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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If ‘doorknob’ has anominal definition, then it ought to be possible for a competent linguist or analytical philosopher to figure out what itsnominal definition is. If ‘doorknob’ has a real definition, then it ought to be possible for a science of doorknobs touncover it. But linguists and philosophers have had no luck defining ‘doorknob’ (or, as we’ve seen, anything muchelse). And there is nothing for a science of doorknobs to find out. The direction this is leading in is that if ‘doorknob’ isundefinable, that must be because being a doorknob is a primitive property. But, of course, that’s crazy. If a thing hasdoorknobhood, it does so entirely in virtue of others of the properties it has. If doorknobs don’t have hidden essences orreal definitions, that can’t possibly be because being a doorknob is one of those properties that things have simply becausethey have them; ultimates like spin, charm, charge, or the like, at which explanation ends.

Jean-marc pizano If ‘doorknob’ has anominal definition, then it ought to be possible for a competent linguist or analytical philosopher to figure out what itsnominal definition is. If ‘doorknob’ has a real definition, then it ought to be possible for a science of doorknobs touncover it. But linguists and philosophers have had no luck defining ‘doorknob’ (or, as we’ve seen, anything muchelse). And there is nothing for a science of doorknobs to find out. The direction this is leading in is that if ‘doorknob’ isundefinable, that must be because being a doorknob is a primitive property. But, of course, that’s crazy. If a thing hasdoorknobhood, it does so entirely in virtue of others of the properties it has. If doorknobs don’t have hidden essences orreal definitions, that can’t possibly be because being a doorknob is one of those properties that things have simply becausethey have them; ultimates like spin, charm, charge, or the like, at which explanation ends.

 

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So, here’s the riddle. How could ‘doorknob’ be undefinable (contrast ‘bachelor’ =df ‘unmarried man’) and lack a hidden essence (contrast water = H2O) without being metaphysically primitive (contrast spin, charm, and charge)?

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The answer (I think) is that ‘doorknob’ works like ‘red’.

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Now I suppose you want to know how ‘red’ works.

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Well, ‘red’ hasn’t got a nominal definition, and redness doesn’t have a real essence (ask any psychophysicist), and, of course, redness isn’t metaphysically ultimate. This is all OK because redness is an appearance property, and the point aboutappearance properties is that they don’t raise the question that definitions, real and nominal, propose to answer: viz.‘What is it that the things we take to be Xs have in common, over and above our taking them to be Xs?’ This is, to put itmildly, not a particularly original thing to say about red. All that’s new is the proposal to extend this sort of analysis todoorknobs and the like; the proposal is that there are lots of appearance concepts that aren’t sensory concepts.80 That this should beso is, perhaps, unsurprising on reflection. There is no obvious reason why 30a property that is constituted by the mental states that things that have it evoke in us must ipso facto be constituted by thesensory states that things that have it evoke in us.

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All right, all right; you can’t believe that something’s being a doorknob is “about us” in anything like the way that maybe something’s being red is. Surely ‘doorknob’ expresses a property that a thing either has or doesn’t, regardless ofour views; as it were, a property of things in themselves? So be it, but which property? Consider the alternatives (herewe go again): is it that ‘doorknob’ is definable? If so, what’s the definition? (And, even if ‘doorknob’ is definable, someconcepts have to be primitive, so the present sorts of issues will eventually have to be faced about them.) Is it thatdoorknobs qua doorknobs have a hidden essence? Hidden where, do you suppose? And who is in charge of finding it?Is it that being a doorknob is ontologically ultimate? You’ve got to be kidding.31

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If you take it seriously that DOORKNOB hasn’t got a conceptual analysis, and that doorknobs don’t have hidden essences, all that’s left to make something a doorknob (anyhow, all that’s left that I can think of) is how it strikes us. But ifbeing a doorknob is a property that’s constituted by how things strike us, then the intrinsic connection between the contentof DOORKNOB and the content of our doorknob-experiences is metaphysically necessary, hence not a fact that acognitivist theory of concept acquisition is required in order to explain.

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To be sure, there remains something about the acquisition of DOORKNOB that does want explaining: viz. why it is the property that these guys (several doorknobs) share, and not the property that those guys (several cows) share, thatwe lock to from experience of good (e.g. stereotypic) examples of doorknobs. And, equally certainly, it’s got to besomething about our kinds of minds that this explanation adverts to. But, I’m supposing, such an explanation iscognitivist only if it turns on the evidential relation between having the stereotypic doorknob properties and being a doorknob. (So,for example, triggering explanations aren’t

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Accordingly, it’s possible to have the concept WATER but not the concept HYDROGEN, andit’s possible to have the concept TWO but not the concept PRIME. All of that is perfectly OK as far as informationalsemantics is concerned. It’s perfectly consistent to claim that concepts are individuated by the properties they denote,and that the properties are individuated by their necessary relations to one another, but to deny that knowing about thenecessary relations among the properties is a condition for having the concept.

Jean-marc pizano Accordingly, it’s possible to have the concept WATER but not the concept HYDROGEN, andit’s possible to have the concept TWO but not the concept PRIME. All of that is perfectly OK as far as informationalsemantics is concerned. It’s perfectly consistent to claim that concepts are individuated by the properties they denote,and that the properties are individuated by their necessary relations to one another, but to deny that knowing about thenecessary relations among the properties is a condition for having the concept.

 

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Whether it is a virtue of informational semantics that it proposes to distance the metaphysics of modality from the metaphysics of concept possession is a large issue; one that I don’t propose to discuss here at all. Clearly, if you thinkthere’s any serious chance that part/whole relations among concepts might explain what makes propositions necessary,then informational semantics isn’t likely to be your dish; qua atomistic, informational semantics denies that the reasoncats have to be animals is that ANIMAL is a constituent of CAT. As the reader will have gathered, I doubt thatexplanations of that sort will be forthcoming, but I won’t argue the general issue here. Suffice it that the differencebetween mere necessity (which informational semantics is perfectly happy about) and

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conceptual necessity (over which informational semantics weeps) is that the latter, but not the former, constrains concept possession.

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Second Assumption: Semantic Access

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So far we have it, by assumption, that ‘dog’ and DOG mean dog because ‘dog’ expresses DOG, and DOG tokens fall under a law according to which they reliably are (or would be) among the effects of instantiated doghood. I now add theconsiderably less tendentious assumption that if there are such meaning-making laws, they surely couldn’t be basic. Or,to put it another way, if there is a nomic connection between doghood and cause-of-DOG-tokeninghood, then there must be acausal process whose operation mediates and sustains this connection. Or, to put it a third way, if informationalsemantics is right about the metaphysics of meaning, there must be mechanismsin virtue of which certain mental (-cum-neural) structures ‘resonate’ to doghood and Tuesdayhood4 Or, to put it a last way, informational semantics is untenableunless there’s an answer to questions like: ‘how does (or would) the instantiation of doghood cause tokenings of DOG?’ Ipropose to call whatever answers such a question a mechanism of ‘’ semanticaccesi. Mechanisms of semantic access arewhat sustain our ability to think about things.

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What such mechanism might there be in the case of dogs? Unsurprisingly, the sort of inventory that suggests itself looks a lot like what you’d get if you asked for the mechanisms that mediate our epistemic access to dogs. Unsurprisinglybecause there can be no epistemic access without semantic access; what you can’t think about, you can’t know about.41Informational semantics says that it’s because the mediation

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40

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I borrow J. J. Gibson’s phrase (see e.g. 1966) but not his metaphysics. Roughly, informational semantics is Gibsonian semantics, but without the ban on mental processes; just as, roughly, it is Skinnerian semantics without the behaviourism. (See below and Fodor 1990.)

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Cf. Antony (1995: 433): “no device can be said to have epistemic access to any aspect of its environment unless it is a device that represents its environment”. This doesn’t go the other way around, of course: semantic access doesn’t guarantee epistemic warrant. With any luck, all of this ought to come out right if your semantics is informationaland your theory of knowledge is reliabilist. Since content supervenes on purely nomic relations—that is, on certain lawful relations among properties—and since lawfulrelations can presumably hold among properties that are, de facto, uninstantiated, the metaphysical conditions for content can in principle be met entirely counterfactually:no actual tokens of DOG have actually to be caused by dogs for the counterfactuals that its content supervenes on to be in place. Epistemic warrant, by contrast, has to dowith the causal history of one or another actual belief token: the warranted belief has to have been acquired by reliable means. So it should turn out that the conditions forepistemic access include, but aren’t exhausted by, the conditions that semantic access imposes.

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If ‘doorknob’ has anominal definition, then it ought to be possible for a competent linguist or analytical philosopher to figure out what itsnominal definition is. If ‘doorknob’ has a real definition, then it ought to be possible for a science of doorknobs touncover it. But linguists and philosophers have had no luck defining ‘doorknob’ (or, as we’ve seen, anything muchelse). And there is nothing for a science of doorknobs to find out. The direction this is leading in is that if ‘doorknob’ isundefinable, that must be because being a doorknob is a primitive property. But, of course, that’s crazy. If a thing hasdoorknobhood, it does so entirely in virtue of others of the properties it has. If doorknobs don’t have hidden essences orreal definitions, that can’t possibly be because being a doorknob is one of those properties that things have simply becausethey have them; ultimates like spin, charm, charge, or the like, at which explanation ends.

Jean-marc pizano If ‘doorknob’ has anominal definition, then it ought to be possible for a competent linguist or analytical philosopher to figure out what itsnominal definition is. If ‘doorknob’ has a real definition, then it ought to be possible for a science of doorknobs touncover it. But linguists and philosophers have had no luck defining ‘doorknob’ (or, as we’ve seen, anything muchelse). And there is nothing for a science of doorknobs to find out. The direction this is leading in is that if ‘doorknob’ isundefinable, that must be because being a doorknob is a primitive property. But, of course, that’s crazy. If a thing hasdoorknobhood, it does so entirely in virtue of others of the properties it has. If doorknobs don’t have hidden essences orreal definitions, that can’t possibly be because being a doorknob is one of those properties that things have simply becausethey have them; ultimates like spin, charm, charge, or the like, at which explanation ends.

 

So, here’s the riddle. How could ‘doorknob’ be undefinable (contrast ‘bachelor’ =df ‘unmarried man’) and lack a hidden essence (contrast water = H2O) without being metaphysically primitive (contrast spin, charm, and charge)?

The answer (I think) is that ‘doorknob’ works like ‘red’.

Now I suppose you want to know how ‘red’ works.

Well, ‘red’ hasn’t got a nominal definition, and redness doesn’t have a real essence (ask any psychophysicist), and, of course, redness isn’t metaphysically ultimate. This is all OK because redness is an appearance property, and the point aboutappearance properties is that they don’t raise the question that definitions, real and nominal, propose to answer: viz.‘What is it that the things we take to be Xs have in common, over and above our taking them to be Xs?’ This is, to put itmildly, not a particularly original thing to say about red. All that’s new is the proposal to extend this sort of analysis todoorknobs and the like; the proposal is that there are lots of appearance concepts that aren’t sensory concepts.80 That this should beso is, perhaps, unsurprising on reflection. There is no obvious reason why 30a property that is constituted by the mental states that things that have it evoke in us must ipso facto be constituted by thesensory states that things that have it evoke in us.

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All right, all right; you can’t believe that something’s being a doorknob is “about us” in anything like the way that maybe something’s being red is. Surely ‘doorknob’ expresses a property that a thing either has or doesn’t, regardless ofour views; as it were, a property of things in themselves? So be it, but which property? Consider the alternatives (herewe go again): is it that ‘doorknob’ is definable? If so, what’s the definition? (And, even if ‘doorknob’ is definable, someconcepts have to be primitive, so the present sorts of issues will eventually have to be faced about them.) Is it thatdoorknobs qua doorknobs have a hidden essence? Hidden where, do you suppose? And who is in charge of finding it?Is it that being a doorknob is ontologically ultimate? You’ve got to be kidding.31

If you take it seriously that DOORKNOB hasn’t got a conceptual analysis, and that doorknobs don’t have hidden essences, all that’s left to make something a doorknob (anyhow, all that’s left that I can think of) is how it strikes us. But ifbeing a doorknob is a property that’s constituted by how things strike us, then the intrinsic connection between the contentof DOORKNOB and the content of our doorknob-experiences is metaphysically necessary, hence not a fact that acognitivist theory of concept acquisition is required in order to explain.

To be sure, there remains something about the acquisition of DOORKNOB that does want explaining: viz. why it is the property that these guys (several doorknobs) share, and not the property that those guys (several cows) share, thatwe lock to from experience of good (e.g. stereotypic) examples of doorknobs. And, equally certainly, it’s got to besomething about our kinds of minds that this explanation adverts to. But, I’m supposing, such an explanation iscognitivist only if it turns on the evidential relation between having the stereotypic doorknob properties and being a doorknob. (So,for example, triggering explanations aren’t

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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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Accordingly, it’s possible to have the concept WATER but not the concept HYDROGEN, andit’s possible to have the concept TWO but not the concept PRIME. All of that is perfectly OK as far as informationalsemantics is concerned. It’s perfectly consistent to claim that concepts are individuated by the properties they denote,and that the properties are individuated by their necessary relations to one another, but to deny that knowing about thenecessary relations among the properties is a condition for having the concept.

Jean-marc pizano Accordingly, it’s possible to have the concept WATER but not the concept HYDROGEN, andit’s possible to have the concept TWO but not the concept PRIME. All of that is perfectly OK as far as informationalsemantics is concerned. It’s perfectly consistent to claim that concepts are individuated by the properties they denote,and that the properties are individuated by their necessary relations to one another, but to deny that knowing about thenecessary relations among the properties is a condition for having the concept.

 

Whether it is a virtue of informational semantics that it proposes to distance the metaphysics of modality from the metaphysics of concept possession is a large issue; one that I don’t propose to discuss here at all. Clearly, if you thinkthere’s any serious chance that part/whole relations among concepts might explain what makes propositions necessary,then informational semantics isn’t likely to be your dish; qua atomistic, informational semantics denies that the reasoncats have to be animals is that ANIMAL is a constituent of CAT. As the reader will have gathered, I doubt thatexplanations of that sort will be forthcoming, but I won’t argue the general issue here. Suffice it that the differencebetween mere necessity (which informational semantics is perfectly happy about) and

conceptual necessity (over which informational semantics weeps) is that the latter, but not the former, constrains concept possession.

Second Assumption: Semantic Access

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So far we have it, by assumption, that ‘dog’ and DOG mean dog because ‘dog’ expresses DOG, and DOG tokens fall under a law according to which they reliably are (or would be) among the effects of instantiated doghood. I now add theconsiderably less tendentious assumption that if there are such meaning-making laws, they surely couldn’t be basic. Or,to put it another way, if there is a nomic connection between doghood and cause-of-DOG-tokeninghood, then there must be acausal process whose operation mediates and sustains this connection. Or, to put it a third way, if informationalsemantics is right about the metaphysics of meaning, there must be mechanismsin virtue of which certain mental (-cum-neural) structures ‘resonate’ to doghood and Tuesdayhood4 Or, to put it a last way, informational semantics is untenableunless there’s an answer to questions like: ‘how does (or would) the instantiation of doghood cause tokenings of DOG?’ Ipropose to call whatever answers such a question a mechanism of ‘’ semanticaccesi. Mechanisms of semantic access arewhat sustain our ability to think about things.

What such mechanism might there be in the case of dogs? Unsurprisingly, the sort of inventory that suggests itself looks a lot like what you’d get if you asked for the mechanisms that mediate our epistemic access to dogs. Unsurprisinglybecause there can be no epistemic access without semantic access; what you can’t think about, you can’t know about.41Informational semantics says that it’s because the mediation

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40

I borrow J. J. Gibson’s phrase (see e.g. 1966) but not his metaphysics. Roughly, informational semantics is Gibsonian semantics, but without the ban on mental processes; just as, roughly, it is Skinnerian semantics without the behaviourism. (See below and Fodor 1990.)

Cf. Antony (1995: 433): “no device can be said to have epistemic access to any aspect of its environment unless it is a device that represents its environment”. This doesn’t go the other way around, of course: semantic access doesn’t guarantee epistemic warrant. With any luck, all of this ought to come out right if your semantics is informationaland your theory of knowledge is reliabilist. Since content supervenes on purely nomic relations—that is, on certain lawful relations among properties—and since lawfulrelations can presumably hold among properties that are, de facto, uninstantiated, the metaphysical conditions for content can in principle be met entirely counterfactually:no actual tokens of DOG have actually to be caused by dogs for the counterfactuals that its content supervenes on to be in place. Epistemic warrant, by contrast, has to dowith the causal history of one or another actual belief token: the warranted belief has to have been acquired by reliable means. So it should turn out that the conditions forepistemic access include, but aren’t exhausted by, the conditions that semantic access imposes.

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If ‘doorknob’ has anominal definition, then it ought to be possible for a competent linguist or analytical philosopher to figure out what itsnominal definition is. If ‘doorknob’ has a real definition, then it ought to be possible for a science of doorknobs touncover it. But linguists and philosophers have had no luck defining ‘doorknob’ (or, as we’ve seen, anything muchelse). And there is nothing for a science of doorknobs to find out. The direction this is leading in is that if ‘doorknob’ isundefinable, that must be because being a doorknob is a primitive property. But, of course, that’s crazy. If a thing hasdoorknobhood, it does so entirely in virtue of others of the properties it has. If doorknobs don’t have hidden essences orreal definitions, that can’t possibly be because being a doorknob is one of those properties that things have simply becausethey have them; ultimates like spin, charm, charge, or the like, at which explanation ends.

Jean-marc pizano If ‘doorknob’ has anominal definition, then it ought to be possible for a competent linguist or analytical philosopher to figure out what itsnominal definition is. If ‘doorknob’ has a real definition, then it ought to be possible for a science of doorknobs touncover it. But linguists and philosophers have had no luck defining ‘doorknob’ (or, as we’ve seen, anything muchelse). And there is nothing for a science of doorknobs to find out. The direction this is leading in is that if ‘doorknob’ isundefinable, that must be because being a doorknob is a primitive property. But, of course, that’s crazy. If a thing hasdoorknobhood, it does so entirely in virtue of others of the properties it has. If doorknobs don’t have hidden essences orreal definitions, that can’t possibly be because being a doorknob is one of those properties that things have simply becausethey have them; ultimates like spin, charm, charge, or the like, at which explanation ends.

 

So, here’s the riddle. How could ‘doorknob’ be undefinable (contrast ‘bachelor’ =df ‘unmarried man’) and lack a hidden essence (contrast water = H2O) without being metaphysically primitive (contrast spin, charm, and charge)?

The answer (I think) is that ‘doorknob’ works like ‘red’.

Now I suppose you want to know how ‘red’ works.

Well, ‘red’ hasn’t got a nominal definition, and redness doesn’t have a real essence (ask any psychophysicist), and, of course, redness isn’t metaphysically ultimate. This is all OK because redness is an appearance property, and the point aboutappearance properties is that they don’t raise the question that definitions, real and nominal, propose to answer: viz.‘What is it that the things we take to be Xs have in common, over and above our taking them to be Xs?’ This is, to put itmildly, not a particularly original thing to say about red. All that’s new is the proposal to extend this sort of analysis todoorknobs and the like; the proposal is that there are lots of appearance concepts that aren’t sensory concepts.80 That this should beso is, perhaps, unsurprising on reflection. There is no obvious reason why 30a property that is constituted by the mental states that things that have it evoke in us must ipso facto be constituted by thesensory states that things that have it evoke in us.

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All right, all right; you can’t believe that something’s being a doorknob is “about us” in anything like the way that maybe something’s being red is. Surely ‘doorknob’ expresses a property that a thing either has or doesn’t, regardless ofour views; as it were, a property of things in themselves? So be it, but which property? Consider the alternatives (herewe go again): is it that ‘doorknob’ is definable? If so, what’s the definition? (And, even if ‘doorknob’ is definable, someconcepts have to be primitive, so the present sorts of issues will eventually have to be faced about them.) Is it thatdoorknobs qua doorknobs have a hidden essence? Hidden where, do you suppose? And who is in charge of finding it?Is it that being a doorknob is ontologically ultimate? You’ve got to be kidding.31

If you take it seriously that DOORKNOB hasn’t got a conceptual analysis, and that doorknobs don’t have hidden essences, all that’s left to make something a doorknob (anyhow, all that’s left that I can think of) is how it strikes us. But ifbeing a doorknob is a property that’s constituted by how things strike us, then the intrinsic connection between the contentof DOORKNOB and the content of our doorknob-experiences is metaphysically necessary, hence not a fact that acognitivist theory of concept acquisition is required in order to explain.

To be sure, there remains something about the acquisition of DOORKNOB that does want explaining: viz. why it is the property that these guys (several doorknobs) share, and not the property that those guys (several cows) share, thatwe lock to from experience of good (e.g. stereotypic) examples of doorknobs. And, equally certainly, it’s got to besomething about our kinds of minds that this explanation adverts to. But, I’m supposing, such an explanation iscognitivist only if it turns on the evidential relation between having the stereotypic doorknob properties and being a doorknob. (So,for example, triggering explanations aren’t

Jean-marc pizano