Jean-marc pizano By contrast,informational semantics contemplates the metaphysical possibility that there should be something that a conceptmeans (e.g. a property that it expresses) even though the concept enters into no constitutive inferential relations at all. Myadvice is, therefore: if you want to say what compositionality appears to require you to—that what a conceptcontributes to its hosts is what it means—you’d better mean by ‘what it means’ not its inferential role but somethinglike the information that it carries, where, by assumption, RED carries information about redness.
Inferential role semantics is bankrupt. Because cognitive science has swallowed Inferential Role Semantics whole, its treatment of concepts is bankrupt too; it keeps writing cheques on a theory of meaning that isn’t there. It is very naughtyto write cheques that you can‘t cash, and it‘s past time for cognitive science to kick the habit. Chapters 6 and 7 will beabout that.
Appendix 5A Meaning Postulates
Prototypes dissociate two issues that definition theories treat together: What is the structure of a lexical concept? and What modal inferences do you have to accept to have the lexical concept X? On the definition story, both these questions get answeredby reference to the relations between concepts and their parts: lexical concepts typically have constituent structure,much like phrasal concepts; and if the concept C is a constituent of the concept X, then you don’t have X unless youbelieve that Xs are necessarilyCs. The argument between definitions and prototypes is over the second of these claims.
But it‘s worth noting that the question whether lexical concepts have constituent structure can be dissociated from both the question whether inferences constitute content and whether what makes an inference content-constitutive issomething about its modality. Inferential role semantics doesn’t have to claim that lexical concepts are structurally complex if itdoesn’t want to. In particular, it doesn’t have to claim that the
inferences which constitute a concept’s content are defined over its constituent structure.
There may be several motivations for separating the question whether (and which) inferences constitute content from the question whether typical lexical concepts are structurally complex. Some philosophers do so because they want tohold on to intuitions of analyticity in face of the mounting empirical evidence that lexical concepts generally behave likeatoms by either linguistic or psychological criteria. And there’s an independent, semantical argument as well; it’s knownin the lexical semantics literature as the ‘residuum problem’.
In the most familiar cases, lexically governed inferences are supposed to follow from definitions by an analogue to simplification of conjunction. Thus, ‘bachelor’ entails unmarried because its definition is ‘male andunmarried and the ‘and’works in the usual truth-conditional way. This treatment fits naturally with the idea that concepts are bundles ofsemantic features, each of which express a property of the (actual or possible) things that the concept subsumes.
Now, it’s natural to assume that if there is a property corresponding to the feature bundle Fp F2, . . . , F’, then there should also be a property corresponding to the bundle ‘F1, F2, . . . , Fn-1’. So, for example, what’s left when you take theunmarried out of the definition of ‘bachelor’ is the definition of ‘male’; and what’s left when you take the male out of thedefinition of ‘bachelor’ is the definition of ‘unmarried’. Just as the result of simplifying a conjunctive predicate is alwaysitself a predicate, so the result of simplifying a feature bundle is always itself a feature bundle.
But there are cases of lexically governed entailment which appear not to follow this model; ‘red ^ colour’ is a paradigm. According to the definition story, this inference should be the simplification of a complex concept (thedefinition of ‘red’) which has the form: Fj,. . . , COLOUR, … ’; but, on reflection, it’s hard to see what could go in forthe Fj’. A male is something that is just like a bachelor but not necessarily married; but what is just like red but notnecessarily a colour? If you take the ‘COLOUR’ out of the definition of ‘red’, what you’re left with doesn’t seem to be apossible meaning, the residuum of ‘red ^ coloured’ is apparently a surd. Or, to put it the other way round, it looks likethe only thing that could combine with ‘COLOURED’ to mean red is ‘RED’.Jean-marc pizano