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

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Then came the Snake.What the Snake Said

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Then came the Snake.

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What the Snake Said

‘I have here,’ the Snake said, ‘some stuff that will no doubt strike you, in your Innocence, as a sample of bona fide, original, straight off the shelf, X-ness. But come a little closer—come close enough to see how the stuff is puttogether—and you’ll see that it isn’t X after all. In fact, it’s some kind of Y

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—‘Sucks to how it’s put together,’ we replied, in our Innocence. ‘For a thing to strike us as of a kind with paradigm Xs just is for that thing to be an X. X-ness just is the property of being the kind of thing to which we do (or would)extrapolate from appropriate experience with typical Xs. Man is the measure; vide doorknobs.’

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—‘That,’ the Snake replied, ‘depends. Since we’re assuming from the start that Xs and Ys are, for practical purposes, indistinguishable in their effects on you, it follows that thinking of both Xs and Ys as Xs will do you no practical harm.For example, for purposes of longevity, reproductive efficiency, and the like, it’s all one whether you ingest only Xsunder the description ‘X or you ingest both Xs and Ys under that description. But that is ingest; I am in earnest. Ifyou want to carve Nature at the joints, if you want to know how the world seems to God, you will have to learn sometimesto distinguish between Xs and Ys even though they taste (and feel, and look, and sound, and quite generally strike youas) much the same. It’s entirely up to you of course. Far be it from me to twist your arm. (Sign here, please. In blood.)’

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We fell for that, and it was, on balance, a fortunate Fall. The trouble with being Innocent is that, although how God made things sometimes shows up in broad similarities and differences in the way that they strike us (trees reliably strikeus as quite different from rocks; and they are), sometimes it only shows up in similarities and differences in the waythings

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strike us in very highly contrived, quite unnatural environments; experimental environments, as it might be. For it’s sometimes only in terms of a taxonomy that classifies things by similarities and differences among the ways that theydo (or would) behave in those sorts of environments, that we can specify the deep generalizations that the world obeys.We are, after all, peculiar and complicated sorts of objects. There is no obvious reason why similarity in respect of theway that things affect us should, in general, predict similarity in the way that they affect objects that are less peculiarthan us, or less complicated than us, or that are peculiar and complicated in different ways than us.36

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Unless, however, we contrive, with malice aforethought, that things should strike us as alike only if they are alike in respect of the deep sources of their causal powers: that they should strike us as alike only if they share their hiddenessences. So, for example, we can set things up so that the chemicals in the bottles will both turn the paper red (andthereby strike us as similar) if, but only if, they are both acids. Or, we can set things up so that both meters will registerthe same (and thereby strike us as similar) if, but only if, there’s the same amount of current in both the circuits; and soon. The moral is that whereas you lock to doorknobhood via a metaphysical necessity, if you want to lock to a natural kindproperty, you have actually to do the science.

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So much for the fairy tale. It’s intuitively plausible, phylogenetically, ontogenetically, and even just historically, to think of natural kind concepts as late sophistications that are somehow constructed on a prior cognitive capacity forconcepts of mind-dependent properties. But intuitively plausible is one thing, true is another. So, is it true? And, whatdoes “doing the science” amount to? How, having started out as Innocents with no concepts of natural kinds, could wehave got to where we are, with natural kind concepts like WATER? I turn to these questions in, more or less, thatorder.

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If ‘doorknob’ has anominal definition, then it ought to be possible for a competent linguist or analytical philosopher to figure out what itsnominal definition is. If ‘doorknob’ has a real definition, then it ought to be possible for a science of doorknobs touncover it. But linguists and philosophers have had no luck defining ‘doorknob’ (or, as we’ve seen, anything muchelse). And there is nothing for a science of doorknobs to find out. The direction this is leading in is that if ‘doorknob’ isundefinable, that must be because being a doorknob is a primitive property. But, of course, that’s crazy. If a thing hasdoorknobhood, it does so entirely in virtue of others of the properties it has. If doorknobs don’t have hidden essences orreal definitions, that can’t possibly be because being a doorknob is one of those properties that things have simply becausethey have them; ultimates like spin, charm, charge, or the like, at which explanation ends.

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Jean-marc pizano If ‘doorknob’ has anominal definition, then it ought to be possible for a competent linguist or analytical philosopher to figure out what itsnominal definition is. If ‘doorknob’ has a real definition, then it ought to be possible for a science of doorknobs touncover it. But linguists and philosophers have had no luck defining ‘doorknob’ (or, as we’ve seen, anything muchelse). And there is nothing for a science of doorknobs to find out. The direction this is leading in is that if ‘doorknob’ isundefinable, that must be because being a doorknob is a primitive property. But, of course, that’s crazy. If a thing hasdoorknobhood, it does so entirely in virtue of others of the properties it has. If doorknobs don’t have hidden essences orreal definitions, that can’t possibly be because being a doorknob is one of those properties that things have simply becausethey have them; ultimates like spin, charm, charge, or the like, at which explanation ends.

 

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So, here’s the riddle. How could ‘doorknob’ be undefinable (contrast ‘bachelor’ =df ‘unmarried man’) and lack a hidden essence (contrast water = H2O) without being metaphysically primitive (contrast spin, charm, and charge)?

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The answer (I think) is that ‘doorknob’ works like ‘red’.

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Now I suppose you want to know how ‘red’ works.

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Well, ‘red’ hasn’t got a nominal definition, and redness doesn’t have a real essence (ask any psychophysicist), and, of course, redness isn’t metaphysically ultimate. This is all OK because redness is an appearance property, and the point aboutappearance properties is that they don’t raise the question that definitions, real and nominal, propose to answer: viz.‘What is it that the things we take to be Xs have in common, over and above our taking them to be Xs?’ This is, to put itmildly, not a particularly original thing to say about red. All that’s new is the proposal to extend this sort of analysis todoorknobs and the like; the proposal is that there are lots of appearance concepts that aren’t sensory concepts.80 That this should beso is, perhaps, unsurprising on reflection. There is no obvious reason why 30a property that is constituted by the mental states that things that have it evoke in us must ipso facto be constituted by thesensory states that things that have it evoke in us.

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All right, all right; you can’t believe that something’s being a doorknob is “about us” in anything like the way that maybe something’s being red is. Surely ‘doorknob’ expresses a property that a thing either has or doesn’t, regardless ofour views; as it were, a property of things in themselves? So be it, but which property? Consider the alternatives (herewe go again): is it that ‘doorknob’ is definable? If so, what’s the definition? (And, even if ‘doorknob’ is definable, someconcepts have to be primitive, so the present sorts of issues will eventually have to be faced about them.) Is it thatdoorknobs qua doorknobs have a hidden essence? Hidden where, do you suppose? And who is in charge of finding it?Is it that being a doorknob is ontologically ultimate? You’ve got to be kidding.31

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If you take it seriously that DOORKNOB hasn’t got a conceptual analysis, and that doorknobs don’t have hidden essences, all that’s left to make something a doorknob (anyhow, all that’s left that I can think of) is how it strikes us. But ifbeing a doorknob is a property that’s constituted by how things strike us, then the intrinsic connection between the contentof DOORKNOB and the content of our doorknob-experiences is metaphysically necessary, hence not a fact that acognitivist theory of concept acquisition is required in order to explain.

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To be sure, there remains something about the acquisition of DOORKNOB that does want explaining: viz. why it is the property that these guys (several doorknobs) share, and not the property that those guys (several cows) share, thatwe lock to from experience of good (e.g. stereotypic) examples of doorknobs. And, equally certainly, it’s got to besomething about our kinds of minds that this explanation adverts to. But, I’m supposing, such an explanation iscognitivist only if it turns on the evidential relation between having the stereotypic doorknob properties and being a doorknob. (So,for example, triggering explanations aren’t

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So, then, consider a supplementedversion of IA (I’ll call it SIA) which says everything that IA does and also that concept possession is some kind oflocking. The question before us is whether SIA requires radical nativism.

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Jean-marc pizano So, then, consider a supplementedversion of IA (I’ll call it SIA) which says everything that IA does and also that concept possession is some kind oflocking. The question before us is whether SIA requires radical nativism.

 

That learning how can’t depend on learning that in every

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case is, I suppose, the moral of Lewis Carroll’s story about Achilles and the tortoise: Carroll 1895/1995.

CogSci footnote: the present issue isn’t whether inferential capacities are ‘declarative’ rather than ‘procedural’; it’s whether they are interestingly analogous to skills. A cognitive architecture (like SOAR, for example) that is heavily committed to procedural representations is not thereby required to suppose that drawing inferences has muchin common with playing basketball or the piano. Say, if you like, that someone who accepts the inference from P to Q has the habit of accepting Q if he accepts P. Butthis sort of ‘habit’ involves a relation among one’s propositional attitudes and, prima facie, being able to play the piano doesn’t.

Concepts aren’t skills, of course; concepts are mental particulars. In particular, they are the constituents of beliefs, whereas skills can’t be the constituents of anything except other skills. But though all this is so, the argument in the text doesn’t presuppose it.

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Notice that the question before us is not whether SIA permits radical nativism; it’s patent that it does. According to SIA, having a concept is being locked to a property. Well, being locked to a property is having a disposition, and thoughperhaps there are some dispositions that must be acquired, hence can’t be innate, nothing I’ve heard of argues thatbeing locked to a property is one of them. If, in short, you require your metaphysical theory of concept possession toentail the denial of radical nativism, SIA won’t fill your bill. (I don’t see how any metaphysics could, short of questionbegging, since the status of radical nativism is surely an empirical issue. Radical nativism may be false, but I doubt thatit is, in any essential way, confused.) But if, you’re prepared to settle for a theory of concepts that is plausibly compatiblewith the denial of radical nativism, maybe we can do some business.

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If you assume SIA, and hence the locking model of concept possession, you thereby deny that learning concepts necessarily involves acquiring beliefs. And if you deny that learning concepts necessarily involves acquiring beliefs, thenyou can’t assume that hypothesis testing is an ingredient in concept acquisition. It is, as I keep pointing out, primarilycognitivism about the metaphysics of concept possession that motivates inductivism about the psychology of conceptacquisition: hypothesis testing is the natural assumption about how beliefs are acquired from experience. But if it can’tbe assumed that concept acquisition is ipso facto belief acquisition, then it can’t be assumed that locking DOORKNOBto doorknobhood requires a mediating hypothesis. And if it can’t be assumed that locking DOORKNOB to doorknobhoodrequires a mediating hypothesis, then, a fortiori, it can’t be assumed that it requires a mediating hypothesis in which theconcept DOORKNOB is itself deployed. In which case, for all that the Standard Argument shows, DOORKNOBcould be both primitive and not innate.

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This maybe starts to sound a little hopeful; but not, I’m afraid, for very long. The discussion so far has underestimated the polemical resources that SA has available. In particular, there is an independent argument that seems to show thatconcept acquisition has to be inductive, whether or not the metaphysics of concept possession is cognitivist, so SA gets its inductivistpremiss even if SIA is right that having a concept doesn’t require having beliefs. The moral would then be that, thougha non-cognitivist account of concept possession may be necessary for RTM to avoid radical nativism, it’s a long wayfrom being sufficient.

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In short, Patient Reader, the Standard Argument’s way of getting radical nativism goes like this:

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(1) cognitivism about concept possession ^ (2) inductivist (i.e.

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hypothesis-testing) model of concept learning ^ (3) primitive concepts can’t be learned.

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SIA denies (1), thereby promising to block the standard argument. If, however, there’s some other source for (2)—some plausible premiss to derive it from that doesn’t assume a cognitivist metaphysics of concept possession—then thestandard argument is back in business.

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If C is literally a part of C, then of course you can’t have C,unless you also have C. Notice that this explanation turns on precisely the idea that meaning postulates propose toabandon: viz. that the content-constitutive inferences are the ones that relate a concept to its parts.

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Jean-marc pizano If C is literally a part of C, then of course you can’t have C,unless you also have C. Notice that this explanation turns on precisely the idea that meaning postulates propose toabandon: viz. that the content-constitutive inferences are the ones that relate a concept to its parts.

 

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In short, if you are independently convinced both that there are meaning-constitutive inferences and that most lexical concepts behave like primitives, you’ve got a residuum problem to which meaning postulates may indeed offer asolution. But at a price, since the solution weakens the architecture of your overall theory: it breaks the connectionbetween the structure of a concept and its possession conditions.

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Partee has tried bravely to make a virtue of this necessity:

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Meaning postulates might be a helpful tool. . . since they make the form [sic] of some kinds of lexical information no different in kind from the form of some kinds of general knowledge. That would make it possible to hypothesizethat the very same ‘fact’—for example, whales are mammals—could be stored in either of two ‘places,’ a storehouseof lexical knowledge or a storehouse of empirical knowledge; whether it’s part of the meaning of ‘whale’ or notneed not be fixed once and for all. (1995: 328)

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But it is inadvisable for a theory to recognize degrees of freedom that it is unable to interpret. Exactly because meaning postulates break the ‘formal’ relation between belonging to the structure of a concept and being among its constitutiveinferences, it’s unclear why it matters which box a given such ‘fact’ goes into; i.e. whether a given inference is treated asmeaning-constitutive. Imagine two minds that differ in that ‘whale ^ mammal’ is a meaning postulate for one but is‘general knowledge’ for theother. Are any further differences between these minds entailed? If so, which ones? Is this wheel attached to anythingat all?

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It’s a point Quine made against Carnap that the answer to ‘When is an inference analytic?’ can’t be just Whenever I feel like saying that it is’. Definition versions of IR Semantics can hold that an inference is analytic when and only whenit follows from the structure of a concept. If the meaning postulate version has an alternative proposal on offer, it’s notone that I’ve heard of.

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Appendix 5B The ‘Theory Theory – of Concepts

The theories of concepts discussed so far all presuppose Inferential Role Semantics, so they all owe an account of which inferences determine conceptual content. The big divides are between holism (which says that all inferences do)and some sort of molecularism (which says that only some inferences do); and, within the latter, between classicaltheories (according to which it is modality that matters to content constitution) and prototype theories (according towhich it’s empirical reliability that does). In effect, the various theories of concepts we’ve reviewed are versions of IRSdistinguished, primarily, by what they say about the problem of individuating content.

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Now, a quite standard reading of the history of cognitive science has the reliability-based versions of IRS displacing the modality-based versions and in turn being displaced, very recently, by theory theories.63 But that way of telling the storyis, I think, mistaken. Though theory theories do propose a view about what concepts are (or, anyhow, about whatconcepts are like; or, anyhow, about what a lot of concepts are like), they don’t, as far as I can tell, offer a distinctapproach to the content individuation problems. Sometimes they borrow the modality story from definitional theories,sometimes they borrow the reliability story from prototype theories, sometimes they share the holist’s despair ofindividuating concepts at all. So, for our purposes at least, it’s unclear that theory theories of concepts differsubstantially from the kinds of theories

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I’m not crazy about this terminology, if only because it invites conflation with the quite different issue whether “folk psychology” is a (tacit) theory (see, for example, Gordon 1986). But it‘s standard in the cognitive science literature so I’ll stick with it, and from here on I’ll omit the shudder-quotes.

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Then you will find it intuitively plausible thatthe relation between C and C* is conceptual; specifically, that you can’t have C unless you also have C*. And the moreyou think that it is counterfactual supporting that the only epistemic route from C to the property it expresses depends ondrawing inferences that involve the concept C*, the stronger your intuition that C and C* are conceptually connectedwill be.16

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Jean-marc pizano Then you will find it intuitively plausible thatthe relation between C and C* is conceptual; specifically, that you can’t have C unless you also have C*. And the moreyou think that it is counterfactual supporting that the only epistemic route from C to the property it expresses depends ondrawing inferences that involve the concept C*, the stronger your intuition that C and C* are conceptually connectedwill be.16

 

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The best way to see how this account of analyticity intuitions is supposed to work is to consider some cases where it doesn’t apply. Take the concepts DOG and ANIMAL; and let’s suppose, concessively, that dogs are animals is necessary.Still, according to the present story, ‘dogs are animals’ should be a relatively poorish candidate for analyticity asnecessities go. Why? Well, because there are lots of plausible scenarios where your thoughts achieve semantic access todoghood but not via your performing inferences that deploy the concept ANIMAL. Surely it’s likely that perceptualidentifications of dogs work that way; even if dog perception is always inferential, there’s no reason to suppose thatthat ANIMAL is always, or even often, deployed in drawing the inferences. To the contrary, perceptual inferences fromdoggish-looking to dog are no doubt direct in the usual case. So, then, deploying ANIMAL is pretty clearly not a necessarycondition for getting semantic access to dog; so the strength of the intuition that dogs are animals is analytic ought to bepretty underwhelming according to the present account. Which, I suppose, it is.

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I suppose, to continue the previous example, that the same holds for concepts like WATER and H2O. No doubt, water is H2O is metaphysically necessary. But, there’s a plethora of reliable ways of determining that stuff is water; outside thelaboratory, one practically never does so by inference from its being H2O. So, even if they express the same property,my story says that the relation between the concepts ought not to strike one’s intuition as plausibly constitutive. Which,I suppose, it doesn’t. (See also the old joke about how to tell how many sheep there are: you count the legs and divideby four. Here too the crucial connection is necessary; presumably it’s a law that sheep have four legs. But the necessityisn’t intuitively conceptual, even first blush. That’s because there are lots of other, and better, ways to get epistemic (afortiori, semantic) access to the cardinality of one’s flock.)

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But offhand, I can’t imagine how I might determine whether John is a bachelor except by determining that he’s male and un- (viz. not) married. Or by employing some procedure that I take to be a way of determining that he is male andunmarried . . . etc. Just so, offhand, I can‘t imagine how I might determine whether it’s Tuesday except by determiningthat it‘s the second day of the week; e.g. by determining that yesterday was Monday and/or that tomorrow will beWednesday. Hence the intuitive analyticity of bachelors are unmarried, Tuesday just before Wednesday, and the like. I’msuggesting that it’s the epistemic property of being a one-criterion concept—not a modal property, and certainly not asemantic property—that

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putative intuitions of analyticity detect. A fortiori, such intuitions do not detect the constituent structure of complex concepts.

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TUESDAY is especially engaging in this respect. It pays to spend some time on TUESDAY. I suppose the intuition that needs explaining is that “Tuesday” is conceptually connected to a small circle of mutually interdefinable terms, atleast some of which you must have to have it. This kind of thing is actually a bit embarrassing for the standard,semantic account of analyticity intuitions. Since there’s no strong intuition about which of the Tuesday-related conceptsyou have to have to have “Tuesday”, it’s correspondingly unclear which of the concepts deployed in the variousnecessary truths about Tuesdays should count as constitutive; i.e. which of them should be treated as part of thedefinition of “Tuesday”. (Correspondingly, there’s no clear intuition about which of this galaxy of concepts should beconstituents of TUESDAY, assuming you hold a containment theory of definition.)

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And Tuesday-intuitions raise another embarrassing question as well: suppose you could somehow decide which Tuesday-involving necessities are definitional and which aren’t.Jean-marc pizano

So, then, here are my five not-negotiable conditions on a theory of concepts.

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So, then, here are my five not-negotiable conditions on a theory of concepts.

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1. Concepts are mental particulars; specifically, they satisfy whatever ontological conditions have to be met bythings that function as mental causes and effects.

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Since this is entailed by RTM (see Chapter 1), and hence is common to all the theories of concepts I’ll consider, I won’t go on about it here. If, however, you think that intentional causation explains behaviour only in the way that thesolubility of sugar explains its dissolving (see Ryle 1949), or if you think that intentional explanations aren’t causal at all(see e.g. Collins 1987), then nothing in the following discussion will be of much use to you, and I fear we’ve reached aparting of the ways. At least one of us is wasting his time; I do hope it’s you.

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2. Concepts are categories and are routinely employed as such.

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To say that concepts are categories is to say that they apply to things in the world; things in the world ‘fall under them’. So, for example, Greycat the cat, but not Dumbo the elephant, falls under the concept CAT. Which, for presentpurposes, is equivalent to saying that Greycat is in the extension of CAT, that ‘Greycat is a cat’ is true, and that ‘is a cat’is true of Greycat. I shall sometimes refer to this galaxy of considerations by saying that applications of concepts aresusceptible of ‘semantic evaluation-, claims, or thoughts, that a certain concept applies to a certain thing are alwayssusceptible of evaluation in such semantical terms as satisfied/unsatisfied, true/false, correct/incorrect, and the like.There are, to be sure, issues about these various aspects of semantic evaluability, and about the relations among them,that a scrupulous philosopher might well wish to attend to. But in this chapter, I propose to keep the philosophy to abare minimum.18

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Much of the life of the mind consists in applying concepts to things. If I think Greycat is a cat (de dicto, as it were), I thereby apply the concept CAT to Greycat (correctly, as it happens). If, looking at Greycat, I take him to be a cat, thentoo I apply the concept CAT to Greycat. (If looking at Greycat I take him to be a meatloaf, I thereby apply the conceptMEATLOAF to Greycat; incorrectly, as it happens.) Or if, in reasoning about Greycat, I infer that since he’s a cat hemust be an animal, I thereby proceed from applying one concept to Greycat to the licensed application of anotherconcept; the license consisting, I suppose, in things I know about how the extensions of the concepts CAT andANIMAL are related.

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In fact, RTM being once assumed, most of cognitive psychology, including the psychology of memory, perception, and reasoning, is about how we apply concepts. And most of the rest is about how we acquire the concepts that we thusapply. Correspondingly, the empirical data to which cognitive psychologists are responsible consist largely of measuresof subject performance in concept application tasks. The long and short is: whatever else a theory of concepts saysabout them, it had better exhibitconcepts as the sorts of things that get applied in the course of mental processes. I take it that consensus about this ispretty general in the cognitive sciences, so I won’t labour it further here.

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Caveat: it’s simply untendentious that concepts have their satisfaction conditions essentially. Nothing in any mental life could be the concept CAT unless it is satisfied by cats. It couldn’t be that there are some mental lives in which theconcept CAT applies to CATS and others in which it doesn’t. If you haven’t got a concept that applies to cats, thatentails that you haven’t got the CAT concept. But though the satisfaction conditions of a concept are patently among itsessential properties, it does not follow that the confirmation conditions of a concept are among its essential properties.Confirmation is an epistemic relation, not a semantic relation, and it is generally theory mediated, hence holistic. Onthe one hand, given the right background theory, the merest ripple in cat infested waters might serve to confirm anascription of cathood; and, on the other hand, no cat-containing layout is so well lit, or so utterly uncluttered, or soself-certifying that your failure to ascribe cathood therein would entail that you lack the concept.Jean-marc pizano