of the parameter that they set. It’s hearing sentences without subjects that sets the null subject parameter (maybe); what could be morereasonable? But, on second thought, the notion of triggering as such, unlike the notion of hypothesis testing as such, requires no particular relation between the state that’sacquired and the experience that occasions its acquisition. In principle any trigger could set any parameter. So, prima facie, it is an embarrassment for the triggering theory if thegrammar that the child acquires is reasonable in light of his data. It may be that here too the polemical resources of the hypothesis-testing model have been less than fullyappreciated.

Well, maybe. But, of course, that’s cold comfort if what you want is a non-nativist version of SIA. You can only trigger a concept that’s there, genetically specified, waiting to be triggered. So the Darwinian/ethological story about conceptacquisition does no better than the old-fashioned hypothesis-testing story at making DOORKNOB not be innate. Outof one frying pan but into another; ethologists are nativists by definition.

And, anyhow, even if the doorknob/DOORKNOB relation is selected for by evolution, what, if not inductive learning, could be the mechanism by which it is implemented? If concept acquisition isn’t inductive, then how doesMother Nature contrive to insure that it is instances of F-ness (and not of G-ness) that trigger the concept F in the courseof ontogeny? After all, if Mother N wants to select for the doorknob/DOORKNOB type of relation betweenconcepts and their experiential causes, she has to do so by selecting a mechanism that produces that relation between one’sconcepts and their causes. This is a special case of the entirely general truth that whenever Mother N wants to selectfor any phenotypic property she has to do so by selecting a proximal mechanism that produces it. The obviouscandidate to select if one wants to ensure that concept acquisition exhibits the d/D relation is inductive learning. Butwe have it on independent grounds that primitive concepts can’t be learned inductively. There may be a way for aconceptual atomist to get out of this dilemma, but waving his hands about Darwin certainly isn’t it.

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The preliminary moral, anyhow, is that radical nativism is very hard for a conceptual atomist to avoid. If he starts out thinking about concept acquisition the way Empiricists do—as a kind of hypothesis testing—radical concept nativismfollows; and if he starts out thinking about concept acquisition the way that ethologists do—as a kind oftriggering—radical concept nativism still follows. It looks like a conceptual atomist ends up being a radical conceptnativist pretty much however he starts out thinking about concept acquisition. So maybe conceptual atomism is justfalse.

Or maybe radical concept nativism is true, despite its wide unpopularity in the philosophical community. Speaking just as a private citizen, I’ve always sort of thought it wouldn’t be all that surprising if radical concept nativism did turn outto be true. So it didn’t much embarrass me that all the roads from concept atomism seemed to lead there. It is, after all,God and not philosophers who gets to decide what creatures have genotypically built in. That is surely much the bestarrangement from the creature’s point of view.

So, in any case, it seemed to me in 1975 or so. But maybe this relaxed stance won’t do after all. The problem with the theory that the primitive concepts are learned inductively was that it’s circular. But now we seem to

have an apparently respectable argument that they must be learned inductively: nothing else appears likely to account for the content relation between the concept that’s acquired and the experience that mediates its acquisition. But look,it can’t be that inductivism about the acquisition of primitive concepts is both circular and mandatory.

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Please note that, though this is an embarrassment for those of us who are inclined towards atomism, it is also an embarrassment for those of you who aren’t.Jean-marc pizano