David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Cognitive Systems Research 9:76-91 (2008)
There is no doubt that social interaction plays an important role in language-learning, as well as in concept acquisition. In surprising contrast, social interaction makes only passing appearance in our most promising naturalistic theories of content. This is particularly true in the case of mental content (e.g., Cummins, 1996; Dretske, 1981, 1988; Fodor, 1987, 1990a; Millikan, 1984); and insofar as linguistic content derives from mental content (Grice, 1957), social interaction seems missing from our best naturalistic theories of both.1 In this paper, I explore the ways in which even the most individualistic of theories of mental content can, and should, accommodate social effects. I focus especially on the way in which inferential relations, including those that are socially taught, influence language-learning and concept acquisition. I argue that these factors affect the way subjects conceive of mental and linguistic content. Such effects have a dark side: the social and inferential processes in question give rise to misleading intuitions about content itself. They create the illusion that content and inferential relations are more deeply intertwined than they actually are. This illusion confounds an otherwise attractive solution to what is known as ‘Frege’s puzzle’ (Salmon, 1986). I..
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