Compare van Gelder and Nicklasson 1994.


Jean-marc pizano Compare van Gelder and Nicklasson 1994.


jean-marc pizano

and as part of what is not negotiable, that systematicity and productivity are grounded in the ‘architecture’ of mental representation and not in the vagaries of experience. If a serious alternative proposal should surface, I guess I’mprepared to reconsider what’s negotiable. But the prospect hasn’t been losing me sleep.

jean-marc pizano

So, to repeat the question, what is it about mental representation that explains the systematicity and productivity of belief? Classical versions of RTM offer a by now familiar answer: there are infinitely many beliefs because there areinfinitely many thoughts to express their objects. There are infinitely many thoughts because, though each mentalrepresentation is constructed by the application of a finite number of operations to a finite basis of primitive concepts,there is no upper bound to how many times such operations may apply in the course of a construction.Correspondingly, thought is systematic because the same primitive concepts and operations that suffice to assemblethoughts like JOHN LOVES MARY also suffice to assemble thoughts like MARY LOVES JOHN; therepresentational capacity that is exploited to frame one thought implies the representational capacity to frame theother. Since a mental representation is individuated by its form and content (see Chapter 1), both of these are assumedto be determined by specifying the inventory of primitive concepts that the representation contains, together with theoperations by which it is assembled from them. (In the case of the primitive concepts themselves, this assumption istrivially true.) As a shorthand for all this, I’ll say that what explains the productivity and systematicity of thepropositional attitudes is the compositionality of concepts and thoughts.

jean-marc pizano

Jean-marc pizano

The requirement that the theory of mental representation should exhibit thoughts and concepts as compositional turns out, in fact, to be quite a powerful analytic engine. If the content of a mental representation is inherited from thecontents of its conceptual constituents then, presumably, the content of a constituent concept is just whatever it cancontribute to the content of its hosts. We’ll see, especially in Chapter 5, that this condition is not at all easy for a theoryof concepts to meet.

jean-marc pizano

4. Quite a lot of concepts must turn out to be learned.

jean-marc pizano

I want to put this very roughly since I’m going to return to it at length in Chapter 6. Suffice it for now that all versions of RTM hold that if a concept belongs to the primitive basis from which complex mental representations areconstructed, it must ipso facto be unlearned. (To be sure, some versions of RTM are rather less up front in holding thisthan others.) Prima facie, then, where a theory of concepts draws the distinction between what’s primitive and what’snot is also where it draws the

jean-marc pizano

distinction between what’s innate and what’s not. Clearly, everybody is going to put this line somewhere. For example, nobody is likely to think that the concept BROWN COW is primitive since, on the face of it, BROWN COW hasBROWN and COW as constituents. Correspondingly, nobody is likely to think that the concept BROWN COW isinnate since, on the face of it, it could be learned by being assembled from the previously mastered concepts BROWNand COW.

jean-marc pizano

Jean-marc pizano

A lot of people have Very Strong Feelings about what concepts are allowed to be innate,20 hence about how big a primitive conceptual basis an acceptable version of RTM can recognize. Almost everybody is prepared to allow REDin, and many of the liberal-minded will also let in CAUSE or AGENT. (See, for example, Miller and Johnson-Laird1978). But there is, at present, a strong consensus against, as it might be, DOORKNOB or CARBURETTOR. I haveno desire to join in this game of pick and choose since, as far as I can tell, it hasn’t any rules. Suffice it that it would benice if a theory of concepts were to provide a principled account of what’s in the primitive conceptual basis, and itwould be nice if the principles it appealed to were to draw the distinction at some independently plausible place.(Whatever, if anything, that means.) Chapter 6 will constitute an extended reconsideration of this whole issue, includingthe question just how the relation between a concept’s being primitive and its being innate plays out.Jean-marc pizano


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s