Theories of number concepts often suppose that the natural numbers are acquired as children learn to count and as they draw an induction based on their interpretation of the ﬁrst few count words. In a bold critique of this general approach, Rips, Asmuth, Bloomﬁeld [Rips, L., Asmuth, J. & Bloomﬁeld, A. (2006). Giving the boot to the bootstrap: How not to learn the natural numbers. Cognition, 101, B51–B60.] argue that such an inductive inference is consistent with a representational system that (...) clearly does not express the natural numbers and that possession of the natural numbers requires further principles that make the inductive inference superﬂuous. We argue that their critique is unsuccessful. Provided that children have access to a suitable initial system of representation, the sort of inductive inference that Rips et al. call into question can in fact facilitate the acquisition of larger integer concepts without the addition of any further principles. Ó 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. (shrink)
The Regress Argument is supposed to show that the language of thought hypothesis results in an infinite regress in its explanation of such things as learning, meaning, and understanding. Earlier (in Laurence & Margolis 1997) we argued that the Regress Argument doesn’t work and that even the language of thought’s supporters have given the Regress Argument far too much credit. In this paper, we respond to a critique of our earlier discussion.
In this paper Bloom analyzes the popular magazine, Men's Health, from a feminist perspective, locating ways that the magazine participates in an insidious form of anti-feminist backlash. She specifically analyzes the magazine to make sense of how its writers discursively position women in their relationships to heterosexual men and how they use the voices of women who call themselves feminists to promote an anti-feminist, pro-patriarchy agenda. She demonstrates that the “health” of men being promoted in this magazine is a (...) mental health grounded in the maintenance of male privilege and power. (shrink)
Noam Chomsky's Poverty of the Stimulus Argument is one of the most famous and controversial arguments in the study of language and the mind. Though widely endorsed by linguists, the argument has met with much resistance in philosophy. Unfortunately, philosophical critics have often failed to fully appreciate the power of the argument. In this paper, we provide a systematic presentation of the Poverty of the Stimulus Argument, clarifying its structure, content, and evidential base. We defend the argument against a variety (...) of philosophical criticisms, new and old, and argue that the Poverty of the Stimulus Argument continues to deserve its guiding role in the study of language and the mind. (shrink)
Causation is one of philosophy's most venerable and thoroughly-analyzed concepts. However, the study of how ordinary people make causal judgments is a much more recent addition to the philosophical arsenal. One of the most prominent views of causal explanation, especially in the realm of harmful or potentially harmful behavior, is that unusual or counternormative events are accorded privileged status in ordinary causal explanations. This is a fundamental assumption in psychological theories of counterfactual reasoning, and has been transported to philosophy by (...) Hitchcock and Knobe (2009). A different view--the basis of the culpable control model of blame (CCM)--is that primary causal status is accorded to behaviors that arouse negative evaluative reactions, including behaviors that stem from nefarious motives, negligence or recklessness, a faulty character, or behaviors that lead to harmful or potentially harmful consequences. This paper describes four empirical studies that show consistent support for the CCM. (shrink)
Conceptual analysis is undergoing a revival in philosophy, and much of the credit goes to Frank Jackson. Jackson argues that conceptual analysis is needed as an integral component of so-called serious metaphysics and that it also does explanatory work in accounting for such phenomena as categorization, meaning change, communication, and linguistic understanding. He even goes so far as to argue that opponents of concep- tual analysis are implicitly committed to it in practice. We show that he is wrong on all (...) of these points and that his case for conceptual analysis doesn. (shrink)
College students implicitly judge interracial sex and gay sex to be morally wrong Some moral intuitions arise from psychological processes that are not fully accessible to consciousness. For instance, most people disapprove of consensual adult incest between siblings, but are unable to articulate why—they just feel that it is wrong (Haidt, 2001). More generally, there is evidence for at least two sources of moral judgment: explicit conscious reasoning and tacit intuitions, which are motivated by emotional responses (Greene et al., 2001) (...) and learned associations (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995). (shrink)
What is a concept? Philosophers have given many different answers to this question, reflecting a wide variety of approaches to the study of mind and language. Nonetheless, at the most general level, there are two dominant frameworks in contemporary philosophy. One proposes that concepts are mental representations, while the other proposes that they are abstract objects. This paper looks at the differences between these two approaches, the prospects for combining them, and the issues that are involved in the dispute. We (...) argue that powerful motivations have been offered in support of both frameworks. This suggests the possibility of combining the two. Unlike Frege, we hold that the resulting position is perfectly coherent and well worth considering. Nonetheless, we argue that it should be rejected along with the view that concepts are abstract objects. (shrink)
In LOT 2: The Language of Thought Revisited, Jerry Fodor argues that concept learning of any kind—even for complex concepts—is simply impossible. In order to avoid the conclusion that all concepts, primitive and complex, are innate, he argues that concept acquisition depends on purely noncognitive biological processes. In this paper, we show (1) that Fodor fails to establish that concept learning is impossible, (2) that his own biological account of concept acquisition is unworkable, and (3) that there are in fact (...) many promising general models for explaining how concepts are learned. (shrink)
Normal children learn tens of thousands of words, and do so quickly and efficiently, often in highly impoverished environments. In How Children Learn the Meanings of Words, I argue that word learning is the product of certain cognitive and linguistic abilities that include the ability to acquire concepts, an appreciation of syntactic cues to meaning, and a rich understanding of the mental states of other people. These capacities are powerful, early emerging, and to some extent uniquely human, but they are (...) not special to word learning. This proposal is an alternative to the view that word learning is the result of simple associative learning mechanisms, and it rejects as well the notion that children possess constraints, either innate or learned, that are specifically earmarked for word learning. This theory is extended to account for how children learn names for objects, substances, and abstract entities, pronouns and proper names, verbs, determiners, prepositions, and number words. Several related topics are also discussed, including naïve essentialism, children's understanding of representational art, the nature of numerical and spatial reasoning, and the role of words in the shaping of mental life. Key Words: cognitive development; concepts; meaning; semantics; social cognition; syntax; theory of mind; word learning. (shrink)
This entry provides an overview of theories of concepts that is organized around five philosophical issues: (1) the ontology of concepts, (2) the structure of concepts, (3) empiricism and nativism about concepts, (4) concepts and natural language, and (5) concepts and conceptual analysis.
This chapter provides a critical overview of ten central arguments that philosophers have given in support of a distinction between the conceptual and the nonconceptual. We use these arguments to examine the question of whether (and in what sense) perceptual states might be deemed nonconceptual and also whether (and in what sense) animals and infants might be deemed to lack concepts. We argue that philosophers have implicitly relied on a wide variety of different ways to draw the conceptual/nonconceptual distinction and (...) that all ten of the arguments we discuss face considerable difficulties. (shrink)
Philosophers have often claimed that general ideas or representations have their origin in abstraction, but it remains unclear exactly what abstraction as a psychological process consists in. We argue that the Lockean aspiration of using abstraction to explain the origins of all general representations cannot work and that at least some general representations have to be innate. We then offer an explicit framework for understanding abstraction, one that treats abstraction as a computational process that operates over an innate quality space (...) of fine-grained general representations. We argue that this framework has important philosophical implications for the nativism-empiricism dispute, for questions about the acquisition of unstructured representations, and for questions about the relation between human and animal minds. (shrink)
What would it be like to have never learned English, but instead only to know Hopi, Mandarin Chinese, or American Sign Language? Would that change the way you think? Imagine entirely losing your language, as the result of stroke or trauma. You are aphasic, unable to speak or listen, read or write. What would your thoughts now be like? As the most extreme case, imagine having been raised without any language at all, as a wild child. What—if anything—would it be (...) like to be such a person? Could you be smart; could you reminisce about the past, plan the future? (shrink)
Given the fundamental role that concepts play in theories of cognition, philosophers and cognitive scientists have a common interest in concepts. Nonetheless, there is a great deal of controversy regarding what kinds of things concepts are, how they are structured, and how they are acquired. This chapter offers a detailed high-level overview and critical evaluation of the main theories of concepts and their motivations. Taking into account the various challenges that each theory faces, the chapter also presents a novel approach (...) to concepts that is organized around two ideas. The first is a pluralistic view of differing types of conceptual structure. The second is a model that treats concepts as atomic representations that are linked to various types of conceptual structures. (shrink)
This paper takes a fresh look at the nativism–empiricism debate, presenting and defending a nativist perspective on the mind. Empiricism is often taken to be the default view both in philosophy and in cognitive science. This paper argues, on the contrary, that there should be no presumption in favor of empiricism (or nativism), but that the existing evidence suggests that nativism is the most promising framework for the scientific study of the mind. Our case on behalf of nativism has four (...) parts. (1) We characterize nativism’s core commitments relative to the contemporary debate between empiricists and nativists, (2) we present the positive case for nativism in terms of two central nativist arguments (the poverty of the stimulus argument and the argument from animals), (3) we respond to a number of influential objections to nativist theories, and (4) we explain the nativist approach to the conceptual system. (shrink)
In Moral Minds, Marc Hauser makes an audacious claim about moral thought. He argues that morality is best understood in much the same way as Noam Chomsky described language: as the product of an innate and universal mental faculty. For Hauser, moral intuition is not the product of culture and education, nor is it the result of rational and deliberative thought, nor doesitreduce to the workings of the emotions. Instead, it is human nature to unconsciously and automatically evaluate the moral (...) status of human actions: to judge them as right or wrong, allowed or forbidden, optional or obligatory. (shrink)
Radical concept nativism is the thesis that virtually all lexical concepts are innate. Notoriously endorsed by Jerry Fodor (1975, 1981), radical concept nativism has had few supporters. However, it has proven difficult to say exactly what’s wrong with Fodor’s argument. We show that previous responses are inadequate on a number of grounds. Chief among these is that they typically do not achieve sufficient distance from Fodor’s dialectic, and, as a result, they do not illuminate the central question of how new (...) primitive concepts are acquired. To achieve a fully satisfactory response to Fodor’s argument, one has to juxtapose questions about conceptual content with questions about cognitive development. To this end, we formulate a general schema for thinking about how concepts are acquired and then present a detailed illustration. (shrink)
At least since W. V. O. Quine's famous critique of the analytic/synthetic distinction, philosophers have been deeply divided over whether there are any analytic truths. One line of thought suggests that the simple fact that people have 'intuitions of analyticity' might provide an independent argument for analyticities. If defenders of analyticity can explain these intuitions and opponents cannot, then perhaps there are analyticities after all. We argue that opponents of analyticity have some unexpected resources for explaining these intuitions and that, (...) accordingly, the argument from intuition fails. (shrink)
What determines our intuitions as to which objects are members of specific artifact kinds? Prior research suggests that factors such as physical appearance, current use, and intended function are not at the core of concepts such as chair, clock and pawn. The theory presented here, based on Levinson`s (1993) intentional-historical theory of our concept of art, is that we determine that something is a member of a given artifact kind by inferring that it was successfully created with the intention to (...) belong to that kind. This theory can explain why some properties (such as shape) are more important than others (such as color) when we determine kind membership and can account for why certain objects are judged to be members of artifact kinds even though they are highly dissimilar from other members of the kinds. It can also provide a framework for explaining the conditions under which broken objects cease to be members of their kinds and new artifacts can come into existence. This account of our understanding of artifact concepts is argued to be consistent with more general "essentialist" theories of our understanding of concepts corresponding to proper.. (shrink)
Despite its considerable intellectual interest and great social relevance, religion has been neglected by contemporary develop- mental psychologists. But in the last few years, there has been an emerging body of research exploring children’s grasp of certain universal religious ideas. Some recent findings suggest that two foundational aspects of religious belief – belief in divine agents, and belief in mind–body dualism – come naturally to young children. This research is briefly reviewed, and some future directions..
In an important recent discussion of analyticity, Paul Boghossian (1997)1 argues for the following three claims: (i) While Quine’s well-known arguments against analyticity do undermine one type of analyticity (what Boghossian calls metaphysical analyticity), they fail to undermine another type (what he calls epistemic analyticity). (ii) Epistemic analyticity explains the a prioricity of logic and perhaps even the a prioricity of conceptual truths.
The Language of Thought Hypothesis is often taken to have the fatal flaw that it generates an explanatory regress. The language of thought is invoked to explain certain features of natural language (e.g., that it is learned, understood, and is meaningful), but, according to the regress argument, the language of thought itself has these same features and hence no explanatory progress has been made. We argue that such arguments rely on the tacit assumption that the entire motivation for the language (...) of thought consists in explaining the explanandum that allegedly generates the regress. But this tacit assumption is simply false. The Language of Thought Hypothesis is a cogent view and one with considerable explanatory advantages. (shrink)
Hilary Putnam's Twin Earth thought experiment has come to have an enormous impact on contemporary philosophical thought. But while most of the discussion has taken place within the context of the philosophy of mind and language, Terence Horgan and Mark Timmons (H8cT) have defended the intriguing suggestion that a variation on the original thought experiment has important consequences for ethics.' In a series of papers, they' ve developed the idea of a Moral Twin Earth and have argued that its significance (...) is that it has the resources to undermine naturalistic versions of moral realism.' H8t T don't hold back in their assessment. "Moral Twin.. (shrink)
Young children reliably distinguish reality from fantasy; they know that their friends are real and that Batman is not. But it is an open question whether they appreciate, as adults do, that there are multiple fantasy worlds. We test this by asking children and adults about fictional characters’ beliefs about other characters who exist either within the same world (e.g., Batman and Robin) or in different worlds (e.g., Batman and SpongeBob). Study 1 found that although both adults and young children (...) distinguish between within-world and across-world types of character relationships, the children make an unexpected mistake: they often claim that Batman thinks that Robin is make believe. Study 2 used a less explicit task, exploring intuitions about the actions of characters—whom they could see, touch, and talk to—and found that children show a mature appreciation of the ontology of fictional worlds. q 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. (shrink)
This is the first volume of a projected three-volume set on the subject of innateness. The extent to which the mind is innate is one of the central questions in the human sciences, with important implications for many surrounding debates. By bringing together the top nativist scholars in philosophy, psychology, and allied disciplines these volumes provide a comprehensive assessment of nativist thought and a definitive reference point for future nativist inquiry. The Innate Mind: Structure and Content, concerns the fundamental architecture (...) of the mind, addressing such question as: What capacities, processes, representations, biases, and connections are innate? How do these innate elements feed into a story about the development of our mature cognitive capacities, and which of them are shared with other members of the animal kingdom? The editors have provided an introduction giving some of the background to debates about innateness and introducing each of the subsequent essays, as well as a consolidated bibliography that will be a valuable reference resource for all those interested in this area. The volume will be of great importance to all researchers and students interested in the fundamental nature and powers of the human mind. Together, the three volumes in the series will provide the most intensive and richly cross-disciplinary investigation of nativism ever undertaken. They point the way toward a synthesis of nativist work that promises to provide a new understanding of our minds and their place in the natural order. (shrink)
Strong nativist views about numerical concepts claim that human beings have at least some innate precise numerical representations. Weak nativist views claim only that humans, like other animals, possess an innate system for representing approximate numerical quantity. We present a new strong nativist model of the origins of numerical concepts and defend the strong nativist approach against recent cross-cultural studies that have been interpreted to show that precise numerical concepts are dependent on language and that they are restricted to speakers (...) of languages with the right kind of structure. (shrink)
Are current theories of moral responsibility missing a factor in the attribution of blame and praise? Four studies demonstrated that even when cause, intention, and outcome (factors generally assumed to be sufficient for the ascription of moral responsibility) are all present, blame and praise are discounted when the factors are not linked together in the usual manner (i.e., cases of ‘‘causal deviance’’). Experiment 4 further demonstrates that this effect of causal deviance is driven by intuitive gut feelings of right and (...) wrong, not logical deliberation. Ó 2003 Published by Elsevier Science (USA). (shrink)
Psychological essentialism posits that humans naturally The results were as follows, ‘Without any hesitation, he assume that individuals have underlying invisible picked up the drum. Holding it in his right hand, he played essences that determine the categories they fall into .
Two studies demonstrate that a dispositional proneness to disgust (“disgust sensitivity”) is associated with intuitive disapproval of gay people. Study 1 was based on previous research showing that people are more likely to describe a behavior as intentional when they see it as morally wrong (see Knobe, 2006, for a review). As predicted, the more disgust sensitive participants were, the more likely they were to describe an agent whose behavior had the side effect of causing gay men to kiss in (...) public as having intentionally encouraged gay men to kiss publicly— even though most participants did not explicitly think it wrong to encourage gay men to kiss in public. No such effect occurred when subjects were asked about heterosexual kissing. Study 2 used the Implicit Association Test (IAT; Nosek, Banaji, & Greenwald, 2006) as a dependent measure. The more disgust sensitive participants were, the more they showed.. (shrink)
Shaun Nichols (this issue) correctly points out that current theories of the development of mindreading say nothing about children's intuitions concerning indeterminist choice. That is, there are numerous theories of how children make sense of belief, desire, and action, but none that appeal to any notion of free will. Nichols suggests two alternatives for why this is the case. It could either be (a) an --outrageous oversight-- on the part of developmental psychologists or (b) a principled omission, reﬂecting a consensus (...) that the notion of indeterminist choice is absent from children's mindreading processes. Nichols charitably favors the sec- ond alternative. (shrink)
One of the most important abilities we have as humans is the ability to think about number. In this chapter, we examine the question of whether there is an essential connection between language and number. We provide a careful examination of two prominent theories according to which concepts of the positive integers are dependent on language. The first of these claims that language creates the positive integers on the basis of an innate capacity to represent real numbers. The second claims (...) that language’s function is to integrate contents from modules that humans share with other animals. We argue that neither model is successful. (shrink)
How Children Learn the Meanings of Words (HCLMW) defends the theory that words are learned through sophisticated and early-emerging cognitive abilities that have evolved for other purposes; there is no dedicated mental mechanism that is special to word learning. The commentators raise a number of challenges to this theory: Does it correctly characterize the nature and development of early abilities? Does it attribute too much to children, or too little? Does it only apply to nouns, or can it also explain (...) the acquisition of words such as verbs and determiners? More general issues are discussed as well, including the role of the input, the relationship between words and concepts, and debates over nativism, adaptationism, and modularity. (shrink)
There are two facts about word learning that everyone accepts. The ﬁrst is that words really do have to be learned. There is controversy over how much conceptual structure and linguistic knowledge is innate, but nobody thinks that this is the case for the speciﬁc mappings between sounds (or signs) and meanings. This is because these mappings vary arbitrarily from culture to culture. No matter how intelligent a British baby is, for instance, she still has to learn, by attending to (...) the language of the people around her, that rabbits are called ‘rabbits’, that sleeping is called ‘sleeping’, and so on. (shrink)
The false belief task has often been used as a test of theory of mind. We present two reasons to abandon this practice. First, passing the false belief task requires abilities other than theory of mind. Second, theory of mind need not entail the ability to reason about false beliefs. We conclude with an alternative conception of the role of the false belief task. q 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
This essay examines Joseph Carens' open borders argument in the light of a case study of recent Somali migrants to the UK. It argues that, although arguments for significantly more open borders are compelling, they must take into account existing domestic injustice in receiving states as well as existing global injustice.
In a survey of his views in the philosophy of mind, David Lewis criticizes much recent work in the field by attacking an imaginary opponent, Strawman. His case against Strawman focuses on four central theses which Lewis takes to be widely accepted among contemporary philosophers of mind. These theses concerns (1) the language of thought hypothesis and its relation to folk psychology, (2) narrow content, (3) de se content, and (4) rationality. We respond to Lewis, arguing (among other things) that (...) he underestimates Strawman’s theoretical resources in a variety of important ways. (shrink)