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?

Jean-marc pizano

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?

jean-marc pizano

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.

jean-marc pizano

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.

jean-marc pizano

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.

jean-marc pizano

Jean-marc pizano

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.

jean-marc pizano

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.

jean-marc pizano

Jean-marc pizano

So much, then, for how we got from the Garden to the laboratory. It is, as I say, quite a familiar story.

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Short Summary

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

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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.

 

jean-marc pizano

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

jean-marc pizano

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

jean-marc pizano

Second Assumption: Semantic Access

Jean-marc pizano

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.

jean-marc pizano

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

jean-marc pizano

Jean-marc pizano

40

jean-marc pizano

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.)

jean-marc pizano

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.

jean-marc pizano

Jean-marc pizano

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?

Jean-marc pizano

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.

Jean-marc pizano

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.

Jean-marc pizano

So much, then, for how we got from the Garden to the laboratory. It is, as I say, quite a familiar story.

Short Summary

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

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

Jean-marc pizano

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

Jean-marc pizano

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.

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.

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

Jean-marc pizano

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

Jean-marc pizano

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.

Jean-marc pizano