That, however, can’t be what the lexicalsemanticist is proposing. To have ‘RED’ in the definition of ‘red’ would make ‘COLOUR’ redundant, since if ‘RED’means red, it thereby entails ‘COLOUR’. If the definition of ‘red’ includes RED, that’s all it includes, so in effect theproposal that it does concedes the concept to atomism.

Standard

Jean-marc pizano That, however, can’t be what the lexicalsemanticist is proposing. To have ‘RED’ in the definition of ‘red’ would make ‘COLOUR’ redundant, since if ‘RED’means red, it thereby entails ‘COLOUR’. If the definition of ‘red’ includes RED, that’s all it includes, so in effect theproposal that it does concedes the concept to atomism.

 

It might be possible to treat such cases as mere curiosities specific to sensory concepts. It’s sometimes suggested that they illustrate the presence of an “iconic” element in concepts likeRED (see the discussion above of Jackendoff 1992). Maybe ‘red’ means something like ‘similar in respect of colour tothis’ where the ‘this’ ostensively introduces a red sample. The trouble with taking this line, however, is that the patternRED and the like exemplify actually appears to be quite general: lots of lexical concepts for which definitions are veryhard to find nevertheless appear to enter into the same sort of “one way” entailments that hold between ‘red’ and‘colour’. It’s plausible that ‘dog’ means animal, but there doesn’t seem to be any F (except DOG) such that ‘F +ANIMAL’ means dog ‘Chair’ means furniture, but what and FURNITURE means chair? Notice that it won’t do toappeal to ‘iconic elements’ in these non-sensory cases. Maybe ‘red’ means ‘similar in colour tothiibut ‘dog’ doesn’t mean‘similar in X tothii for any X that I can think of except doghood. It appears that, contrary to traditional Empiricistdoctrine, many lexical items are not independent but not definable either; ‘red’ entails ‘colour’ but can‘t be defined interms of it.

Jean-marc pizano

A natural way to accommodate the residuum problem is to allow that some content-constitutive inferences don’t arise from definitions after all. It’s not that RED entails COLOUR because the definition of ‘red’ is COLOUR F; rather,RED just entails COLOUR full stop. Following the historical usage, I’ll call a principle of inference that institutes a‘one way relation of entailment between lexical concepts a “meaning postulate”. Rules of lexically governed inferencethat happen to be biconditional, like ‘bachelor x unmarried man’, have no special status according to the theory thatmeaning postulates are what license lexically governed inferences. This version of Inferential Role Semantics istherefore weaker than the definitional account; the latter allows a lexical concept to enter into constitutive inferentialrelations only if it is definable.

From our perspective, the important consequence of this liberalization is that it disconnects the question whether an inference from C to Cx is content-constitutive from the question whether Cx is a syntactic part of C. Notice that it wasonly because definitions were required to be biconditional that they could be viewed as exhibiting the structuraldescription of a concept. UNMARRIED MAN can’t be the structural description of BACHELOR unless‘BACHELOR and ‘UNMARRIED MAN denote the same concept. But BACHELOR and UNMARRIED MANcan’t be the same concept unless ‘BACHELOR x UNMARRIED MAN ’ is true.

Detaching the question whether RED entails COLOUR from the question whether COLOUR is a constituent of RED has its virtues, to be sure. We’ve been seeing how weakly the empirical evidence supports claims for the internalstructure of lexical concepts. Meaning postulates allowone to give up such claims while holding onto both “red’ means colour is analytic’ and ‘you don’t have RED unless youknow that red is a colour’. On the meaning postulate story, RED ^ COLOUR could be meaning-constitutive even ifneither RED nor COLOUR have any internal structure; i.e. even if it’s atomic.

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But no free lunch, of course. We started out this chapter by remarking that one of the nicest things about the definition story was that it explains an otherwise striking and perplexing symmetry between the metaphysics of meaning and themetaphysics of concept possession: the very inferences that are supposed to define a concept are also the ones you have to accept inorder to possess the concept. This really is striking and perplexing and not at all truistic; remember, it isn’t (can’t be) true ofall necessary inferences—or even of all a priori inferences—that they determine the conditions for possessing theconcepts involved in them. Well, the theory that concepts are definitions gets this symmetry for free; it follows fromthe fact that definitions relate concepts to their constituents.Jean-marc pizano

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