But maybe that’s wrong; and, if it is, then maybe if we were to stop saying that philosophy isconceptual analysis, that would leave philosophers without a defensible metatheory. Well, if so, so be it. We wouldn’t beworse off in that respect than doctors, lawyers, dentists, artists, physicists, chicken sexers, psychologists, drivinginstructors, or the practitioners of any other respectable discipline that I can think of. Why should philosophers beexempt from this practically universal predicament? There are many classes of performances in which intelligence isdisplayed, but the rules or criteria of which are unformulated. Efficient practice precedes the theory of it;methodologies presuppose the application of the methods, of the critical investigation of which they are theproducts . . . It is therefore possible for people intelligently to perform some sorts of operations when they are not yetable to consider any propositions enjoining how they should be performed.

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Jean-marc pizano But maybe that’s wrong; and, if it is, then maybe if we were to stop saying that philosophy isconceptual analysis, that would leave philosophers without a defensible metatheory. Well, if so, so be it. We wouldn’t beworse off in that respect than doctors, lawyers, dentists, artists, physicists, chicken sexers, psychologists, drivinginstructors, or the practitioners of any other respectable discipline that I can think of. Why should philosophers beexempt from this practically universal predicament? There are many classes of performances in which intelligence isdisplayed, but the rules or criteria of which are unformulated. Efficient practice precedes the theory of it;methodologies presuppose the application of the methods, of the critical investigation of which they are theproducts . . . It is therefore possible for people intelligently to perform some sorts of operations when they are not yetable to consider any propositions enjoining how they should be performed.

 

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But, bless me, it seems that I am quoting from The Concept of Mind9 I’m sure that means that it’s time for me to stop.

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Appendix 7A Round Squares

I want briefly to consider an ontological worry about IA that’s relatively independent of the main issues that this chapter is concerned with.

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It seems pretty clear that IA is going to have to say that it’s metaphysically impossible for there to be a primitive concept of a self-contradictory property; e.g. a primitive concept ROUND SQUARE. (Remember that “ROUND SQUARE”is a name, not a structural description. The notation leaves it open whether the corresponding

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Ryle 1949.

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concept is atomic.) How the argument goes will depend on the details of IA’s formulation. But, roughly: IA says that concepts have to be locked to properties. Maybe it‘s OK for a concept to lock to a property that exists but happens notto be instantiated (like being a gold mountain), but presumably there isn’t any property of being a round square for thenecessarily uninstantiated concept ROUND SQUARE to lock to.

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That’s all right if ROUND SQUARE is assumed to be complex; it’s pretty plausible that there really isn’t anything to having ROUND SQUARE beyond the inferential dispositions that its compositional semantics bestows (viz. thedisposition to infer ROUND and SQUARE). But the corresponding primitive concept would have neither content(there’s no property for it to lock to) nor compositional structure (it has no constituents), so there could be nothing tohaving it at all. The objection is that it’s not obvious that it‘s metaphysically necessary that ROUND SQUARE couldn’tbe primitive.

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A possible reply is that it’s also not obvious that it could, so all you get is a hung jury. But I think maybe we can do a little better. Consider a non-self-contradictory property like being ared square. It’s common ground for any RTM thatthere is a complex concept of this property (constructed from the concepts RED and SQUARE). But it’s built intoinformational versions of RTM that it also allows there to be a simple concept of this property; viz. a primitive mentalrepresentation REDSQUARE (sic.; this is intended to be a structural description) that is locked to being red and square.Presumably, one could acquire REDSQUARE ostensively. That is, one could get locked to being red and square (not byfirst getting locked to being red and being square, but) by learning that redsquares (sic) are the things that look like those. SoInformational Atomism acknowledges the metaphysical possibility of having the concept of a red square withouthaving either the concept RED or the concept SQUARE. (You won’t, of course, admit that RED SQUARE could be,in this sense, primitive if you boggle at concepts without conceptual roles. But if you boggle at concepts withoutconceptual roles you can‘t accept a pure informational semantics at all, so why should you care what a pureinformational semantics says about concepts of self-contradictory properties?)

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If, on the other hand, you find it intuitively plausible that there are two ways of having a concept of a red square (viz. RED SQUARE, which you can’t have unless you’ve got RED and SQUARE, and REDSQUARE, which you canbecause it’s primitive) then everything is OK about IA’s treatment of the concept ROUND SQUARE.Jean-marc pizano

So I’m not saying what Quine said; though it may Empiricism. I often have the feeling that I’m just

Standard

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So I’m not saying what Quine said; though it may Empiricism. I often have the feeling that I’m just

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well be what he should have said, and would have said but for his saying what Quine would have said but for his Empiricism.88

I am also, unlike Quine, not committed to construing locking in terms of a capacity for discriminated responding (or, indeed, of anything epistemological). Locking reduces to nomic connectedness. (I hope.) See Fodor 1990; Fodor forthcoming b.

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7 Innateness and Ontology, Part II: Natural Kind

Concepts

[It is] a matter quite independent of . . . wishing it or not wishing it. There happens to be a definite intrinsic propriety in it which determines the thing and which would take me long to explain.

—Henry James, The Tragic Muse

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Here’s how we set things up in Chapter 6: suppose that radical conceptual atomism is inevitable and that, atomism being once assumed, radical conceptual nativism is inevitable too. On what, if any, ontological story would radicalconceptual nativism be tolerable?

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However, given the preconceptions that have structured this book, we might just as well have approached the ontological issues from a different angle. I’ve assumed throughout that informational semantics is, if not self-evidentlythe truth about mental content, at least not known to be out of the running. It’s been my fallback metaphysicswhenever I needed an alternative to Inferential Role theories of meaning. But now, according to informationalsemantics, content is constituted by some sort of nomic, mind—world relation. Correspondingly, having a concept(concept possession) is constituted by being in some sort of nomic, mind—world relation. It follows that, ifinformational semantics is true, then there must be laws about everything that we have concepts of. But how could therebe laws about doorknobs?

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The answer, according to the present story, is that there is really only one law about doorknobs (qua doorknobs); viz. that we lock to them in consequence of certain sorts of experience.89 And this law isn’t really about doorknobs because,of course, it’s really about us. This is quite a serious point. I assume that the intuition that there aren’t laws aboutdoorknobs (equivalently, for present purposes, the intuition that doorknobs aren’t a ‘natural kind’) comes down to thethought that there’s nothing in the worldwhose states are reliably connected to doorknobs qua doorknobs except our minds. No doubt, some engineer mightconstruct a counter-example—a mindless doorknob detector; and we might even come to rely on such a thing whengroping for a doorknob in the dark. Still, the gadget would have to be calibrated to us since there is nothing else in nature thatresponds selectively to doorknobs; and, according to the present account, it’s constitutive of doorknobhood that this is so.The point is: it‘s OK for there to be laws about doorknobs that are really laws about us. Doorknobs aren’t a naturalkind, but we are.

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What with one thing and another, I’ve been pushing pretty hard the notion that properties like being a doorknob are mind-dependent. I needed to in Chapter 6 because, if doorknobs aren’t mind-dependent, there is only one way I canthink of to explain why it’s typically doorknob-experiences from which the concept DOORKNOB is acquired: viz. thatDOORKNOB is learned inductively. And I didn’t want that because the Standard Argument shows that only nonprimitive concepts can be learned inductively. And it‘s been the main burden of this whole book that all theevidence—philosophical, psychological, and linguistic—suggests that DOORKNOB is primitive (unstructured); and,for that matter, that so too is practically everything else. Likewise, in this chapter, I need being a doorknob to be mind-dependent because there is only one way I can think of to reconcile informational semantics, which wants there to belaws about doorknobs, with the truism that doorknobs aren’t a natural kind; viz. to construe what appear to be lawsabout doorknobs as really laws about “our kinds of minds”.

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But all this stuff about the mind-dependence of doorknobhood invites a certain Auntie-esque complaint. Viz.:

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I get it; the good news is that DOORKNOB isn’t innate; the bad news is that there aren’t any doorknobs.Jean-marc pizano

So why not give up saying that concepts are definitions and start saying instead that concepts are prototypes? That is, in fact, the course that much ofcognitive science has taken in the last decade or so. But it is not a good idea. Concepts can’t be prototypes, pace all theevidence that everybody who has a concept is highly likely to have its prototype as well. I want to spend some timerubbing this point in because, though it’s sometimes acknowledged in the cognitive science literature, it has been verymuch less influential than I think that it deserves to be. Indeed, it’s mostly because it’s clear that concepts can’t beprototypes that I think that concepts have to be atoms.51

Standard

Jean-marc pizano So why not give up saying that concepts are definitions and start saying instead that concepts are prototypes? That is, in fact, the course that much ofcognitive science has taken in the last decade or so. But it is not a good idea. Concepts can’t be prototypes, pace all theevidence that everybody who has a concept is highly likely to have its prototype as well. I want to spend some timerubbing this point in because, though it’s sometimes acknowledged in the cognitive science literature, it has been verymuch less influential than I think that it deserves to be. Indeed, it’s mostly because it’s clear that concepts can’t beprototypes that I think that concepts have to be atoms.51

 

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50

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For a dissenting opinion, see Barsalou 1985 and references therein. I find his arguments for the instability of typicality effects by and large unconvincing; but if you don’t, so much the better for my main line of argument. Unstable prototypes ipso facto aren’t public (see Chapter 2), so they are ipso facto unfitted to be concepts.

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Some of the extremist extremists in cognitive science hold not only that concepts are prototypes, but also that thinking is the ‘transformation of prototype vectors’; this is the doctrine that Paul Churchland calls the “assimilation of ‘theoretical insight’ to ‘prototype activation’ ” (1995, 117; for a review, see Fodor 1995a). But that’s a minorityopinion prompted, primarily, by a desire to assimilate a prototype-centred theory of concepts to a Connectionist view about cognitive architecture. In fact, the identificationof concepts with prototypes is entirely compatible with the “Classical” version of RTM according to which concepts are the constituents of thoughts and mental processesare defined on the constituent structure of mental representations.But though prototypes are neutral with respect to the difference between classical and connectionistarchitectures, it doesn’t follow that the difference between the architectures is neutral with respect to prototypes. For example, in so far as Connectionism is committed tostatistical learning as its model of concept acquisition, it may well require that concepts have statistical structure on pain of their being unlearnable. If, as I shall argue, thestructure of concepts isn’t statistical, then Connectionists have yet another woe to add to their collection.

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In a nutshell, the trouble with prototypes is this. Concepts are productive and systematic. Since compositionality is what explains systematicity and productivity, it must be that concepts are compositional. But it’s as certain as anythingever gets in cognitive science that prototypes don’t compose. So it’s as certain as anything ever gets in cognitive sciencethat concepts can’t be prototypes and that the glue that holds concepts together can’t be statistical.

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Since the issues about compositionality are, in my view, absolutely central to the theory of concepts, I propose to go through the relevant considerations with some deliberation. We’ll discuss first the status of the arguments for thecompositionality of concepts and then the status of the arguments against the compositionality of prototypes.

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The Arguments for Compositionality

Intuitively, the claim that concepts compose is the claim that the syntax and the content of a complex concept is normally determined by the syntax and the content of its constituents. (‘Normally5 means something like: with not morethan finitely many exceptions. ‘Idiomatic’ concepts are allowed, but they mustn’t be productive.) A number of people (see e.g. Block 1993; Zadrozny 1994) have recently pointed out that this informal characterization of compositionality can betrivialized, and there’s a hunt on for ways to make the notion rigorous. But we can bypass this problem for our presentpurposes. Since the argument that concepts compose is primarily that they are productive and systematic, we cansimply stipulate that the claim that concepts compose is true only if the syntax and content of complex concepts isderived from the syntax and content of their constituents in a way that explains their productivity and systematicity. I do sostipulate.

The Productivity Argument for Compositionality

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The traditional argument for compositionality goes something like this. There are infinitely many concepts that a person can entertain. (Mutatis

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mutandis in the case of natural languages: there are infinitely many expressions of L that an L-speaker can understand.) Since people’s representational capacities are surely finite, this infinity of concepts must itself be finitely representable.In the present case, the demand for finite representation is met if (and, as far as anyone knows, only if) all concepts areindividuated by their syntax and their contents, and the syntax and contents of each complex concept is finitelyreducible to the syntax and contents of its (primitive) constituents.

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So why not give up saying that concepts are definitions and start saying instead that concepts are prototypes? That is, in fact, the course that much ofcognitive science has taken in the last decade or so. But it is not a good idea. Concepts can’t be prototypes, pace all theevidence that everybody who has a concept is highly likely to have its prototype as well. I want to spend some timerubbing this point in because, though it’s sometimes acknowledged in the cognitive science literature, it has been verymuch less influential than I think that it deserves to be. Indeed, it’s mostly because it’s clear that concepts can’t beprototypes that I think that concepts have to be atoms.51

Standard

Jean-marc pizano So why not give up saying that concepts are definitions and start saying instead that concepts are prototypes? That is, in fact, the course that much ofcognitive science has taken in the last decade or so. But it is not a good idea. Concepts can’t be prototypes, pace all theevidence that everybody who has a concept is highly likely to have its prototype as well. I want to spend some timerubbing this point in because, though it’s sometimes acknowledged in the cognitive science literature, it has been verymuch less influential than I think that it deserves to be. Indeed, it’s mostly because it’s clear that concepts can’t beprototypes that I think that concepts have to be atoms.51

 

50

For a dissenting opinion, see Barsalou 1985 and references therein. I find his arguments for the instability of typicality effects by and large unconvincing; but if you don’t, so much the better for my main line of argument. Unstable prototypes ipso facto aren’t public (see Chapter 2), so they are ipso facto unfitted to be concepts.

Some of the extremist extremists in cognitive science hold not only that concepts are prototypes, but also that thinking is the ‘transformation of prototype vectors’; this is the doctrine that Paul Churchland calls the “assimilation of ‘theoretical insight’ to ‘prototype activation’ ” (1995, 117; for a review, see Fodor 1995a). But that’s a minorityopinion prompted, primarily, by a desire to assimilate a prototype-centred theory of concepts to a Connectionist view about cognitive architecture. In fact, the identificationof concepts with prototypes is entirely compatible with the “Classical” version of RTM according to which concepts are the constituents of thoughts and mental processesare defined on the constituent structure of mental representations.But though prototypes are neutral with respect to the difference between classical and connectionistarchitectures, it doesn’t follow that the difference between the architectures is neutral with respect to prototypes. For example, in so far as Connectionism is committed tostatistical learning as its model of concept acquisition, it may well require that concepts have statistical structure on pain of their being unlearnable. If, as I shall argue, thestructure of concepts isn’t statistical, then Connectionists have yet another woe to add to their collection.

Jean-marc pizano

In a nutshell, the trouble with prototypes is this. Concepts are productive and systematic. Since compositionality is what explains systematicity and productivity, it must be that concepts are compositional. But it’s as certain as anythingever gets in cognitive science that prototypes don’t compose. So it’s as certain as anything ever gets in cognitive sciencethat concepts can’t be prototypes and that the glue that holds concepts together can’t be statistical.

Since the issues about compositionality are, in my view, absolutely central to the theory of concepts, I propose to go through the relevant considerations with some deliberation. We’ll discuss first the status of the arguments for thecompositionality of concepts and then the status of the arguments against the compositionality of prototypes.

The Arguments for Compositionality

Intuitively, the claim that concepts compose is the claim that the syntax and the content of a complex concept is normally determined by the syntax and the content of its constituents. (‘Normally5 means something like: with not morethan finitely many exceptions. ‘Idiomatic’ concepts are allowed, but they mustn’t be productive.) A number of people (see e.g. Block 1993; Zadrozny 1994) have recently pointed out that this informal characterization of compositionality can betrivialized, and there’s a hunt on for ways to make the notion rigorous. But we can bypass this problem for our presentpurposes. Since the argument that concepts compose is primarily that they are productive and systematic, we cansimply stipulate that the claim that concepts compose is true only if the syntax and content of complex concepts isderived from the syntax and content of their constituents in a way that explains their productivity and systematicity. I do sostipulate.

The Productivity Argument for Compositionality

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The traditional argument for compositionality goes something like this. There are infinitely many concepts that a person can entertain. (Mutatis

mutandis in the case of natural languages: there are infinitely many expressions of L that an L-speaker can understand.) Since people’s representational capacities are surely finite, this infinity of concepts must itself be finitely representable.In the present case, the demand for finite representation is met if (and, as far as anyone knows, only if) all concepts areindividuated by their syntax and their contents, and the syntax and contents of each complex concept is finitelyreducible to the syntax and contents of its (primitive) constituents.

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So why not give up saying that concepts are definitions and start saying instead that concepts are prototypes? That is, in fact, the course that much ofcognitive science has taken in the last decade or so. But it is not a good idea. Concepts can’t be prototypes, pace all theevidence that everybody who has a concept is highly likely to have its prototype as well. I want to spend some timerubbing this point in because, though it’s sometimes acknowledged in the cognitive science literature, it has been verymuch less influential than I think that it deserves to be. Indeed, it’s mostly because it’s clear that concepts can’t beprototypes that I think that concepts have to be atoms.51

Standard

Jean-marc pizano So why not give up saying that concepts are definitions and start saying instead that concepts are prototypes? That is, in fact, the course that much ofcognitive science has taken in the last decade or so. But it is not a good idea. Concepts can’t be prototypes, pace all theevidence that everybody who has a concept is highly likely to have its prototype as well. I want to spend some timerubbing this point in because, though it’s sometimes acknowledged in the cognitive science literature, it has been verymuch less influential than I think that it deserves to be. Indeed, it’s mostly because it’s clear that concepts can’t beprototypes that I think that concepts have to be atoms.51

 

50

For a dissenting opinion, see Barsalou 1985 and references therein. I find his arguments for the instability of typicality effects by and large unconvincing; but if you don’t, so much the better for my main line of argument. Unstable prototypes ipso facto aren’t public (see Chapter 2), so they are ipso facto unfitted to be concepts.

Some of the extremist extremists in cognitive science hold not only that concepts are prototypes, but also that thinking is the ‘transformation of prototype vectors’; this is the doctrine that Paul Churchland calls the “assimilation of ‘theoretical insight’ to ‘prototype activation’ ” (1995, 117; for a review, see Fodor 1995a). But that’s a minorityopinion prompted, primarily, by a desire to assimilate a prototype-centred theory of concepts to a Connectionist view about cognitive architecture. In fact, the identificationof concepts with prototypes is entirely compatible with the “Classical” version of RTM according to which concepts are the constituents of thoughts and mental processesare defined on the constituent structure of mental representations.But though prototypes are neutral with respect to the difference between classical and connectionistarchitectures, it doesn’t follow that the difference between the architectures is neutral with respect to prototypes. For example, in so far as Connectionism is committed tostatistical learning as its model of concept acquisition, it may well require that concepts have statistical structure on pain of their being unlearnable. If, as I shall argue, thestructure of concepts isn’t statistical, then Connectionists have yet another woe to add to their collection.

Jean-marc pizano

In a nutshell, the trouble with prototypes is this. Concepts are productive and systematic. Since compositionality is what explains systematicity and productivity, it must be that concepts are compositional. But it’s as certain as anythingever gets in cognitive science that prototypes don’t compose. So it’s as certain as anything ever gets in cognitive sciencethat concepts can’t be prototypes and that the glue that holds concepts together can’t be statistical.

Since the issues about compositionality are, in my view, absolutely central to the theory of concepts, I propose to go through the relevant considerations with some deliberation. We’ll discuss first the status of the arguments for thecompositionality of concepts and then the status of the arguments against the compositionality of prototypes.

The Arguments for Compositionality

Intuitively, the claim that concepts compose is the claim that the syntax and the content of a complex concept is normally determined by the syntax and the content of its constituents. (‘Normally5 means something like: with not morethan finitely many exceptions. ‘Idiomatic’ concepts are allowed, but they mustn’t be productive.) A number of people (see e.g. Block 1993; Zadrozny 1994) have recently pointed out that this informal characterization of compositionality can betrivialized, and there’s a hunt on for ways to make the notion rigorous. But we can bypass this problem for our presentpurposes. Since the argument that concepts compose is primarily that they are productive and systematic, we cansimply stipulate that the claim that concepts compose is true only if the syntax and content of complex concepts isderived from the syntax and content of their constituents in a way that explains their productivity and systematicity. I do sostipulate.

The Productivity Argument for Compositionality

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The traditional argument for compositionality goes something like this. There are infinitely many concepts that a person can entertain. (Mutatis

mutandis in the case of natural languages: there are infinitely many expressions of L that an L-speaker can understand.) Since people’s representational capacities are surely finite, this infinity of concepts must itself be finitely representable.In the present case, the demand for finite representation is met if (and, as far as anyone knows, only if) all concepts areindividuated by their syntax and their contents, and the syntax and contents of each complex concept is finitelyreducible to the syntax and contents of its (primitive) constituents.

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So I’m not saying what Quine said; though it may Empiricism. I often have the feeling that I’m just

Standard

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So I’m not saying what Quine said; though it may Empiricism. I often have the feeling that I’m just

well be what he should have said, and would have said but for his saying what Quine would have said but for his Empiricism.88

I am also, unlike Quine, not committed to construing locking in terms of a capacity for discriminated responding (or, indeed, of anything epistemological). Locking reduces to nomic connectedness. (I hope.) See Fodor 1990; Fodor forthcoming b.

7 Innateness and Ontology, Part II: Natural Kind

Concepts

[It is] a matter quite independent of . . . wishing it or not wishing it. There happens to be a definite intrinsic propriety in it which determines the thing and which would take me long to explain.

—Henry James, The Tragic Muse

Here’s how we set things up in Chapter 6: suppose that radical conceptual atomism is inevitable and that, atomism being once assumed, radical conceptual nativism is inevitable too. On what, if any, ontological story would radicalconceptual nativism be tolerable?

However, given the preconceptions that have structured this book, we might just as well have approached the ontological issues from a different angle. I’ve assumed throughout that informational semantics is, if not self-evidentlythe truth about mental content, at least not known to be out of the running. It’s been my fallback metaphysicswhenever I needed an alternative to Inferential Role theories of meaning. But now, according to informationalsemantics, content is constituted by some sort of nomic, mind—world relation. Correspondingly, having a concept(concept possession) is constituted by being in some sort of nomic, mind—world relation. It follows that, ifinformational semantics is true, then there must be laws about everything that we have concepts of. But how could therebe laws about doorknobs?

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The answer, according to the present story, is that there is really only one law about doorknobs (qua doorknobs); viz. that we lock to them in consequence of certain sorts of experience.89 And this law isn’t really about doorknobs because,of course, it’s really about us. This is quite a serious point. I assume that the intuition that there aren’t laws aboutdoorknobs (equivalently, for present purposes, the intuition that doorknobs aren’t a ‘natural kind’) comes down to thethought that there’s nothing in the worldwhose states are reliably connected to doorknobs qua doorknobs except our minds. No doubt, some engineer mightconstruct a counter-example—a mindless doorknob detector; and we might even come to rely on such a thing whengroping for a doorknob in the dark. Still, the gadget would have to be calibrated to us since there is nothing else in nature thatresponds selectively to doorknobs; and, according to the present account, it’s constitutive of doorknobhood that this is so.The point is: it‘s OK for there to be laws about doorknobs that are really laws about us. Doorknobs aren’t a naturalkind, but we are.

What with one thing and another, I’ve been pushing pretty hard the notion that properties like being a doorknob are mind-dependent. I needed to in Chapter 6 because, if doorknobs aren’t mind-dependent, there is only one way I canthink of to explain why it’s typically doorknob-experiences from which the concept DOORKNOB is acquired: viz. thatDOORKNOB is learned inductively. And I didn’t want that because the Standard Argument shows that only nonprimitive concepts can be learned inductively. And it‘s been the main burden of this whole book that all theevidence—philosophical, psychological, and linguistic—suggests that DOORKNOB is primitive (unstructured); and,for that matter, that so too is practically everything else. Likewise, in this chapter, I need being a doorknob to be mind-dependent because there is only one way I can think of to reconcile informational semantics, which wants there to belaws about doorknobs, with the truism that doorknobs aren’t a natural kind; viz. to construe what appear to be lawsabout doorknobs as really laws about “our kinds of minds”.

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But all this stuff about the mind-dependence of doorknobhood invites a certain Auntie-esque complaint. Viz.:

I get it; the good news is that DOORKNOB isn’t innate; the bad news is that there aren’t any doorknobs.Jean-marc pizano

But maybe that’s wrong; and, if it is, then maybe if we were to stop saying that philosophy isconceptual analysis, that would leave philosophers without a defensible metatheory. Well, if so, so be it. We wouldn’t beworse off in that respect than doctors, lawyers, dentists, artists, physicists, chicken sexers, psychologists, drivinginstructors, or the practitioners of any other respectable discipline that I can think of. Why should philosophers beexempt from this practically universal predicament? There are many classes of performances in which intelligence isdisplayed, but the rules or criteria of which are unformulated. Efficient practice precedes the theory of it;methodologies presuppose the application of the methods, of the critical investigation of which they are theproducts . . . It is therefore possible for people intelligently to perform some sorts of operations when they are not yetable to consider any propositions enjoining how they should be performed.

Standard

Jean-marc pizano But maybe that’s wrong; and, if it is, then maybe if we were to stop saying that philosophy isconceptual analysis, that would leave philosophers without a defensible metatheory. Well, if so, so be it. We wouldn’t beworse off in that respect than doctors, lawyers, dentists, artists, physicists, chicken sexers, psychologists, drivinginstructors, or the practitioners of any other respectable discipline that I can think of. Why should philosophers beexempt from this practically universal predicament? There are many classes of performances in which intelligence isdisplayed, but the rules or criteria of which are unformulated. Efficient practice precedes the theory of it;methodologies presuppose the application of the methods, of the critical investigation of which they are theproducts . . . It is therefore possible for people intelligently to perform some sorts of operations when they are not yetable to consider any propositions enjoining how they should be performed.

 

But, bless me, it seems that I am quoting from The Concept of Mind9 I’m sure that means that it’s time for me to stop.

Appendix 7A Round Squares

I want briefly to consider an ontological worry about IA that’s relatively independent of the main issues that this chapter is concerned with.

It seems pretty clear that IA is going to have to say that it’s metaphysically impossible for there to be a primitive concept of a self-contradictory property; e.g. a primitive concept ROUND SQUARE. (Remember that “ROUND SQUARE”is a name, not a structural description. The notation leaves it open whether the corresponding

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Ryle 1949.

concept is atomic.) How the argument goes will depend on the details of IA’s formulation. But, roughly: IA says that concepts have to be locked to properties. Maybe it‘s OK for a concept to lock to a property that exists but happens notto be instantiated (like being a gold mountain), but presumably there isn’t any property of being a round square for thenecessarily uninstantiated concept ROUND SQUARE to lock to.

That’s all right if ROUND SQUARE is assumed to be complex; it’s pretty plausible that there really isn’t anything to having ROUND SQUARE beyond the inferential dispositions that its compositional semantics bestows (viz. thedisposition to infer ROUND and SQUARE). But the corresponding primitive concept would have neither content(there’s no property for it to lock to) nor compositional structure (it has no constituents), so there could be nothing tohaving it at all. The objection is that it’s not obvious that it‘s metaphysically necessary that ROUND SQUARE couldn’tbe primitive.

A possible reply is that it’s also not obvious that it could, so all you get is a hung jury. But I think maybe we can do a little better. Consider a non-self-contradictory property like being ared square. It’s common ground for any RTM thatthere is a complex concept of this property (constructed from the concepts RED and SQUARE). But it’s built intoinformational versions of RTM that it also allows there to be a simple concept of this property; viz. a primitive mentalrepresentation REDSQUARE (sic.; this is intended to be a structural description) that is locked to being red and square.Presumably, one could acquire REDSQUARE ostensively. That is, one could get locked to being red and square (not byfirst getting locked to being red and being square, but) by learning that redsquares (sic) are the things that look like those. SoInformational Atomism acknowledges the metaphysical possibility of having the concept of a red square withouthaving either the concept RED or the concept SQUARE. (You won’t, of course, admit that RED SQUARE could be,in this sense, primitive if you boggle at concepts without conceptual roles. But if you boggle at concepts withoutconceptual roles you can‘t accept a pure informational semantics at all, so why should you care what a pureinformational semantics says about concepts of self-contradictory properties?)

Jean-marc pizano

If, on the other hand, you find it intuitively plausible that there are two ways of having a concept of a red square (viz. RED SQUARE, which you can’t have unless you’ve got RED and SQUARE, and REDSQUARE, which you canbecause it’s primitive) then everything is OK about IA’s treatment of the concept ROUND SQUARE.Jean-marc pizano