To theextent that we have some grasp on what concepts terms like ‘S’, ‘NP’, ADJ’ express, the theory that children learn by syntactic boostrapping is at least better defined thanPinker’s. (And to the extent that we don’t, it’s not.)

Jean-marc pizano To theextent that we have some grasp on what concepts terms like ‘S’, ‘NP’, ADJ’ express, the theory that children learn by syntactic boostrapping is at least better defined thanPinker’s. (And to the extent that we don’t, it’s not.)

 

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15

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When Pinker’s analyses are clear enough to evaluate, they are often just wrong. For example, he notes in his discussion of causatives that the analysis PAINTvtr = cover withpaint is embarrassed by such observations as this: although when Michelangelo dipped his paintbrush in his paint pot he thereby covered the paintbrush with paint,nevertheless he did not, thereby, paint the paintbrush. (The example is, in fact, borrowed from Fodor 1970.) Pinker explains that “stereotypy or conventionality of mannerconstrains the causative . . . This might be called the ‘stereotypy effect’ ” (1984: 324). So it might, for all the good it does. It is possible, faut de mieux, to paint the wall withone’s handkerchief; with one’s bare hands; by covering oneself with paint and rolling up the wall (in which last case, by the way, though covering the wall with the paintcounts as painting the wall, covering oneself with the paint does not count as painting oneself even if one does it with a paintbrush; only as getting oneself covered withpaint).Whether you paint the wall when you cover it with paint depends not on how you do it but on what you have in mind when you do it: you have to have in mind notmerely to cover the wall with paint but to paint the wall. That is, “painty” apparently can’t be defined even in terms of such closely related expressions as “painty”. Or, if itcan, none of the decompositional analyses suggested so far, Pinker’s included, comes even close to showing how.

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16

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Sober (1984: 82) makes what amounts to the converse point: “In general, we expect theoretical magnitudes to be multiply accessible ; there should be more than one way of finding out what their values are in a given circumstance. This reflects the assumption that theoretical magnitudes have multiple causes and effects. There is no such thing asthe only possible effect or cause of a given event; likewise, there is no such thing as the only possible way of finding out whether it occurred. I won’t assert that this issomehow a necessary feature of all theoretical magnitudes, but it is remarkably widespread.” Note the suggestion that the phenomena in virtue of which a “theoreticalmagnitude” is multiply epistemically accessible are naturally construed as its “causes and its effects”. In the contrasting case, when there is only one access path (or, anyhow,only one access path that one can think of) the intuition is generally that the magnitude at issue isn’t bona fide theoretical, and that its connection to the criterion isconceptual rather than causal.

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17

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Terminological conventions with respect to the topics this chapter covers are unsettled. I’ll use ‘stereotype’ and ‘prototype’ interchangeably, to refer to mental representations of certain kinds of properties. So, ‘the dog stereotype’ and ‘the dog prototype’ designate some such (complex) concept as: BEING A DOMESTIC ANIMAL WHICHBARKS, HAS A TAIL WHICH IT WAGS WHEN IT IS PLEASED, . . . etc. I’ll use ‘exemplar’ for the mental representation of a kind, or of an individual, that instantiatesa prototype; so ‘sparrows are the exemplars of birds’ and ‘Bambi is Smith’s exemplar of a deer’ are both well-formed. ‘Sparrows are stereotypic birds’ (/‘Bambi is aprototypic deer’) are also OK; they mean that a certain kind (/individual) exhibits certain stereotypic (/prototypic) properties to a marked degree.

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Elanor Rosche, who invented this account of concepts more or less single-handed, often speaks of herself as a Wittgensteinian; and there is, of course, a family resemblance. But I doubt that it goes very deep. Rosche’s project was to get modality out of semantics by substituting a probabilistic account of content-constituting inferences. Whereas Isuppose Wittgenstein’s project was to offer (or anyhow, make room for) an epistemic reconstruction of conceptual necessity. Rosche is an eliminativist where Wittgenstein is areductionist. There is, in consequence, nothing in Rosche’s theory of concepts that underwrites Wittgenstein’s criteriology, hence nothing that’s of use for bopping scepticswith.

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  1. 1 Philosophical Introduction: The BackgroundTheory

That being so, explaining thedoorknob/DOORKNOB effect requires postulating some (contingent, psychological) mechanism that reliably leadsfrom having F-experiences to acquiring the concept of beingF. It understates the case to say that no alternative tohypothesis testing suggests itself. So I don’t think that a causal/historical account of the locking relation can explainwhy there is a d/D effect without invoking the very premiss which, according to SA, it can’t have: viz. that primitiveconcepts are learned inductively.

Jean-marc pizano That being so, explaining thedoorknob/DOORKNOB effect requires postulating some (contingent, psychological) mechanism that reliably leadsfrom having F-experiences to acquiring the concept of beingF. It understates the case to say that no alternative tohypothesis testing suggests itself. So I don’t think that a causal/historical account of the locking relation can explainwhy there is a d/D effect without invoking the very premiss which, according to SA, it can’t have: viz. that primitiveconcepts are learned inductively.

 

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Note the similarity of this objection to the one that rejected a Darwinian solution of the d/D problem: just as you can’t satisfy the conditions for having the concept Fjust in virtue of having interacted with Fs, so too you can’t satisfy theconditions for having the concept F just in virtue of your grandmother’s having interacted with Fs. In both cases,

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concept acquisition requires something to have gone on in your head in consequence of the interactions. Given the ubiquity of the d/D phenomenon, the natural candidate for what’s gone on in your head is inductive learning.

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Second Try at a Metaphysical Solution to the d/D Problem

Maybe what it is to be a doorknob isn’t evidenced by the kind of experience that leads to acquiring the concept DOORKNOB; maybe what it is to be a doorknob is constituted by the kind of experience that leads to acquiring theconcept DOORKNOB. A Very Deep Thought, that; but one that requires some unpacking. I want to take a few stepsback so as to get a running start.

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Chapter 3 remarked that it’s pretty clear that if we can’t define “doorknob”, that can’t be because of some accidental limitation of the available metalinguistic apparatus; such a deficit could always be remedied by switchingmetalanguages. The claim, in short, was not that we can’t define “doorknob” in English, but that we can’t define it at all.The implied moral is interesting: if “doorknob” can’t be defined, the reason that it can’t is plausibly not methodologicalbut ontological; it has something to do with what kind of property being a doorknob is. If you’re inclined to doubt this, sobe it; but I think that you should have your intuitions looked at.

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Well, but what could it be about being a doorknob that makes ‘doorknob’ not definable? Could it be that doorknobs have a “hidden essence” (as water, for example, is supposed to do); one that has eluded our scrutiny so far? Perhaps somescience, not yet in place, will do for doorknobs what molecular chemistry did for water and geometrical optics did formirrors: make it clear to us what they really are? But what science, for heaven’s sake? And what could there be for it tomake clear? Mirrors are puzzling (it seems that they double things); and water is puzzling too (what could it be madeof, there’s so much of it around?). But doorknobs aren’t pugyling, doorknobs are boring. Here, for once, “furtherresearch” appears not to be required.

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It’s sometimes said that doorknobs (and the like) have functional essences: what makes a thing a doorknob is what it is (or is intended to be) used for. So maybe the science of doorknobs is psychology? Or sociology? Or anthropology?Once again, believe it if you can. In fact, the intentional aetiology of doorknobs is utterly transparent: they’re intendedto be used as doorknobs. I don’t at all doubt that’s what makes them what they are, but that it is gets us nowhere. For,if DOORKNOB plausibly lacks a conceptual analysis, INTENDED TO BE USED AS A DOORKNOB does too,and for the same reasons. And surely, surely, that can’t, in either case, be because there’s something secret aboutdoorknobhood that depth psychology is needed to reveal? No doubt, there is a lot that we don’t know about intentionstowards doorknobs qua intentions; but I can’t believe there’s much that’s obscure about them qua intentions towardsdoorknobs.

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Look, there is presumably something about doorknobs that makes them doorknobs, and either it’s something complex or it’s something simple. If it’s something complex, then‘doorknob’ must have a definition, and its definition must be either “real” or “nominal” (or both).Jean-marc pizano

For, whatever you may think about the size of the primitive conceptualbasis—and, in particular, about whether DOORKNOB is in it—on any version of RTM some concepts are going tohave to be primitive. And, on the one hand, SA does seem to show that primitive concepts can’t be acquiredinductively. And, on the other hand, whatever the primitive concepts are, their acquisition is pretty sure to exhibit thefamiliar d/D relation between the content of the concept and the content of the experience that occasions it. Of whatconcept does the acquisition not?29

Jean-marc pizano For, whatever you may think about the size of the primitive conceptualbasis—and, in particular, about whether DOORKNOB is in it—on any version of RTM some concepts are going tohave to be primitive. And, on the one hand, SA does seem to show that primitive concepts can’t be acquiredinductively. And, on the other hand, whatever the primitive concepts are, their acquisition is pretty sure to exhibit thefamiliar d/D relation between the content of the concept and the content of the experience that occasions it. Of whatconcept does the acquisition not?29

 

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In fact, it’s the concepts that have traditionally been practically everybody’s favourite candidates for being primitive that exhibit the doorknob/DOORKNOB effect most clearly. Like RED, for example. To be sure, philosophers of both theCartesian and the Empiricist persuasion have often stressed the arbitrariness of the relation between the content ofsensory concepts and the character of their causes. It’s bumping into photons (or whatever) that causes RED; butRED and PHOTON couldn’t be less alike in content. (According to Descartes, this shows that not even sensoryconcepts can come from experience. According to Locke, it shows that secondary qualities are mind-dependent.) Well,if the relation between sensory concepts and their causes really is arbitrary, then there can be no d/D problem aboutsensory concepts. In which case, if Empiricists are right and only sensory concepts are primitive, everything turns outOK. Sensory concepts don’t have to be learned inductively, so they can be innate; just as the Standard Argumentrequires, and just as Empiricists and Rationalists have both always supposed them to be. Empiricism would be cheapat the price if it shows the way out of a foundational paradox about RTM.

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But, on second thought, no such luck. The thing to keep your eye on, pace Locke and Descartes both, is that the relation between the content ofa sensory concept and the character of its cause is not arbitrary when the cause is intentionally described. The thing to keepyour eye on is that we typically get the concept RED from (or, anyhow, on the occasion of) experiencing things as red.

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There is, I think, more than a hint of a muddle about this in Fodor 1981a, where the following is a favourite line of argument: ‘Look, everybody—Empiricists and Rationalists—agrees that there is at least one psychological mechanismwhich effects a non-rational, arbitrary relation between at least some primitive concepts and their distal causes. Inparticular, everybody agrees that the sensorium works that way.’ “[E]ven the Empiricists hold that primitive conceptsare merely triggered by [rather than learned from] experience . . . It is . . . just a fact about the way that we are puttogether than the sensory concepts we have are dependent in the ways they are upon the particular stimulations whichoccasion them” (ibid.: 275). On this account, Rationalism is simply the generalization of the Empiricist picture of thesensorium to cover whatever primitive concepts there turn out to be, sensory or otherwise: some kinds of arbitrarystimuli trigger (sensory) concepts like RED; other kinds of arbitrary stimuli trigger (non-sensory) concepts likeDOORKNOB. What’s the big sweat?

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That I still like using the sensorium as a model of concept innateness at large will presently become clear. But, to repeat, prima facie it has a problem that needs to be taken seriously. The problem is that the triggering stimuli for REDaren’t arbitrary when you take them under intentional (rather than psychophysical) description. If you take them underintentional description, the doorknob/DOORKNOB problem instantly emerges for sensory concepts too. It isencounters with doorknobs that typically occasion the acquisition of what Empiricists (and practically everybody else)have taken to be a complex concept like DOORKNOB; likewise it is typically encounters with red things (and not withgreen things, and not with square things, and not with elephants (unless they are red squares or red elephants)) thattypically occasion the acquisition of what practically everybody takes to be a primitive concept like RED. Surely that’s noaccident in either case? And if it’s not an accident, what else but an inductive model of concept acquisition couldexplain it?

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This begins to seem a little worrying. It is perhaps tolerable that representational theories of mind should lead by plausible arguments to quite a 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.

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.

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I hope there toplacate such scruples about DOORKNOB and CARBURETTOR as some of you may feel, and to do so within theframework of an atomistic RTM.

Jean-marc pizano I hope there toplacate such scruples about DOORKNOB and CARBURETTOR as some of you may feel, and to do so within theframework of an atomistic RTM.

 

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5. Concepts are public, they’re the sorts of things that lots of people can, and do, share.

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Since, according to RTM, concepts are symbols, they are presumed to satisfy a type/token relation; to say that two people share a concept (i.e. that they have literally the same concept) is thus to say that they have tokens of literally thesame concept type. The present requirement is that the conditions for typing concept tokens must not be so stringentas to assign practically every concept token to a different type from practically any other.

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I put it this way advisedly. I was once told, in the course of a public discussion with an otherwise perfectly rational and civilized cognitive scientist, that he “could not permit” the concept HORSE to be innate in humans (though I guess it’s OK for it to be innate in horses). I forgot to ask him whether he was likewise unprepared to permitneutrinos to lack mass.Just why feelings run so strongly on these matters is unclear to me. Whereas the ethology of all other species is widely agreed to be thoroughlyempirical and largely morally neutral, a priorizing and moralizing about the ethology of our species appears to be the order of the day. Very odd.

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It seems pretty clear that all sorts of concepts (for example, DOG, FATHER, TRIANGLE, HOUSE, TREE, AND, RED, and, surely, lots of others) are ones that all sorts of people, under all sorts of circumstances, have had andcontinue to have. A theory of concepts should set the conditions for concept possession in such a way as not to violatethis intuition. Barring very pressing considerations to the contrary, it should turn out that people who live in verydifferent cultures and/or at very different times (me and Aristotle, for example) both have the concept FOOD; andthat people who are possessed of very different amounts of mathematical sophistication (me and Einstein, forexample) both have the concept TRIANGLE; and that people who have had very different kinds of learningexperiences (me and Helen Keller, for example) both have the concept TREE; and that people with very differentamounts of knowledge (me and a four-year-old, for example) both have the concept HOUSE. And so forth.Accordingly, if a theory or an experimental procedure distinguishes between my concept DOG and Aristotle’s, orbetween my concept TRIANGLE and Einstein’s, or between my concept TREE and Helen Keller’s, etc. that is a verystrong prima facie reason to doubt that the theory has got it right about concept individuation or that the experimentalprocedure is really a measure of concept possession.

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I am thus setting my face against a variety of kinds of conceptual relativism, and it may be supposed that my doing so is itself merely dogmatic. But I think there are good grounds for taking a firm line on this issue. Certainly RTM isrequired to. I remarked in Chapter 1 that RTM takes for granted the centrality of intentional explanation in any viablecognitive psychology. In the cases of interest, what makes such explanations intentional is that they appeal to coveringgeneralizations about people who believe that such-and-such, or people who desire that so-and-so, or people whointend that this and that, and so on. In consequence, the extent to which an RTM can achieve generality in theexplanations it proposes depends on the extent to which mental contents are supposed to be shared. If everybodyelse’s concept WATER is different from mine, then it is literally true that only I have ever wanted a drink of water, andthat the intentional generalization ‘Thirsty people seek water’ applies only to me. (And, of course, only I can state thatgeneralization; words express concepts, so if your WATER concept is different from mine, ‘Thirsty people seek water’means something different when you say it and when I do.) Prima facie, it would appear that any very thoroughgoingconceptual relativism would preclude intentional generalizations with any very serious explanatory power. This holdsin spades if, as seems likely, a coherent conceptual relativist has to claim that conceptual identity can’t be maintainedeven across time slices of the same individual.

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To theextent that we have some grasp on what concepts terms like ‘S’, ‘NP’, ADJ’ express, the theory that children learn by syntactic boostrapping is at least better defined thanPinker’s. (And to the extent that we don’t, it’s not.)

Jean-marc pizano To theextent that we have some grasp on what concepts terms like ‘S’, ‘NP’, ADJ’ express, the theory that children learn by syntactic boostrapping is at least better defined thanPinker’s. (And to the extent that we don’t, it’s not.)

 

15

When Pinker’s analyses are clear enough to evaluate, they are often just wrong. For example, he notes in his discussion of causatives that the analysis PAINTvtr = cover withpaint is embarrassed by such observations as this: although when Michelangelo dipped his paintbrush in his paint pot he thereby covered the paintbrush with paint,nevertheless he did not, thereby, paint the paintbrush. (The example is, in fact, borrowed from Fodor 1970.) Pinker explains that “stereotypy or conventionality of mannerconstrains the causative . . . This might be called the ‘stereotypy effect’ ” (1984: 324). So it might, for all the good it does. It is possible, faut de mieux, to paint the wall withone’s handkerchief; with one’s bare hands; by covering oneself with paint and rolling up the wall (in which last case, by the way, though covering the wall with the paintcounts as painting the wall, covering oneself with the paint does not count as painting oneself even if one does it with a paintbrush; only as getting oneself covered withpaint).Whether you paint the wall when you cover it with paint depends not on how you do it but on what you have in mind when you do it: you have to have in mind notmerely to cover the wall with paint but to paint the wall. That is, “painty” apparently can’t be defined even in terms of such closely related expressions as “painty”. Or, if itcan, none of the decompositional analyses suggested so far, Pinker’s included, comes even close to showing how.

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16

Sober (1984: 82) makes what amounts to the converse point: “In general, we expect theoretical magnitudes to be multiply accessible ; there should be more than one way of finding out what their values are in a given circumstance. This reflects the assumption that theoretical magnitudes have multiple causes and effects. There is no such thing asthe only possible effect or cause of a given event; likewise, there is no such thing as the only possible way of finding out whether it occurred. I won’t assert that this issomehow a necessary feature of all theoretical magnitudes, but it is remarkably widespread.” Note the suggestion that the phenomena in virtue of which a “theoreticalmagnitude” is multiply epistemically accessible are naturally construed as its “causes and its effects”. In the contrasting case, when there is only one access path (or, anyhow,only one access path that one can think of) the intuition is generally that the magnitude at issue isn’t bona fide theoretical, and that its connection to the criterion isconceptual rather than causal.

17

Terminological conventions with respect to the topics this chapter covers are unsettled. I’ll use ‘stereotype’ and ‘prototype’ interchangeably, to refer to mental representations of certain kinds of properties. So, ‘the dog stereotype’ and ‘the dog prototype’ designate some such (complex) concept as: BEING A DOMESTIC ANIMAL WHICHBARKS, HAS A TAIL WHICH IT WAGS WHEN IT IS PLEASED, . . . etc. I’ll use ‘exemplar’ for the mental representation of a kind, or of an individual, that instantiatesa prototype; so ‘sparrows are the exemplars of birds’ and ‘Bambi is Smith’s exemplar of a deer’ are both well-formed. ‘Sparrows are stereotypic birds’ (/‘Bambi is aprototypic deer’) are also OK; they mean that a certain kind (/individual) exhibits certain stereotypic (/prototypic) properties to a marked degree.

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18

Elanor Rosche, who invented this account of concepts more or less single-handed, often speaks of herself as a Wittgensteinian; and there is, of course, a family resemblance. But I doubt that it goes very deep. Rosche’s project was to get modality out of semantics by substituting a probabilistic account of content-constituting inferences. Whereas Isuppose Wittgenstein’s project was to offer (or anyhow, make room for) an epistemic reconstruction of conceptual necessity. Rosche is an eliminativist where Wittgenstein is areductionist. There is, in consequence, nothing in Rosche’s theory of concepts that underwrites Wittgenstein’s criteriology, hence nothing that’s of use for bopping scepticswith.

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  1. 1 Philosophical Introduction: The BackgroundTheory

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

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.

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.

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:

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

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

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.

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