David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Minds and Machines 19 (2):199-227 (2009)
It is commonplace in cognitive science that concepts are individuated in terms of the roles they play in the cognitive lives of thinkers, a view that Jerry Fodor has recently been dubbed ‘Concept Pragmatism’. Quinean critics of Pragmatism have long argued that it founders on its commitment to the analytic/synthetic distinction, since without such a distinction there is plausibly no way to distinguish constitutive from non-constitutive roles in cognition. This paper considers Fodor’s empirical arguments against analyticity, and in particular his arguments against lexical decomposition and definitions, and argues that Concept Pragmatists have two viable options with respect to them. First, Concept Pragmatists can confront them head-on, and argue that they do not show that lexical items are semantically primitive or that lexical concepts are internally unstructured. Second, Pragmatists may accept that these arguments show that lexical concepts are atomic, but insist that this need not entail that Pragmatism is false. For there is a viable version of Concept Pragmatism that does not take lexical items to be semantically structured or lexical concepts to be internally structured. Adopting a version of Pragmatism that takes meaning relations to be specified by inference rules, or meaning postulates, allows one to accept the empirical arguments in favor of Concept Atomism, while at the same time deny that such arguments show that there are no analyticities. The paper concludes by responding to Fodor’s recent objection that such a version of Concept Pragmatism has unhappy consequences concerning the relation between concept constitution and concept possession.
|Keywords||Concepts Analyticity Inferential role semantics Conceptual role semantics Concept pragmatism Fodor|
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References found in this work BETA
Jerry A. Fodor (1987). Psychosemantics: The Problem of Meaning in the Philosophy of Mind. MIT Press.
Jerry A. Fodor (1998). Concepts: Where Cognitive Science Went Wrong. Oxford University Press.
Jerry A. Fodor (2008). Lot 2: The Language of Thought Revisited. Oxford University Press.
Jerry A. Fodor (1975). The Language of Thought. Harvard University Press.
Citations of this work BETA
Bradley Rives (2010). Concepts and Perceptual Belief: How (Not) to Defend Recognitional Concepts. Acta Analytica 25 (4):369-391.
Víctor M. Verdejo & Xavier Donato Rodríguez (2015). Partial Understanding and Concept Possession: A Dilemma. Ratio 28 (2):153-162.
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