To theextent that we have some grasp on what concepts terms like ‘S’, ‘NP’, ADJ’ express, the theory that children learn by syntactic boostrapping is at least better defined thanPinker’s. (And to the extent that we don’t, it’s not.)

Standard

Jean-marc pizano To theextent that we have some grasp on what concepts terms like ‘S’, ‘NP’, ADJ’ express, the theory that children learn by syntactic boostrapping is at least better defined thanPinker’s. (And to the extent that we don’t, it’s not.)

 

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When Pinker’s analyses are clear enough to evaluate, they are often just wrong. For example, he notes in his discussion of causatives that the analysis PAINTvtr = cover withpaint is embarrassed by such observations as this: although when Michelangelo dipped his paintbrush in his paint pot he thereby covered the paintbrush with paint,nevertheless he did not, thereby, paint the paintbrush. (The example is, in fact, borrowed from Fodor 1970.) Pinker explains that “stereotypy or conventionality of mannerconstrains the causative . . . This might be called the ‘stereotypy effect’ ” (1984: 324). So it might, for all the good it does. It is possible, faut de mieux, to paint the wall withone’s handkerchief; with one’s bare hands; by covering oneself with paint and rolling up the wall (in which last case, by the way, though covering the wall with the paintcounts as painting the wall, covering oneself with the paint does not count as painting oneself even if one does it with a paintbrush; only as getting oneself covered withpaint).Whether you paint the wall when you cover it with paint depends not on how you do it but on what you have in mind when you do it: you have to have in mind notmerely to cover the wall with paint but to paint the wall. That is, “painty” apparently can’t be defined even in terms of such closely related expressions as “painty”. Or, if itcan, none of the decompositional analyses suggested so far, Pinker’s included, comes even close to showing how.

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Sober (1984: 82) makes what amounts to the converse point: “In general, we expect theoretical magnitudes to be multiply accessible ; there should be more than one way of finding out what their values are in a given circumstance. This reflects the assumption that theoretical magnitudes have multiple causes and effects. There is no such thing asthe only possible effect or cause of a given event; likewise, there is no such thing as the only possible way of finding out whether it occurred. I won’t assert that this issomehow a necessary feature of all theoretical magnitudes, but it is remarkably widespread.” Note the suggestion that the phenomena in virtue of which a “theoreticalmagnitude” is multiply epistemically accessible are naturally construed as its “causes and its effects”. In the contrasting case, when there is only one access path (or, anyhow,only one access path that one can think of) the intuition is generally that the magnitude at issue isn’t bona fide theoretical, and that its connection to the criterion isconceptual rather than causal.

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Terminological conventions with respect to the topics this chapter covers are unsettled. I’ll use ‘stereotype’ and ‘prototype’ interchangeably, to refer to mental representations of certain kinds of properties. So, ‘the dog stereotype’ and ‘the dog prototype’ designate some such (complex) concept as: BEING A DOMESTIC ANIMAL WHICHBARKS, HAS A TAIL WHICH IT WAGS WHEN IT IS PLEASED, . . . etc. I’ll use ‘exemplar’ for the mental representation of a kind, or of an individual, that instantiatesa prototype; so ‘sparrows are the exemplars of birds’ and ‘Bambi is Smith’s exemplar of a deer’ are both well-formed. ‘Sparrows are stereotypic birds’ (/‘Bambi is aprototypic deer’) are also OK; they mean that a certain kind (/individual) exhibits certain stereotypic (/prototypic) properties to a marked degree.

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Elanor Rosche, who invented this account of concepts more or less single-handed, often speaks of herself as a Wittgensteinian; and there is, of course, a family resemblance. But I doubt that it goes very deep. Rosche’s project was to get modality out of semantics by substituting a probabilistic account of content-constituting inferences. Whereas Isuppose Wittgenstein’s project was to offer (or anyhow, make room for) an epistemic reconstruction of conceptual necessity. Rosche is an eliminativist where Wittgenstein is areductionist. There is, in consequence, nothing in Rosche’s theory of concepts that underwrites Wittgenstein’s criteriology, hence nothing that’s of use for bopping scepticswith.

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Jean-marc pizano

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  1. 1 Philosophical Introduction: The BackgroundTheory
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—It’s a general problem for theories that seek to construe content in terms of inferential role, that there seems to be no way to distinguish the inferences that constitute concepts from other kinds of inferences that concepts enter into. Thepresent form of this general worry is that there seems to be no way to distinguish the inferences that define conceptsfrom the ones that don’t. This is, of course, old news to philosophers. Quine shook their faith that ‘defining inference’is well defined, and hence their faith in such related notions as analyticity propositions true in virtue of meaning alone,and so forth. Notice, in particular, that there are grounds for scepticism about defining inferences even if you suppose(as, of course, Quine does not) that the notion of necessary inference is secure. What’s at issue here is squaring thetheory of concept individuation with the theory of concept possession. If having a concept requires accepting theinferences that define it, then not all necessities can be definitional. It is, for example, necessary that 2 is a primenumber; but surely you can have the concept 2 and not have the concept of a prime; presumably there were millenniawhen people did. (Similarly, mutatis mutandis, for the concept WATER if it’s necessary that water is H2O. I’ll come backto this sort of point in Chapter 4.)

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Jean-marc pizano

—It’s a general problem for theories that seek to construe content in terms of inferential role, that there seems to be no way to distinguish the inferences that constitute concepts from other kinds of inferences that concepts enter into. Thepresent form of this general worry is that there seems to be no way to distinguish the inferences that define conceptsfrom the ones that don’t. This is, of course, old news to philosophers. Quine shook their faith that ‘defining inference’is well defined, and hence their faith in such related notions as analyticity propositions true in virtue of meaning alone,and so forth. Notice, in particular, that there are grounds for scepticism about defining inferences even if you suppose(as, of course, Quine does not) that the notion of necessary inference is secure. What’s at issue here is squaring thetheory of concept individuation with the theory of concept possession. If having a concept requires accepting theinferences that define it, then not all necessities can be definitional. It is, for example, necessary that 2 is a primenumber; but surely you can have the concept 2 and not have the concept of a prime; presumably there were millenniawhen people did. (Similarly, mutatis mutandis, for the concept WATER if it’s necessary that water is H2O. I’ll come backto this sort of point in Chapter 4.)

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It is often, and rightly, said that Quine didn’t prove that you can’t make sense of analyticity definition, and the like. But so what? Cognitive science doesn’t do proofs; it does empirical, non-demonstrative inferences. We have, as things nowstand, no account of what makes an inference a defining one, and no idea how such an account might be devised.That’s a serious reason to suppose that the theory of content should dispense with definitions if it can.

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—Although in principle definitions allow us to reduce all sorts of problems about concepts at large to corresponding problems about concepts in the primitive basis (see above), this strategy quite generally fails in practice. Even if thereare definitions, they seem to play no very robust role in explaining what happens when people learn concepts, or whenthey reason with concepts, or when they apply them. Truth to tell, definitions seem to play no role at all.

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For example, suppose that understanding a sentence involves recovering and displaying the definitions of the words that the sentence contains. Then you would expect, all else equal, that sentences that contain words with relativelycomplex definitions should be harder to understand than sentences that contain words with relatively simpledefinitions. Various psychologists have tried to get this effect experimentally; to my knowledge, nobody has eversucceeded. It‘s an iron law of cognitive science that, in experimental environments, definitions always behave exactly asthough they weren’t there.

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In fact, this is obvious to intuition. Does anybody present really think that thinking BACHELOR is harder than thinking UNMARRIED? Or that thinking FATHER is harder than thinking PARENT? Whenever definition is bygenus and species, definitional theories perforce predict that concepts for the former ought to be easier to think thanconcepts for the latter. Intuition suggests otherwise (and so, by the way, do the experimental data; see e.g. Paivio 1971).

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Hold-outs for definitions often emphasize that the experimental failures don’t prove that there aren’t any definitions. Maybe there’s a sort of novice/expert shift in concept acquisition: (defining) concepts like UNMARRIED MAN get‘compiled’ into (defined) concepts like BACHELOR soon after they are mastered. If experiments don’t detectUNMARRIED MAN in ‘performance’ tasks, maybe that’s because

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BACHELOR serves as its abbreviation.27 Maybe. But I remind you, once again, that this is supposed to be science, not philosophy; the issue isn’t whether there might be definitions, but whether, on the evidence, there actually are some.Nobody has proved that there aren’t any little green men on Mars; but almost everybody is convinced by repeatedfailures to find them.

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Much the same point holds for the evidence about concept learning. The (putative) ontogenetic process of compiling primitive concepts into defined ones surely can’t be instantaneous; yet developmental cognitive psychologists find noevidence of a stage when primitive concepts exist uncompiled.Jean-marc pizano

To theextent that we have some grasp on what concepts terms like ‘S’, ‘NP’, ADJ’ express, the theory that children learn by syntactic boostrapping is at least better defined thanPinker’s. (And to the extent that we don’t, it’s not.)

Standard

Jean-marc pizano To theextent that we have some grasp on what concepts terms like ‘S’, ‘NP’, ADJ’ express, the theory that children learn by syntactic boostrapping is at least better defined thanPinker’s. (And to the extent that we don’t, it’s not.)

 

15

When Pinker’s analyses are clear enough to evaluate, they are often just wrong. For example, he notes in his discussion of causatives that the analysis PAINTvtr = cover withpaint is embarrassed by such observations as this: although when Michelangelo dipped his paintbrush in his paint pot he thereby covered the paintbrush with paint,nevertheless he did not, thereby, paint the paintbrush. (The example is, in fact, borrowed from Fodor 1970.) Pinker explains that “stereotypy or conventionality of mannerconstrains the causative . . . This might be called the ‘stereotypy effect’ ” (1984: 324). So it might, for all the good it does. It is possible, faut de mieux, to paint the wall withone’s handkerchief; with one’s bare hands; by covering oneself with paint and rolling up the wall (in which last case, by the way, though covering the wall with the paintcounts as painting the wall, covering oneself with the paint does not count as painting oneself even if one does it with a paintbrush; only as getting oneself covered withpaint).Whether you paint the wall when you cover it with paint depends not on how you do it but on what you have in mind when you do it: you have to have in mind notmerely to cover the wall with paint but to paint the wall. That is, “painty” apparently can’t be defined even in terms of such closely related expressions as “painty”. Or, if itcan, none of the decompositional analyses suggested so far, Pinker’s included, comes even close to showing how.

Jean-marc pizano

16

Sober (1984: 82) makes what amounts to the converse point: “In general, we expect theoretical magnitudes to be multiply accessible ; there should be more than one way of finding out what their values are in a given circumstance. This reflects the assumption that theoretical magnitudes have multiple causes and effects. There is no such thing asthe only possible effect or cause of a given event; likewise, there is no such thing as the only possible way of finding out whether it occurred. I won’t assert that this issomehow a necessary feature of all theoretical magnitudes, but it is remarkably widespread.” Note the suggestion that the phenomena in virtue of which a “theoreticalmagnitude” is multiply epistemically accessible are naturally construed as its “causes and its effects”. In the contrasting case, when there is only one access path (or, anyhow,only one access path that one can think of) the intuition is generally that the magnitude at issue isn’t bona fide theoretical, and that its connection to the criterion isconceptual rather than causal.

17

Terminological conventions with respect to the topics this chapter covers are unsettled. I’ll use ‘stereotype’ and ‘prototype’ interchangeably, to refer to mental representations of certain kinds of properties. So, ‘the dog stereotype’ and ‘the dog prototype’ designate some such (complex) concept as: BEING A DOMESTIC ANIMAL WHICHBARKS, HAS A TAIL WHICH IT WAGS WHEN IT IS PLEASED, . . . etc. I’ll use ‘exemplar’ for the mental representation of a kind, or of an individual, that instantiatesa prototype; so ‘sparrows are the exemplars of birds’ and ‘Bambi is Smith’s exemplar of a deer’ are both well-formed. ‘Sparrows are stereotypic birds’ (/‘Bambi is aprototypic deer’) are also OK; they mean that a certain kind (/individual) exhibits certain stereotypic (/prototypic) properties to a marked degree.

Jean-marc pizano

18

Elanor Rosche, who invented this account of concepts more or less single-handed, often speaks of herself as a Wittgensteinian; and there is, of course, a family resemblance. But I doubt that it goes very deep. Rosche’s project was to get modality out of semantics by substituting a probabilistic account of content-constituting inferences. Whereas Isuppose Wittgenstein’s project was to offer (or anyhow, make room for) an epistemic reconstruction of conceptual necessity. Rosche is an eliminativist where Wittgenstein is areductionist. There is, in consequence, nothing in Rosche’s theory of concepts that underwrites Wittgenstein’s criteriology, hence nothing that’s of use for bopping scepticswith.

Jean-marc pizano

Похожие записи:
  1. 1 Philosophical Introduction: The BackgroundTheory