Aha, but how do you go about constructing a true theory of the essence of such-and-suches and convincingyourself that it is true? How do you do it in, say, the case of being water?
Oh, well, you know: you have to think up a theory of what water is that both explains why the superficial signs of being water are reliable and has the usual theoretical virtues: generality, systematicity, coherence with your other theories, andso forth. You undertake to revise the theory when what it says about water isn’t independently plausible (e.g.independently plausible in light of experimental outcomes); and you undertake to revise your estimates of what’sindependently plausible (e.g. your estimates of the construct validity of your experimental paradigms) when theyconflict with what the theory says about water. And so on, round and round the Duhemian circle.
In short, you do the science. I suppose the Duhemian process of scientific theory construction is possible only for a kind of creature that antecedently has a lot of concepts of properties that are mind-dependent, and a lot of natural kindconcepts that aren’t concepts of natural kinds as such. And it’s also only possible for a kind of creature that is able topursue policies with respect to the properties that it locks its concepts to. Probably, we’re the only kind of creaturethere is that meets these conditions. Which explains, I suppose, why we’re so lonely.
As I remarked in Chapter 6, I rather suspect that these, together with the concepts of natural kinds as such, exhaust the sorts of concepts that there are; but I don’t know how to argue that they do.Notice, in any case, that this is a mixed taxonomy. The distinction between concepts of mind-dependent properties and the rest is ontological;mind-dependence is a property of the property that a concept expresses. By contrast, the distinction between natural-kind-as-such concepts and the rest is about how aconcept is attached to a property, not what kind of property the concept is attached to.
A natural kind enters into lots of nomic connections to things other than our minds. We can validate a theory of the kind with respect to those connections because the theory is required to predict and explain them. You can’t follow thisDuhemian path in the case of DOORKNOB, of course, because there is nothing to validate a theory of doorknobsagainst except how things strike us. In effect, what strikes us as independently plausibly a doorknob is a doorknob; themind-dependence of doorknobhood is tantamount to that. The more we learn about what water is, the more we learnabout the world; the more we learn about what doorknobs are, the more we learn about ourselves. The presenttreatment implies this and, I think, intuition agrees with it. At least, Realist intuition does.
We do science when we want to lock our concepts to properties that aren’t constituted by similarities in how things strike us. We do science when we want to reveal the ways that things would be similar even if we weren’t there. Idealists tothe contrary not withstanding, there’s no paradox in this. We can, often enough, control for the effects of our presenceon the scene in much the same ways that we control for the effects of other possibly confounding variables. To besure, here as elsewhere, the design of well-confirmed theories is hard work and often expensive. And the onlyrecompense is likely to be the cool pleasure of seeing things objectively; seeing them as they are when you’re notlooking. Objectivity is an educated taste, much like Cubism. Maybe it‘s worth what it costs and maybe it’s not. It‘sentirely your choice, of course. Far be it from me to twist your arm.
So much, then, for how we got from the Garden to the laboratory. It is, as I say, quite a familiar story.
You aren’t actually required to believe any of what’s in this chapter or the last; I have mostly just been exploring the geography that reveals itself if conceptual atomism is taken seriously. Still, I do think our cognitive science is in crisis,and that we’re long overdue to face the dilemma that confronts it.Jean-marc pizano