The present discussion parallels what I regard as a very deep passage in Schiffer

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So, then, which appearance properties are sensory properties? Here’s a line that one might consider: £ is a sensory property only if it is possible to have an experience of which £-ness is the intentional object (e.g. an experience (as) of red) even though one hasn’t got the concept £ Here the test of having the concept £ would be something like beingable to think thoughts whose truth conditions include … £ … (e.g. thoughts like that’s red). I think this must be the notion of ‘sensory property’ that underlies the Empiricistidea that RED and the like are learned ‘by abstraction’ from experience, a doctrine which presupposes that a mind that lacks RED can none the less have experiences (as) ofredness. By this test, DOORKNOB is presumably not a sensory concept since, though it is perfectly possible to have an experience (as) of doorknobs, I suppose only a mindthat has the concept DOORKNOB can do so.‘But how could one have an experience (as) of red if one hasn’t got the concept RED?’ It‘s easy: in the case of redness, but notof doorknobhood, one is equipped with sensory organs which produce such experiences when they are appropriately stimulated. Redness can be sensed, whereas the perceptualdetection of doorknobhood is always inferential. Just as sensible psychologists have always supposed.

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The present discussion parallels what I regard as a very deep passage in Schiffer 1987 about being a dog. Schiffer takes for granted that ‘dog’ doesn’t name a species, and (hence?) that dogs as such don’t have a hidden essence. His conclusion is that there just isn’t (except pleonastically) any such property as being a dog My diagnosis is thatthere is too, but it’s mind-dependent.

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Reminder: ‘the X stereotype’ is rigid. See n. 12 above.

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Except in the (presumably never encountered) case where all the X s are stereotypic. In that case, there’s a dead heat.

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In principle, they are also epistemically independent in both directions. As things are now, we find out about the stereotype by doing tests on subjects who are independentlyidentified as having the corresponding concept. But I assume that if we knew enough about the mind/brain, we could predict a concept from its stereotype and vice versa. Ineffect, given the infinite set of actual and possible doorknobs, we could predict the stereotype from which our sorts of minds would generalize to it; and given the doorknobstereotype, we could predict the set of actual and possible objects which our kinds of minds would take to instantiate doorknobhood.

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Compare Jackendoff: “Look at the representations of, say, generative phonology… It is strange to say that English speakers know the proposition, true in the world independent of speakers [sic ], that syllable-initial voiceless consonants aspirate before stress … In generative phonology . . . this rule of aspiration is regarded as a principle of internalcomputation, not a fact about the world. Such semantical concepts as implication, confirmation, and logical consequence seem curiously irrelevant” (1992: 29). Note that,though they are confounded in his text, the contrast that Jackendoff is insisting on isn’t between propositions and rules/principles of computation; it’s between phenomena of thekind that generative phonology studies and facts about the world. But that ‘p’ is aspirated in ‘Patrick’ is a fact about the world. That is to say: it’s a fact. And of course the usuallogico-semantical concepts apply. That ‘p’ is aspirated in ‘Patrick’ is what makes the claim that ‘p’ is aspirated in ‘Patrick’ true; since ‘p’ is aspirated in ‘Patrick’, something in‘Patrick’ is aspirated . . . and so forth.

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In just this spirit, Keith Campbell remarks about colours that if they are “integrated reflectances across three overlapping segments clustered in the middle of the total electromagnetic spectrum, then they are, from the inanimate point of view, such highly arbitrary and idiosyncratic properties that it is no wonder the particular colors we arefamiliar with are manifest only in transactions with humans, rhesus monkeys, and machines especially built to replicate just their particular mode of sensitivity to photons”(1990: 572—3). (The force of this observation is all the greater if, as seems likely, even the reflectance theory underestimates the complexity of colour psychophysics.)See alsoJ. J.Jean-marc pizano

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But not, according to the present view, on one’s having any particular perceptual capacity (remember HelenKeller). Nor could the dependence of concept possession upon perceptual capacities turn out to be principled.Informational semantics says that a (certain kind of) nomic relation between DOGs and doghood, however mediated,suffices for content. But ‘however mediated’ should be read to include, in principle, nomic relations that aren’tmediated at all. There is nothing in informational semantics that stops content-making laws from being basic. For thatmatter, I suppose there’s nothing in metaphysics that stops any law from being basic; it’s just a fact about the world thatthe ones that are and the ones that aren’t aren’t. That being so, the centrality of perceptual mechanisms in mediatingthe meaning-making laws is also just a fact about the world, and not a fact about the metaphysics of content.Presumably God’s thoughts could have immediate semantic access to dogs: The law according to which His DOG-tokens are controlled by instantiated doghood could be basic for all that informational theology cares.

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Jean-marc pizano But not, according to the present view, on one’s having any particular perceptual capacity (remember HelenKeller). Nor could the dependence of concept possession upon perceptual capacities turn out to be principled.Informational semantics says that a (certain kind of) nomic relation between DOGs and doghood, however mediated,suffices for content. But ‘however mediated’ should be read to include, in principle, nomic relations that aren’tmediated at all. There is nothing in informational semantics that stops content-making laws from being basic. For thatmatter, I suppose there’s nothing in metaphysics that stops any law from being basic; it’s just a fact about the world thatthe ones that are and the ones that aren’t aren’t. That being so, the centrality of perceptual mechanisms in mediatingthe meaning-making laws is also just a fact about the world, and not a fact about the metaphysics of content.Presumably God’s thoughts could have immediate semantic access to dogs: The law according to which His DOG-tokens are controlled by instantiated doghood could be basic for all that informational theology cares.

 

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I pause to underline this last point: it is, I think, a great virtue of informational semantics that, unlike any version of Empiricism, it denies a constitutive status to the relation between content and perception. If you try to list the sorts ofperceptual environments in which dog-thoughts are likely to arise in a perceiver if he has the concept DOG at all, youwill find that the list is, on the one hand, open-ended and, on the other hand, closely dependent on what the perceiverhappens to know about, believe about, or want from, dogs. And if you try to list the sorts of perceptual environmentsin which dog-thoughts must arise if a creature has the concept DOG, you will find that there aren’t any: no landscape iseither so barren, or so well lit, that it is metaphysically impossible to fail to notice whether it contains a dog. That, in somecircumstances, perception primitively compels one to think of dogs is a psychophysical fact of capital significance:perception is one of the core mechanisms by which one’s semantic access to dogs is sustained. But the necessity of theconnection between having the concept and having perceptually driven dog-thoughtsis itself empirical, not metaphysical. It entails no constitutive constraints either on the content of one’s concept, or onthe conditions for possessing it. If informational semantics is anywhere near to being right, Empiricism is dead.

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OK; kindly hold onto all that. There’s one more ingredient I want to add.

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‘One-Criterion’ Concepts

Back in 1983, Putnam wrote a paper about analyticity that one can see in retrospect to have been motivated by many of the same considerations that I’ve been discussing here. Putnam was an early enthusiast for Quine’s polemic againstanalyticities, definitions, constitutive conceptual connections, and the like. But he was worried about bachelors beingunmarried and Tuesdays coming before Wednesdays. These struck Putnam as boringly analytic in a way that F = MA,or even dogs are animals, is not. So Putnam had trouble viewing Tuesday before Wednesday and the like as bona fide cases oftheoretical centrality; and, as remarked above, theoretical centrality was all Quine had on offer to explain why sometruths seem to be conceptual. Putnam therefore proposed to tidy up after Quine.

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Strictly speaking, according to Putnam, there are definitions, analyticities, and constitutive conceptual connections after all. But that there are isn’t philosophically interesting since they won’t do any of the heavy duty epistemological ormetaphysical work that philosophers have had in mind for them, and that they won’t is intrinsic to the nature ofconceptual connection. According to Putnam’s story, analyticity works only for concepts that lack centrality; only forconcepts that fail to exhibit any substantial intricacy of attachment to the rest of the web of belief; in short, only forconcepts that lack precisely what philosophers care about about concepts. The very facts that permit there to beconceptual truths about bachelors and Tuesdays prohibit there being such truths in the case of more amusing conceptslike DOG, CAUSE, or TRIANGLE; to say nothing of PHYSICAL OBJECT, GOD, PROTON, or GOOD. So,anyhow, Putnam’s story was supposed to make it turn out.

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So, according to the present proposal, the constituent structure of the mentalrepresentation BACHELOR is something like ‘UNMARRIED MAN’.

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Jean-marc pizano So, according to the present proposal, the constituent structure of the mentalrepresentation BACHELOR is something like ‘UNMARRIED MAN’.

 

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The thesis that definition plays an important role in the theory of mental representation will be the main concern in this chapter and the next. According to that view, many mental representations work the way we’ve just supposed thatBACHELOR does. That is, they correspond to concepts that are expressed by definable words, and they arethemselves structurally complex. This thesis is, to put it mildly, very tendentious. In order for it to be true, it must turnout that there are many definable words; and it must turn out, in many cases, that the MRs that correspond to thesedefinable words are structurally complex. I’m going to argue that it doesn’t, in fact, turn out in either of those ways.9

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One last preliminary, and then we’ll be ready to go. If there are no definable words, then, of course, there are no complex mental representations that correspond to them. But it doesn’t follow that if there are many complex mentalrepresentations, then lots of words are definable. In fact, I take it that the view now favoured in both philosophy andcognitive science is that most words aren’t definable but do correspond to

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complex MRs (to something like prototypes or exemplars). Since the case against definitions isn’t ipso facto a case against complex mental representations, I propose the following expository strategy. In this chapter and the next, Iargue that concepts aren’t definitions even if lots of mental representations are complex. Chapter 5 will argue that thereare (practically) no complex mental representations at all, definitional or otherwise.26 At that point, atomism will be theoption of last resort.

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If we thus set aside, for the moment, all considerations that don’t distinguish the claim that mental representations are typically definitional from the weaker claim that mental representations are typically complex, what arguments have weleft to attend to? There are two kinds: the more or less empirical ones and the more or less philosophical ones. Theempirical ones turn on data that are supposed to show that the mental representations that correspond to definablewords are, very often and simply as a matter of fact, identical to the mental representations that correspond to phrasesthat define the words. The philosophical ones are supposed to show that we need mental representations to bedefinitions because nothing else will account for our intuitions of conceptual connectedness, analyticity, a prioricity, andthe like. My plan is to devote the rest of this chapter to the empirical arguments and all of Chapter 4 to thephilosophical arguments. You will be unsurprised to hear what my unbiased and judicious conclusion is going to be.My unbiased and judicious conclusion is going to be that neither the philosophical nor the empirical arguments fordefinitions are any damned good.

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So, then, to business.

Almost everybody used to think that concepts are definitions; hence that having a concept is being prepared to draw (or otherwise acknowledge) the inferences that define it. Prima facie, there’s much to be said for this view. In particular,definitions seem to have a decent chance of satisfying all five of the ‘non-negotiable’ conditions which Chapter 2 saidthat concepts have to meet. If the meaning-constitutive inferences are the defining ones, then it appears that:

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—Definitions can be mental particulars if any concepts can. Whatever the definition of ‘bachelor’ is, it has the same ontological status as the mental representation that you entertain when you think unmarried man. That there is such amental representation is a claim to which RTM is, of course, independently committed.

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—Semantic evaluability is assured; since all inferences are semantically

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i.e. there are no complex mental representations other than those that correspond to concepts that are expressed by phrases; see the preceding footnote. From now on, I’ll take this caveat for granted.

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evaluable (for soundness, validity, reliability, etc.), defining inferences are semantically evaluable inter alia.

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—Publicity is satisfied since there’s no obvious reason why lots of people might not assign the same defining inferences to a given word or concept. They might do so, indeed, even if there are lots of differences in what theyknow/believe about the things the concept applies to (lots of differences in the ‘collateral information’ they have aboutsuch things).

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But not, according to the present view, on one’s having any particular perceptual capacity (remember HelenKeller). Nor could the dependence of concept possession upon perceptual capacities turn out to be principled.Informational semantics says that a (certain kind of) nomic relation between DOGs and doghood, however mediated,suffices for content. But ‘however mediated’ should be read to include, in principle, nomic relations that aren’tmediated at all. There is nothing in informational semantics that stops content-making laws from being basic. For thatmatter, I suppose there’s nothing in metaphysics that stops any law from being basic; it’s just a fact about the world thatthe ones that are and the ones that aren’t aren’t. That being so, the centrality of perceptual mechanisms in mediatingthe meaning-making laws is also just a fact about the world, and not a fact about the metaphysics of content.Presumably God’s thoughts could have immediate semantic access to dogs: The law according to which His DOG-tokens are controlled by instantiated doghood could be basic for all that informational theology cares.

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Jean-marc pizano But not, according to the present view, on one’s having any particular perceptual capacity (remember HelenKeller). Nor could the dependence of concept possession upon perceptual capacities turn out to be principled.Informational semantics says that a (certain kind of) nomic relation between DOGs and doghood, however mediated,suffices for content. But ‘however mediated’ should be read to include, in principle, nomic relations that aren’tmediated at all. There is nothing in informational semantics that stops content-making laws from being basic. For thatmatter, I suppose there’s nothing in metaphysics that stops any law from being basic; it’s just a fact about the world thatthe ones that are and the ones that aren’t aren’t. That being so, the centrality of perceptual mechanisms in mediatingthe meaning-making laws is also just a fact about the world, and not a fact about the metaphysics of content.Presumably God’s thoughts could have immediate semantic access to dogs: The law according to which His DOG-tokens are controlled by instantiated doghood could be basic for all that informational theology cares.

 

I pause to underline this last point: it is, I think, a great virtue of informational semantics that, unlike any version of Empiricism, it denies a constitutive status to the relation between content and perception. If you try to list the sorts ofperceptual environments in which dog-thoughts are likely to arise in a perceiver if he has the concept DOG at all, youwill find that the list is, on the one hand, open-ended and, on the other hand, closely dependent on what the perceiverhappens to know about, believe about, or want from, dogs. And if you try to list the sorts of perceptual environmentsin which dog-thoughts must arise if a creature has the concept DOG, you will find that there aren’t any: no landscape iseither so barren, or so well lit, that it is metaphysically impossible to fail to notice whether it contains a dog. That, in somecircumstances, perception primitively compels one to think of dogs is a psychophysical fact of capital significance:perception is one of the core mechanisms by which one’s semantic access to dogs is sustained. But the necessity of theconnection between having the concept and having perceptually driven dog-thoughtsis itself empirical, not metaphysical. It entails no constitutive constraints either on the content of one’s concept, or onthe conditions for possessing it. If informational semantics is anywhere near to being right, Empiricism is dead.

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OK; kindly hold onto all that. There’s one more ingredient I want to add.

‘One-Criterion’ Concepts

Back in 1983, Putnam wrote a paper about analyticity that one can see in retrospect to have been motivated by many of the same considerations that I’ve been discussing here. Putnam was an early enthusiast for Quine’s polemic againstanalyticities, definitions, constitutive conceptual connections, and the like. But he was worried about bachelors beingunmarried and Tuesdays coming before Wednesdays. These struck Putnam as boringly analytic in a way that F = MA,or even dogs are animals, is not. So Putnam had trouble viewing Tuesday before Wednesday and the like as bona fide cases oftheoretical centrality; and, as remarked above, theoretical centrality was all Quine had on offer to explain why sometruths seem to be conceptual. Putnam therefore proposed to tidy up after Quine.

Strictly speaking, according to Putnam, there are definitions, analyticities, and constitutive conceptual connections after all. But that there are isn’t philosophically interesting since they won’t do any of the heavy duty epistemological ormetaphysical work that philosophers have had in mind for them, and that they won’t is intrinsic to the nature ofconceptual connection. According to Putnam’s story, analyticity works only for concepts that lack centrality; only forconcepts that fail to exhibit any substantial intricacy of attachment to the rest of the web of belief; in short, only forconcepts that lack precisely what philosophers care about about concepts. The very facts that permit there to beconceptual truths about bachelors and Tuesdays prohibit there being such truths in the case of more amusing conceptslike DOG, CAUSE, or TRIANGLE; to say nothing of PHYSICAL OBJECT, GOD, PROTON, or GOOD. So,anyhow, Putnam’s story was supposed to make it turn out.

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But not, according to the present view, on one’s having any particular perceptual capacity (remember HelenKeller). Nor could the dependence of concept possession upon perceptual capacities turn out to be principled.Informational semantics says that a (certain kind of) nomic relation between DOGs and doghood, however mediated,suffices for content. But ‘however mediated’ should be read to include, in principle, nomic relations that aren’tmediated at all. There is nothing in informational semantics that stops content-making laws from being basic. For thatmatter, I suppose there’s nothing in metaphysics that stops any law from being basic; it’s just a fact about the world thatthe ones that are and the ones that aren’t aren’t. That being so, the centrality of perceptual mechanisms in mediatingthe meaning-making laws is also just a fact about the world, and not a fact about the metaphysics of content.Presumably God’s thoughts could have immediate semantic access to dogs: The law according to which His DOG-tokens are controlled by instantiated doghood could be basic for all that informational theology cares.

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Jean-marc pizano But not, according to the present view, on one’s having any particular perceptual capacity (remember HelenKeller). Nor could the dependence of concept possession upon perceptual capacities turn out to be principled.Informational semantics says that a (certain kind of) nomic relation between DOGs and doghood, however mediated,suffices for content. But ‘however mediated’ should be read to include, in principle, nomic relations that aren’tmediated at all. There is nothing in informational semantics that stops content-making laws from being basic. For thatmatter, I suppose there’s nothing in metaphysics that stops any law from being basic; it’s just a fact about the world thatthe ones that are and the ones that aren’t aren’t. That being so, the centrality of perceptual mechanisms in mediatingthe meaning-making laws is also just a fact about the world, and not a fact about the metaphysics of content.Presumably God’s thoughts could have immediate semantic access to dogs: The law according to which His DOG-tokens are controlled by instantiated doghood could be basic for all that informational theology cares.

 

I pause to underline this last point: it is, I think, a great virtue of informational semantics that, unlike any version of Empiricism, it denies a constitutive status to the relation between content and perception. If you try to list the sorts ofperceptual environments in which dog-thoughts are likely to arise in a perceiver if he has the concept DOG at all, youwill find that the list is, on the one hand, open-ended and, on the other hand, closely dependent on what the perceiverhappens to know about, believe about, or want from, dogs. And if you try to list the sorts of perceptual environmentsin which dog-thoughts must arise if a creature has the concept DOG, you will find that there aren’t any: no landscape iseither so barren, or so well lit, that it is metaphysically impossible to fail to notice whether it contains a dog. That, in somecircumstances, perception primitively compels one to think of dogs is a psychophysical fact of capital significance:perception is one of the core mechanisms by which one’s semantic access to dogs is sustained. But the necessity of theconnection between having the concept and having perceptually driven dog-thoughtsis itself empirical, not metaphysical. It entails no constitutive constraints either on the content of one’s concept, or onthe conditions for possessing it. If informational semantics is anywhere near to being right, Empiricism is dead.

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OK; kindly hold onto all that. There’s one more ingredient I want to add.

‘One-Criterion’ Concepts

Back in 1983, Putnam wrote a paper about analyticity that one can see in retrospect to have been motivated by many of the same considerations that I’ve been discussing here. Putnam was an early enthusiast for Quine’s polemic againstanalyticities, definitions, constitutive conceptual connections, and the like. But he was worried about bachelors beingunmarried and Tuesdays coming before Wednesdays. These struck Putnam as boringly analytic in a way that F = MA,or even dogs are animals, is not. So Putnam had trouble viewing Tuesday before Wednesday and the like as bona fide cases oftheoretical centrality; and, as remarked above, theoretical centrality was all Quine had on offer to explain why sometruths seem to be conceptual. Putnam therefore proposed to tidy up after Quine.

Strictly speaking, according to Putnam, there are definitions, analyticities, and constitutive conceptual connections after all. But that there are isn’t philosophically interesting since they won’t do any of the heavy duty epistemological ormetaphysical work that philosophers have had in mind for them, and that they won’t is intrinsic to the nature ofconceptual connection. According to Putnam’s story, analyticity works only for concepts that lack centrality; only forconcepts that fail to exhibit any substantial intricacy of attachment to the rest of the web of belief; in short, only forconcepts that lack precisely what philosophers care about about concepts. The very facts that permit there to beconceptual truths about bachelors and Tuesdays prohibit there being such truths in the case of more amusing conceptslike DOG, CAUSE, or TRIANGLE; to say nothing of PHYSICAL OBJECT, GOD, PROTON, or GOOD. So,anyhow, Putnam’s story was supposed to make it turn out.

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The present discussion parallels what I regard as a very deep passage in Schiffer

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So, then, which appearance properties are sensory properties? Here’s a line that one might consider: £ is a sensory property only if it is possible to have an experience of which £-ness is the intentional object (e.g. an experience (as) of red) even though one hasn’t got the concept £ Here the test of having the concept £ would be something like beingable to think thoughts whose truth conditions include … £ … (e.g. thoughts like that’s red). I think this must be the notion of ‘sensory property’ that underlies the Empiricistidea that RED and the like are learned ‘by abstraction’ from experience, a doctrine which presupposes that a mind that lacks RED can none the less have experiences (as) ofredness. By this test, DOORKNOB is presumably not a sensory concept since, though it is perfectly possible to have an experience (as) of doorknobs, I suppose only a mindthat has the concept DOORKNOB can do so.‘But how could one have an experience (as) of red if one hasn’t got the concept RED?’ It‘s easy: in the case of redness, but notof doorknobhood, one is equipped with sensory organs which produce such experiences when they are appropriately stimulated. Redness can be sensed, whereas the perceptualdetection of doorknobhood is always inferential. Just as sensible psychologists have always supposed.

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The present discussion parallels what I regard as a very deep passage in Schiffer 1987 about being a dog. Schiffer takes for granted that ‘dog’ doesn’t name a species, and (hence?) that dogs as such don’t have a hidden essence. His conclusion is that there just isn’t (except pleonastically) any such property as being a dog My diagnosis is thatthere is too, but it’s mind-dependent.

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Reminder: ‘the X stereotype’ is rigid. See n. 12 above.

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Except in the (presumably never encountered) case where all the X s are stereotypic. In that case, there’s a dead heat.

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In principle, they are also epistemically independent in both directions. As things are now, we find out about the stereotype by doing tests on subjects who are independentlyidentified as having the corresponding concept. But I assume that if we knew enough about the mind/brain, we could predict a concept from its stereotype and vice versa. Ineffect, given the infinite set of actual and possible doorknobs, we could predict the stereotype from which our sorts of minds would generalize to it; and given the doorknobstereotype, we could predict the set of actual and possible objects which our kinds of minds would take to instantiate doorknobhood.

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Compare Jackendoff: “Look at the representations of, say, generative phonology… It is strange to say that English speakers know the proposition, true in the world independent of speakers [sic ], that syllable-initial voiceless consonants aspirate before stress … In generative phonology . . . this rule of aspiration is regarded as a principle of internalcomputation, not a fact about the world. Such semantical concepts as implication, confirmation, and logical consequence seem curiously irrelevant” (1992: 29). Note that,though they are confounded in his text, the contrast that Jackendoff is insisting on isn’t between propositions and rules/principles of computation; it’s between phenomena of thekind that generative phonology studies and facts about the world. But that ‘p’ is aspirated in ‘Patrick’ is a fact about the world. That is to say: it’s a fact. And of course the usuallogico-semantical concepts apply. That ‘p’ is aspirated in ‘Patrick’ is what makes the claim that ‘p’ is aspirated in ‘Patrick’ true; since ‘p’ is aspirated in ‘Patrick’, something in‘Patrick’ is aspirated . . . and so forth.

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In just this spirit, Keith Campbell remarks about colours that if they are “integrated reflectances across three overlapping segments clustered in the middle of the total electromagnetic spectrum, then they are, from the inanimate point of view, such highly arbitrary and idiosyncratic properties that it is no wonder the particular colors we arefamiliar with are manifest only in transactions with humans, rhesus monkeys, and machines especially built to replicate just their particular mode of sensitivity to photons”(1990: 572—3). (The force of this observation is all the greater if, as seems likely, even the reflectance theory underestimates the complexity of colour psychophysics.)See alsoJ. J.Jean-marc pizano