Why Fodor's theory of concepts fails

Minds and Machines 19 (1):25-46 (2009)
Abstract
Fodor’s theory of concepts holds that the psychological capacities, beliefs or intentions which determine how we use concepts do not determine reference. Instead, causal relations of a specific kind between properties and our dispositions to token a concept are claimed to do so. Fodor does admit that there needs to be some psychological mechanisms mediating the property–concept tokening relations, but argues that they are purely accidental for reference. In contrast, I argue that the actual mechanisms that sustain the reference determining concept tokening relations are necessary for reference. Fodor’s atomism is thus undermined, since in order to refer with a concept it is necessary to possess some specific psychological capacities.
Keywords Informational semantics  Conceptual atomism  Sustaining mechanisms  Deference  Psychological essentialism  Prototype theory
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