Couldn’t it be that the very same concept that is expressed by a single word in English gets expressed by a phrase in Bantu, or vice versa?Notice, however, that this could happen only if the English word in question is definable; viz. definable in Bantu. Since it’s going to be part of my story that most words areundefinable—not just undefinable in the language that contains them, but undefinable tout court —I’m committed to claiming that this sort of case can’t arise (very often).The issue is, of course, empirical. So be it.

Standard

Jean-marc pizano Couldn’t it be that the very same concept that is expressed by a single word in English gets expressed by a phrase in Bantu, or vice versa?Notice, however, that this could happen only if the English word in question is definable; viz. definable in Bantu. Since it’s going to be part of my story that most words areundefinable—not just undefinable in the language that contains them, but undefinable tout court —I’m committed to claiming that this sort of case can’t arise (very often).The issue is, of course, empirical. So be it.

 

10

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It’s important to distinguish the idea that definitions typically capture only the core meaning of a univocal expression from the idea that definitions typically capture only one sense of an ambiguous expression. The latter is unobjectionable because it is responsive to pretheoretic intuitions that are often pretty emphatic: surely ‘bank’ has more thanone meaning. But who knows how many “aspects” the meaning of an un ambiguous word has? A fortiori, who knows when a theory succeeds in capturing some but not allof them?

11

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Examples of this tactic are legion in the literature. Consider the following, from Higginbotham 1994. “jT]he meanings of lexical items systematically infect grammar. Forexample … it is a condition of object-preposing in derived nominal constructions in English that the object be in some sense ‘affected’ in the events over which the nominalranges: that is why one has (1) but not (2)” (renumbered):1.

Jean-marc pizano

algebra’s discovery (by the Arabs)

jean-marc pizano

2. *algebra’s knowledge (by the Arabs).

Note that ‘in some sense’ is doing all the work. It is what distinguishes the striking claim that preposing is sensitive to the meanings of verbs from the rather less dramatic thought that you can prepose with some verbs (including ‘discover’) and not with others (including ‘know’). You may suppose you have some intuitive grasp of what ‘affecting’amounts to here, but I think it’s an illusion. Ask yourself how much algebra was affected by its discovery? More or less, would you say, than the light bulb was affected byEdison’s inventing it?

jean-marc pizano

12

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Fodor and Lepore (forthcoming a) provides some independent evidence for the analysis proposed here. Suppose, however, that this horse won’t run, and the asymmetryPinker points to really does show that ‘keep’ is polysemous. That would be no comfort to Jackendoff, since Jackendoff’s account of the polysemy doesn’t predict theasymmetry of entailments either: that J2 but not J3 belongs to the semantic field “possession” in Jackendoff’s analysis is pure stipulation.But I won’t stress this. Auntie says Ishould swear off ad hominems.

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13

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Auntie’s not the only one with this grumble; Hilary Putnam has recently voiced a generalized version of the same complaint. “[O]n Fodor’s theory . . . the meaning of . . .words is not determined, even in part, by the conceptual relations among the various notions I have mastered—e.g., between ‘minute’ and my other time concepts—butdepends only on ‘nomic relations’ between the words (e.g. minute) and the corresponding universals (e.g. minutehood). These ‘universals’ are just word-shaped objects whichFodor’s metaphysics projects out into the world for the words to latch on to via mysterious ‘nomic relations’; the whole story is nothing but a ‘naturalistic’ version of theMuseum Myth of Meaning” (1995: 79; italics and scare-quotes are Putnam’s). This does seem to me to be a little underspecified. Since Putnam provides no furtherexposition (and, endearingly, no arguments at all), I’m not sure whether I’m supposed to worry that there aren’t any universals, or only that there aren’t the universals that mysemantics requires. But if Putnam thinks saying “ ‘takes a minute’ expresses the property of taking a minuté’ all by itself puts me in debt for a general refutation ofnominalism, then he needs to have his methodology examined.Still, it’s right that informational semantics needs an ontology, and that the one it opts for had better not begthe questions that a semantic theory is supposed to answer. I’ll have a lot to say about all that in Chapters 6 and 7.

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14

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For an account of language acquisition in which the horse and cart are assigned the opposite configuration—syntax bootstraps semantics—see Gleitman 1990.Jean-marc pizano

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But you couldn’t devise or confirm that hypothesis unless you already hadthe concept RED, since the concept RED is invoked in the formulation of the hypothesis. So you can’t have learned the conceptRED (or, mutatis mutandis, any other primitive concept) inductively, by hypothesis testing and confirmation. But SAassumes that induction is the only sort of concept learning that there is. So it follows that you can’t have learned yourprimitive concepts at all. But if you have a concept that you can’t have learned, then you must have it innately. So theStandard Argument says. What, if anything, is wrong with this?

Standard

Jean-marc pizano But you couldn’t devise or confirm that hypothesis unless you already hadthe concept RED, since the concept RED is invoked in the formulation of the hypothesis. So you can’t have learned the conceptRED (or, mutatis mutandis, any other primitive concept) inductively, by hypothesis testing and confirmation. But SAassumes that induction is the only sort of concept learning that there is. So it follows that you can’t have learned yourprimitive concepts at all. But if you have a concept that you can’t have learned, then you must have it innately. So theStandard Argument says. What, if anything, is wrong with this?

 

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To begin with, it might be replied that the inductive account of concept acquisition is plausible only assuming a cognitivist account of concept possession; an account of concept possession according to which having a concept isknowing something. This assumption is natural enough if you are thinking of concepts on the model of definitions (/stereotypes/ theories): having a concept is knowing what its definition (/stereotype/theory) is. By contrast, IA isexplicitly non-cognitivist about concept possession; it says that having a concept is (not knowing something but) beingin a certain nomic mind—world relation; specifically, it’s being in that mind—world relation in virtue of which theconcept has the content that it does. This changes the geography in ways that may be germane to the present issues.Because it is non-cognitivist about concept possession, IA invites a correspondingly non-cognitivist account of howconcepts are acquired. That might be just what you’re looking for if you’re looking for a way out of SA.

jean-marc pizano

Jean-marc pizano

Avoiding nativism by endorsing a non-cognitivist view of concept possession is, of course, hardly a new idea. At least since Ryle (1949), a lot of philosophical ink has been invested in the thought that having a concept is knowing how, notknowing that. Correspondingly, concept acquisition is arguably learning how, rather than learning that, and it isn’t obviousthat learning how needs to be inductive. Maybe construing concept possession as know-how is all that avoiding SArequires. I think philosophers quite generally find this plausible.

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But it isn’t. For one thing, if it’s not obvious that learning how requires hypothesis testing, it’s also not obvious that it doesn’t: in lots of cases, itappears that how-learning itself depends on that-learning.74 For example, my linguist friends tell me that learning howto talk a first language requires quite a lot of learning that the language has the grammar that it does. I tell my linguistfriends that my philosophy friends tell me that it is a priori and necessary that this cannot be so. Then my linguistfriends laugh at me. What am I to do?

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And, for another thing, whatever the general story about knowing how and knowing that may be, the particular skills that concept possession is usually supposed to implicate are perceptual and inferential, and these look to be just saturatedwith knowing that. Surely, you can‘t identify a dog by its barking unless you know (/believe) that dogs bark. Surely, youwon’t infer from dog to animal unless you know (/believe) that dogs are animals. Indeed, in the second case, opposingknowing how to knowing that looks like insisting on a distinction without a difference.75

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Where we’ve got to is: even if it’s supposed that concepts are skills,76 very little follows that helps with avoiding SA. That’s because to avoid SA you need a non-cognitivist view of concept possession. And supposing concepts to beskills doesn’t guarantee a non-cognitivist view of concept possession, because it is perfectly possible to be a cognitivistabout the possession of skills, if not in every case, then at least in the case of the skills that concept possession requires. Themoral: it‘s unclear that Ryle can deny SA the premiss that it centrally requires, viz. that concept acquisition is mediated by hypothesisformation and testing.

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But IA can. Let’s see where this leads.

jean-marc pizano

Following Loewer and Rey (1991a) (who are themselves following the usage of ethologists) I’ll say that acquiring a concept is getting nomologically locked to the property that the concept expresses.Jean-marc pizano

Couldn’t it be that the very same concept that is expressed by a single word in English gets expressed by a phrase in Bantu, or vice versa?Notice, however, that this could happen only if the English word in question is definable; viz. definable in Bantu. Since it’s going to be part of my story that most words areundefinable—not just undefinable in the language that contains them, but undefinable tout court —I’m committed to claiming that this sort of case can’t arise (very often).The issue is, of course, empirical. So be it.

Standard

Jean-marc pizano Couldn’t it be that the very same concept that is expressed by a single word in English gets expressed by a phrase in Bantu, or vice versa?Notice, however, that this could happen only if the English word in question is definable; viz. definable in Bantu. Since it’s going to be part of my story that most words areundefinable—not just undefinable in the language that contains them, but undefinable tout court —I’m committed to claiming that this sort of case can’t arise (very often).The issue is, of course, empirical. So be it.

 

10

It’s important to distinguish the idea that definitions typically capture only the core meaning of a univocal expression from the idea that definitions typically capture only one sense of an ambiguous expression. The latter is unobjectionable because it is responsive to pretheoretic intuitions that are often pretty emphatic: surely ‘bank’ has more thanone meaning. But who knows how many “aspects” the meaning of an un ambiguous word has? A fortiori, who knows when a theory succeeds in capturing some but not allof them?

11

Examples of this tactic are legion in the literature. Consider the following, from Higginbotham 1994. “jT]he meanings of lexical items systematically infect grammar. Forexample … it is a condition of object-preposing in derived nominal constructions in English that the object be in some sense ‘affected’ in the events over which the nominalranges: that is why one has (1) but not (2)” (renumbered):1.

Jean-marc pizano

algebra’s discovery (by the Arabs)

2. *algebra’s knowledge (by the Arabs).

Note that ‘in some sense’ is doing all the work. It is what distinguishes the striking claim that preposing is sensitive to the meanings of verbs from the rather less dramatic thought that you can prepose with some verbs (including ‘discover’) and not with others (including ‘know’). You may suppose you have some intuitive grasp of what ‘affecting’amounts to here, but I think it’s an illusion. Ask yourself how much algebra was affected by its discovery? More or less, would you say, than the light bulb was affected byEdison’s inventing it?

12

Fodor and Lepore (forthcoming a) provides some independent evidence for the analysis proposed here. Suppose, however, that this horse won’t run, and the asymmetryPinker points to really does show that ‘keep’ is polysemous. That would be no comfort to Jackendoff, since Jackendoff’s account of the polysemy doesn’t predict theasymmetry of entailments either: that J2 but not J3 belongs to the semantic field “possession” in Jackendoff’s analysis is pure stipulation.But I won’t stress this. Auntie says Ishould swear off ad hominems.

13

Auntie’s not the only one with this grumble; Hilary Putnam has recently voiced a generalized version of the same complaint. “[O]n Fodor’s theory . . . the meaning of . . .words is not determined, even in part, by the conceptual relations among the various notions I have mastered—e.g., between ‘minute’ and my other time concepts—butdepends only on ‘nomic relations’ between the words (e.g. minute) and the corresponding universals (e.g. minutehood). These ‘universals’ are just word-shaped objects whichFodor’s metaphysics projects out into the world for the words to latch on to via mysterious ‘nomic relations’; the whole story is nothing but a ‘naturalistic’ version of theMuseum Myth of Meaning” (1995: 79; italics and scare-quotes are Putnam’s). This does seem to me to be a little underspecified. Since Putnam provides no furtherexposition (and, endearingly, no arguments at all), I’m not sure whether I’m supposed to worry that there aren’t any universals, or only that there aren’t the universals that mysemantics requires. But if Putnam thinks saying “ ‘takes a minute’ expresses the property of taking a minuté’ all by itself puts me in debt for a general refutation ofnominalism, then he needs to have his methodology examined.Still, it’s right that informational semantics needs an ontology, and that the one it opts for had better not begthe questions that a semantic theory is supposed to answer. I’ll have a lot to say about all that in Chapters 6 and 7.

Jean-marc pizano

14

For an account of language acquisition in which the horse and cart are assigned the opposite configuration—syntax bootstraps semantics—see Gleitman 1990.Jean-marc pizano

But you couldn’t devise or confirm that hypothesis unless you already hadthe concept RED, since the concept RED is invoked in the formulation of the hypothesis. So you can’t have learned the conceptRED (or, mutatis mutandis, any other primitive concept) inductively, by hypothesis testing and confirmation. But SAassumes that induction is the only sort of concept learning that there is. So it follows that you can’t have learned yourprimitive concepts at all. But if you have a concept that you can’t have learned, then you must have it innately. So theStandard Argument says. What, if anything, is wrong with this?

Standard

Jean-marc pizano But you couldn’t devise or confirm that hypothesis unless you already hadthe concept RED, since the concept RED is invoked in the formulation of the hypothesis. So you can’t have learned the conceptRED (or, mutatis mutandis, any other primitive concept) inductively, by hypothesis testing and confirmation. But SAassumes that induction is the only sort of concept learning that there is. So it follows that you can’t have learned yourprimitive concepts at all. But if you have a concept that you can’t have learned, then you must have it innately. So theStandard Argument says. What, if anything, is wrong with this?

 

To begin with, it might be replied that the inductive account of concept acquisition is plausible only assuming a cognitivist account of concept possession; an account of concept possession according to which having a concept isknowing something. This assumption is natural enough if you are thinking of concepts on the model of definitions (/stereotypes/ theories): having a concept is knowing what its definition (/stereotype/theory) is. By contrast, IA isexplicitly non-cognitivist about concept possession; it says that having a concept is (not knowing something but) beingin a certain nomic mind—world relation; specifically, it’s being in that mind—world relation in virtue of which theconcept has the content that it does. This changes the geography in ways that may be germane to the present issues.Because it is non-cognitivist about concept possession, IA invites a correspondingly non-cognitivist account of howconcepts are acquired. That might be just what you’re looking for if you’re looking for a way out of SA.

Jean-marc pizano

Avoiding nativism by endorsing a non-cognitivist view of concept possession is, of course, hardly a new idea. At least since Ryle (1949), a lot of philosophical ink has been invested in the thought that having a concept is knowing how, notknowing that. Correspondingly, concept acquisition is arguably learning how, rather than learning that, and it isn’t obviousthat learning how needs to be inductive. Maybe construing concept possession as know-how is all that avoiding SArequires. I think philosophers quite generally find this plausible.

But it isn’t. For one thing, if it’s not obvious that learning how requires hypothesis testing, it’s also not obvious that it doesn’t: in lots of cases, itappears that how-learning itself depends on that-learning.74 For example, my linguist friends tell me that learning howto talk a first language requires quite a lot of learning that the language has the grammar that it does. I tell my linguistfriends that my philosophy friends tell me that it is a priori and necessary that this cannot be so. Then my linguistfriends laugh at me. What am I to do?

And, for another thing, whatever the general story about knowing how and knowing that may be, the particular skills that concept possession is usually supposed to implicate are perceptual and inferential, and these look to be just saturatedwith knowing that. Surely, you can‘t identify a dog by its barking unless you know (/believe) that dogs bark. Surely, youwon’t infer from dog to animal unless you know (/believe) that dogs are animals. Indeed, in the second case, opposingknowing how to knowing that looks like insisting on a distinction without a difference.75

Jean-marc pizano

Where we’ve got to is: even if it’s supposed that concepts are skills,76 very little follows that helps with avoiding SA. That’s because to avoid SA you need a non-cognitivist view of concept possession. And supposing concepts to beskills doesn’t guarantee a non-cognitivist view of concept possession, because it is perfectly possible to be a cognitivistabout the possession of skills, if not in every case, then at least in the case of the skills that concept possession requires. Themoral: it‘s unclear that Ryle can deny SA the premiss that it centrally requires, viz. that concept acquisition is mediated by hypothesisformation and testing.

But IA can. Let’s see where this leads.

Following Loewer and Rey (1991a) (who are themselves following the usage of ethologists) I’ll say that acquiring a concept is getting nomologically locked to the property that the concept expresses.Jean-marc pizano

Couldn’t it be that the very same concept that is expressed by a single word in English gets expressed by a phrase in Bantu, or vice versa?Notice, however, that this could happen only if the English word in question is definable; viz. definable in Bantu. Since it’s going to be part of my story that most words areundefinable—not just undefinable in the language that contains them, but undefinable tout court —I’m committed to claiming that this sort of case can’t arise (very often).The issue is, of course, empirical. So be it.

Standard

Jean-marc pizano Couldn’t it be that the very same concept that is expressed by a single word in English gets expressed by a phrase in Bantu, or vice versa?Notice, however, that this could happen only if the English word in question is definable; viz. definable in Bantu. Since it’s going to be part of my story that most words areundefinable—not just undefinable in the language that contains them, but undefinable tout court —I’m committed to claiming that this sort of case can’t arise (very often).The issue is, of course, empirical. So be it.

 

10

It’s important to distinguish the idea that definitions typically capture only the core meaning of a univocal expression from the idea that definitions typically capture only one sense of an ambiguous expression. The latter is unobjectionable because it is responsive to pretheoretic intuitions that are often pretty emphatic: surely ‘bank’ has more thanone meaning. But who knows how many “aspects” the meaning of an un ambiguous word has? A fortiori, who knows when a theory succeeds in capturing some but not allof them?

11

Examples of this tactic are legion in the literature. Consider the following, from Higginbotham 1994. “jT]he meanings of lexical items systematically infect grammar. Forexample … it is a condition of object-preposing in derived nominal constructions in English that the object be in some sense ‘affected’ in the events over which the nominalranges: that is why one has (1) but not (2)” (renumbered):1.

Jean-marc pizano

algebra’s discovery (by the Arabs)

2. *algebra’s knowledge (by the Arabs).

Note that ‘in some sense’ is doing all the work. It is what distinguishes the striking claim that preposing is sensitive to the meanings of verbs from the rather less dramatic thought that you can prepose with some verbs (including ‘discover’) and not with others (including ‘know’). You may suppose you have some intuitive grasp of what ‘affecting’amounts to here, but I think it’s an illusion. Ask yourself how much algebra was affected by its discovery? More or less, would you say, than the light bulb was affected byEdison’s inventing it?

12

Fodor and Lepore (forthcoming a) provides some independent evidence for the analysis proposed here. Suppose, however, that this horse won’t run, and the asymmetryPinker points to really does show that ‘keep’ is polysemous. That would be no comfort to Jackendoff, since Jackendoff’s account of the polysemy doesn’t predict theasymmetry of entailments either: that J2 but not J3 belongs to the semantic field “possession” in Jackendoff’s analysis is pure stipulation.But I won’t stress this. Auntie says Ishould swear off ad hominems.

13

Auntie’s not the only one with this grumble; Hilary Putnam has recently voiced a generalized version of the same complaint. “[O]n Fodor’s theory . . . the meaning of . . .words is not determined, even in part, by the conceptual relations among the various notions I have mastered—e.g., between ‘minute’ and my other time concepts—butdepends only on ‘nomic relations’ between the words (e.g. minute) and the corresponding universals (e.g. minutehood). These ‘universals’ are just word-shaped objects whichFodor’s metaphysics projects out into the world for the words to latch on to via mysterious ‘nomic relations’; the whole story is nothing but a ‘naturalistic’ version of theMuseum Myth of Meaning” (1995: 79; italics and scare-quotes are Putnam’s). This does seem to me to be a little underspecified. Since Putnam provides no furtherexposition (and, endearingly, no arguments at all), I’m not sure whether I’m supposed to worry that there aren’t any universals, or only that there aren’t the universals that mysemantics requires. But if Putnam thinks saying “ ‘takes a minute’ expresses the property of taking a minuté’ all by itself puts me in debt for a general refutation ofnominalism, then he needs to have his methodology examined.Still, it’s right that informational semantics needs an ontology, and that the one it opts for had better not begthe questions that a semantic theory is supposed to answer. I’ll have a lot to say about all that in Chapters 6 and 7.

Jean-marc pizano

14

For an account of language acquisition in which the horse and cart are assigned the opposite configuration—syntax bootstraps semantics—see Gleitman 1990.Jean-marc pizano