between dogs and DOG-tokens is reliable that there is a community of dog-thinkers, creatures whose mental processes fall under the intentional laws about dog-thoughts. Just so, epistemologists (have been known to) say that it’s thereliability of the mediation between dogs and one’s dog-thoughts that justifies one’s knowledge claims about dogs. Thisconvergence of views is all to the good, of course; the requirements that epistemology places upon epistemic warrantought to be ones that the theory of content allows many of one’s beliefs actually to meet.
The psychological and physiological mechanisms that mediate the perception of middle-sized events and objects must surely head the list of the mechanisms of semantic access. It’s about as reliable as the empirical generalizations ofintentional psychology ever get that if you put a DOG-owner, eyes open, in a dog-filled environment and you turn upthe lights, dog-thoughts will ensue. Or, to say it the way that RTM wants us to, the mechanisms of visual perceptionnormally function to insure that ‘IT‘S DOGGING’ gets tokened in the subject’s belief box in such well-lit, doggysituations. De facto, our capacities for thinking about dogs, and hence our possibilities for knowing about them, bothdepend heavily on the reliability with which the mechanisms of visual perception do this.
Note, however, that I did not just claim that one’s possession of the concept DOG is constituted by the fact that seeing dogs causes tokens of DOG in one’s belief box. To the contrary: one’s possession of that concept is constituted bythere being the appropriate, meaning-making lawful relations between instantiated doghood and one’s neural-cum-mentalstates. It’s that your mental structures contrive to resonate to doghood, not how your mental structures contrive toresonate to doghood, that is constitutive of concept possession according to the informational view. This too is all to thegood since it helps with satisfying the publicity constraint on concept possession that was endorsed in Chapter 2. ForHelen Keller, it was not visual perception that sustained the meaning-making dog—DOG relation. Yet she and I, each inour way, can both satisfy the conditions for DOG-possession according to the present account of those conditions.
Just as I did not say that having perceptual mechanisms that connect dog sightings with DOG-tokens-in-the-belief-box constitutes your having the concept DOG, so I also did not say that the character of these mechanisms determines thecontent of your concept. How a concept achieves semantic access is one thing, what content the concept has is quiteanother. It is a chief virtue of informational semantics to distinguish between these two (just as it was the besetting viceof operationalism to conflate them). You tell that a thing’s a dog by, inter alia, looking and listening; dog-shaped sightsand woof-shaped sounds are among the
reliable things to look and listen for. It does not follow either that there are perceptual ‘criteria’ for doghood or that, if there are, these criteria are constitutive of the content of the concept DOG. What’s metaphysically pertinent to thecontent of DOG is the same thing that’s metaphysically pertinent to your possession of DOG; namely, that it’s doghood (andnot, as it might be, cathood) that your DOG tokenings are under the lawful control of.
I’ve said that, de facto, perceptual mechanisms head the list of the ones that mediate our semantic access to doghood. But I now want to emphasize that that list is very long; in fact, that it’s open-ended in a way that is important both forsemantics and for epistemology. Here are some routes, other than perceiving dogs, that do, or might, sustain themeaning-making causal connection between dogs and their mental representations:
—Dog bells. Someone may rig things so that a bell goes off when the dog shakes its head. If I know how things are rigged, hearing the bell may reliably cause me to think dog.42 Similarly for my hearing the door bell when thedog pushes the button.
In fact, I may myself rig things this way, thereby insuring that if the bell rings, thus indicating that doghood is locally instantiated, I will be caused to think dog, and thus come to be in a cognitive condition that is appropriate to myenvironmental situation.Jean-marc pizano