For the(anyhow, my)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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6

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

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

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

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

Fine. So now all I owe you is a story about what “emerging” comes to: and I have to tell this story in a way that an informational semantics can tolerate, viz. without assuming that there is more to concept possession than locking evenin the case of bona fide, full-blown, natural kind concepts as such. Then I get to go sailing.

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Fine. So now all I owe you is a story about what “emerging” comes to: and I have to tell this story in a way that an informational semantics can tolerate, viz. without assuming that there is more to concept possession than locking evenin the case of bona fide, full-blown, natural kind concepts as such. Then I get to go sailing.

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I’ll start with natural kind concepts and informational semantic and just let the “emerging” emerge.

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Natural Kinds and Informational Semantics

We’ve just distinguished between merely having a natural kind concept and having a natural kind concept as such. What I’m asking now is whether an atomistic informational semantics can honour that distinction. And I’m inviting you to share myconcern that, prima facie, it cannot. Prima facie an informational semantics has to say that whether you have theconcept WATER is a matter of whether you are locked to water; if you are then you do, and if you aren’t then youdon’t. Whereas (still prima facie) having WATER as a full-blown natural kind concept requires also having, forexample, concepts like MICROSTRUCTURE and HIDDEN ESSENCE and NATURAL KIND. Atomism andinformational semantics are natural allies, and it’s been my strategy throughout to enlist each in the other’s service. Butmaybe we’ve come to where their joint resources run out. If the possession conditions for full-blown natural-kind-as-such concepts invoke the possession conditions of concepts like NATURAL KIND, then they aren’t atomistic.

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So, the issue is how an informational semantics should treat full-blown natural kind terms. That’s a large topic, and I wish I didn’t have to think about it. For what it’s worth, however, here’s a sketch of a story: whether Homer had the(our) concept WATER doesn’t depend on what other concepts he had (on whether he had HIDDEN ESSENCE andMICROSTRUCTURE, for example). Rather, it depends on whether he was locked to water as such; or was merelylocked to water in any reasonably nearby world.

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Homer had (and children and animals have) a concept that is locked to water via its familiar phenomenological properties; via its ‘superficial signs’. So the locking Homer had was reliable only in worlds where water has the familiarphenomenological properties; which is to say only in nomologically possible worlds near ours. That is, I suppose, theusual, pretheoretic way of having a natural kind concept. The kind-constituting property is a hidden essence and youget locked to it via phenomenological properties the having of which is (roughly) nomologically necessary andsufficient for something to instantiate the kind. This explains, by the way, why concepts like WATER exhibit the d/Deffect. WATER, like DOORKNOB, is typically learned from its instances; but that’s not, of course, because being wateris mind-dependent. Rather, it’s because you typically lock to being water via its superficial signs; and, in point ofnomological necessity, water samples are the only things around in which those superficial signs inhere.

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So much for the pretheoretic way of having natural kind concepts. By contrast, our official, full-blown, chemical concept of water is post-theoretic.

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For us (but not for Homer), WATER is a concept whose locking to water is mediated by our adherence to a theory about what water is. Since, by assumption, this theory that we adhere to is true, the locking depends on a property thatwater has in every metaphysically possible world, not just in nomologically possible worlds that are near here. We’relocked to water via a theory that specifies its essence, so we’re locked to water in every metaphysically possible world. That, I’msuggesting, is what an informational semanticist should say that it is to have a concept of a natural kind as a naturalkind: it’s for the mechanism that effects the locking not to depend on the superficial signs of the kind, and hence tohold (ceteris paribus of course) even in possible worlds where members of the kind lacks those signs.

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So, does this, or doesn’t it, amount to Homer’s having had the same concept of water that we do? Did they or didn’t they have the concept WATER back in the Garden?

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None of this could be much comfort to a disconsolate Empiricist, since none of it is supposed to deny, even for a moment, that a lot of stuff that’s domain specific or species specific or both has to be innate in order that we shouldcome to have the concept DOORKNOB (or for that matter, the concept RED). But the issue isn’t whether acquiringDOORKNOB requires a lot of innate stuff; anybody with any sense can see that it does. The issue is whether itrequires a lot of innate intentional stuff, a lot of innate stuff that has content. All the arguments I know that say thatinnate intentional stuff has to mediate concept acquisition depend on assuming either that concept acquisition isinductive or that the explanation of the d/D effect is psychological or both. Well, where a primitive concept expressesa mind-dependent property, it is very unclear that either of these kinds of argument will work.

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None of this could be much comfort to a disconsolate Empiricist, since none of it is supposed to deny, even for a moment, that a lot of stuff that’s domain specific or species specific or both has to be innate in order that we shouldcome to have the concept DOORKNOB (or for that matter, the concept RED). But the issue isn’t whether acquiringDOORKNOB requires a lot of innate stuff; anybody with any sense can see that it does. The issue is whether itrequires a lot of innate intentional stuff, a lot of innate stuff that has content. All the arguments I know that say thatinnate intentional stuff has to mediate concept acquisition depend on assuming either that concept acquisition isinductive or that the explanation of the d/D effect is psychological or both. Well, where a primitive concept expressesa mind-dependent property, it is very unclear that either of these kinds of argument will work.

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Maybe there aren’t any innate ideas after all.

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Appendix 6A Similarity

‘Hey, aren’t you just saying that all that has to be innate in a DOORKNOB-acquisition device is the capacity to learn to respond selectively to things that are relevantly similar to doorknobs? And didn’t Quine say that years ago?’

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No, I’m not and no, he didn’t. Not quite.

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There are two ways to understand the claim that the process of acquiring DOORKNOB recruits an innate ‘similarity metric’. One is platitudinous, the other is committed to innate ideas—in effect, to the innateness of the conceptSIMILAR TO A DOORKNOB. The geography around here is pretty familiar, so we can settle for a quick tour.

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On the first way of running it, the similarity story is just the remark that, given appropriate experience of doorknobs, creatures like us converge on a capacity to respond selectively to things that are like doorknobs in respect of theirdoorknobhood. This is perfectly self-evidently true; nobody reasonable could wish to deny it. It doesn’t, however, explainthe fact that we learn DOORKNOB from doorknobs; it just repeats the fact that we do. So construed, the similaritystory is completely neutral on the issues this chapter is concerned with, viz. whether the structures in virtue of whichwe are able to converge on selective sensitivity to doorknobhood need to be innate, and whether they need to beintentional.

On the other, unplatitudinous, way of running the similarity theory, it is itself a version of concept nativism: it’s the thesis that what’s innate is the concept SIMILAR TO A DOORKNOB. There seems, to put it mildly, to be no reasonto prefer that view to one that has DOORKNOB itself be innate. (Indeed, the first would seem to imply the second;since the concept SIMILAR TO A DOORKNOB is, on the face of it, a construct out of the concept DOORKNOB,it’s hard to imagine how anyone could think the one concept unless he could also think the other.) None of thisbothers Quine much, of course, because he pretty explicitly assumes the Empiricist principle that the innatedimensions of similarity, along which experience generalizes, are sensory. But Empiricism isn’t true, and it is time toput away childish things.

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Quine’s story is that learning DOORKNOB is learning to respond selectivity to things that are similar to doorknobs. What the story amounts to depends, in short, on how beingsimilar to doorknobs is construed. Well, there’s a dilemma: ifbeing similar to doorknobs is elucidated by appeal to doorknobhood, then the story is patently empty; ‘How is the conceptthat expresses doorknobhood acquired?’ is the very question that it was supposed to be the answer to. If, on the otherhand, being similar to

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doorknobs is spelled out by reference to properties other than doorknobhood, Quine has to say which properties these are, where the concepts of these properties come from, and how radical nativism with respect to them is to be avoided.

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Like Quine, I’ve opted for the second horn of the dilemma. But, unlike Quine, I’m no Empiricist. Accordingly, I can appeal to the doorknob stereotype to say what ‘similarity to doorknobs’ comes to, and—since ‘the doorknobstereotype’ is independently defined—I can do so without invoking the concept DOORKNOB and thereby courtingplatitude.

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

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

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

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Several points in a spirit of expatiation:

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

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

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

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

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

If C is literally a part of C, then of course you can’t have C,unless you also have C. Notice that this explanation turns on precisely the idea that meaning postulates propose toabandon: viz. that the content-constitutive inferences are the ones that relate a concept to its parts.

Jean-marc pizano If C is literally a part of C, then of course you can’t have C,unless you also have C. Notice that this explanation turns on precisely the idea that meaning postulates propose toabandon: viz. that the content-constitutive inferences are the ones that relate a concept to its parts.

 

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In short, if you are independently convinced both that there are meaning-constitutive inferences and that most lexical concepts behave like primitives, you’ve got a residuum problem to which meaning postulates may indeed offer asolution. But at a price, since the solution weakens the architecture of your overall theory: it breaks the connectionbetween the structure of a concept and its possession conditions.

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Partee has tried bravely to make a virtue of this necessity:

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Meaning postulates might be a helpful tool. . . since they make the form [sic] of some kinds of lexical information no different in kind from the form of some kinds of general knowledge. That would make it possible to hypothesizethat the very same ‘fact’—for example, whales are mammals—could be stored in either of two ‘places,’ a storehouseof lexical knowledge or a storehouse of empirical knowledge; whether it’s part of the meaning of ‘whale’ or notneed not be fixed once and for all. (1995: 328)

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But it is inadvisable for a theory to recognize degrees of freedom that it is unable to interpret. Exactly because meaning postulates break the ‘formal’ relation between belonging to the structure of a concept and being among its constitutiveinferences, it’s unclear why it matters which box a given such ‘fact’ goes into; i.e. whether a given inference is treated asmeaning-constitutive. Imagine two minds that differ in that ‘whale ^ mammal’ is a meaning postulate for one but is‘general knowledge’ for theother. Are any further differences between these minds entailed? If so, which ones? Is this wheel attached to anythingat all?

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It’s a point Quine made against Carnap that the answer to ‘When is an inference analytic?’ can’t be just Whenever I feel like saying that it is’. Definition versions of IR Semantics can hold that an inference is analytic when and only whenit follows from the structure of a concept. If the meaning postulate version has an alternative proposal on offer, it’s notone that I’ve heard of.

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Appendix 5B The ‘Theory Theory – of Concepts

The theories of concepts discussed so far all presuppose Inferential Role Semantics, so they all owe an account of which inferences determine conceptual content. The big divides are between holism (which says that all inferences do)and some sort of molecularism (which says that only some inferences do); and, within the latter, between classicaltheories (according to which it is modality that matters to content constitution) and prototype theories (according towhich it’s empirical reliability that does). In effect, the various theories of concepts we’ve reviewed are versions of IRSdistinguished, primarily, by what they say about the problem of individuating content.

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Now, a quite standard reading of the history of cognitive science has the reliability-based versions of IRS displacing the modality-based versions and in turn being displaced, very recently, by theory theories.63 But that way of telling the storyis, I think, mistaken. Though theory theories do propose a view about what concepts are (or, anyhow, about whatconcepts are like; or, anyhow, about what a lot of concepts are like), they don’t, as far as I can tell, offer a distinctapproach to the content individuation problems. Sometimes they borrow the modality story from definitional theories,sometimes they borrow the reliability story from prototype theories, sometimes they share the holist’s despair ofindividuating concepts at all. So, for our purposes at least, it’s unclear that theory theories of concepts differsubstantially from the kinds of theories

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I’m not crazy about this terminology, if only because it invites conflation with the quite different issue whether “folk psychology” is a (tacit) theory (see, for example, Gordon 1986). But it‘s standard in the cognitive science literature so I’ll stick with it, and from here on I’ll omit the shudder-quotes.

For a relatively clear example of a discussion where theory theories are viewed as alternatives to probabilistic accounts of concepts, see Keil 1987.Jean-marc pizano

Butso long as IRS is common ground for everyone concerned, this is an argument that the classical theorists are bound towin. That’s because, except for definitional inferences, inferential roles themselves don’t compose.

Jean-marc pizano Butso long as IRS is common ground for everyone concerned, this is an argument that the classical theorists are bound towin. That’s because, except for definitional inferences, inferential roles themselves don’t compose.

 

Compositionality says that, whatever content is, constituents must yield theirs to their hosts and hosts must derive theirs from their constituents. Roughly, the first half is required because whatever is true of cows as such or of brownthings as such is ipso facto true of brown cows. And the second half is required because, if the content of BROWNCOW is not fully determined by the content of BROWN and the content of COW (together with syntactic structure),then grasping BROWN and COW isn’t sufficient for grasping BROWN COW, and the standard explanation ofproductivity is undone.

Now, complying with the first half of this constraint is easy for IRS since BROWN contributes to BROWN COW not only its content-constitutive inferences (whichever those may be), but every inference that holds of brown things ingeneral.60 If whatever is a cow is an animal, then brown cows are animals a fortiori. If whatever is brown is square,then, a fortiori, every brown cow is a square cow

But the second half of the compositionality constraint is tricky for an

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If all of BROWN’s inferential role is content-constitutive, so be it; BROWN contributes its whole inferential role to BROWN COW, so compositionality isn’t violated. Holism is compatible with compositionality. As far as I know, that’s its only virtue.

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IRS. If nothing can belong to the content of BROWN COW except what it inherits either from BROWN or from COW, then the content of BROWN COW can’t be its whole inferential role. For, of course, all sorts of inferences canhold of brown cows (not qua brown or qua cows but) simply as such. That’s because all sorts of things can be true ofbrown cows that aren’t true either of brown things in general or of cows in general; that they are brown cows is anegregious example.

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If an X-kind of inference is required to be such that constituents contribute all their X-inferences to their hosts, and hosts inherit their X-inferences only from their constituents, then only defining inferences will do as candidates for X:the inferential role of a complex concept is exhaustively determined by the inferential roles of its constituents only withrespect to its defining inferences.20 That statistical inferences fail to compose is just a special case of this general truth.The pet fish problem is therefore not a fluke. Either the classical, definitional version of IRS is right, or no version canbe.

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So here’s the impasse: prototypes are public (i.e. they are widely shared) and they are psychologically real, so they do meet two of the non-negotiable conditions that concepts are required to meet; but they aren’t compositional.Definitions would be compositional if there were any, but there aren’t, so they’re not. As things stand, there is no version ofthe inferential role theory of conceptual content for which compositionality and psychological reality can both be clamed. I think theremust be something wrong with inferential role theories of content.

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X modest proposal:

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—“All right, all right; but if constituent concepts don’t contribute their definitions or their prototypes to their complex hosts, what do they contribute?”

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—Duck soup. They contribute what they mean; e.g. the properties that they express. What PET contributes to PET FISH is the property of being a pet, what FISH contributes to PET FISH is the property of being a fish. It’s because PETcontributes pet to PET FISH and FISH contributes fish to PET FISH that PET FISH entails PET and FISH. And it‘sbecause pet and fish exhaust the content of PET FISH that PET, FISH entails PET FISH. There are, to be sure, hardcases for this sort of analysis (what do RISING and TEMPERATURE contribute to THE RISING

TEMPERATURE?), but they are just the cases that are hard for compositionality on any known view.

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—“Oh bother, why didn’t I think of that?”

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—Presumably because the metaphysics that you had in mind says that meaning is constituted by inferential roles; in which case, the present proposal is no better off than the ones that we’ve just been discussing.Jean-marc pizano