In this book leading scholars from every relevant field report on all aspects of compositionality, the notion that the meaning of an expression can be derived from its parts. Understanding how compositionality works is a central element of syntactic and semantic analysis and a challenge for models of cognition. It is a key concept in linguistics and philosophy and in the cognitive sciences more generally, and is without question one of the most exciting fields in the study of language and (...) mind. The authors of this book report critically on lines of research in different disciplines, revealing the connections between them and highlighting current problems and opportunities. -/- The force and justification of compositionality have long been contentious. First proposed by Frege as the notion that the meaning of an expression is generally determined by the meaning and syntax of its components, it has since been deployed as a constraint on the relation between theories of syntax and semantics, as a means of analysis, and more recently as underlying the structures of representational systems, such as computer programs and neural architectures. The Oxford Handbook of Compositionality explores these and many other dimensions of this challenging field. It will appeal to researchers and advanced students in linguistics and philosophy and to everyone concerned with the study of language and cognition including those working in neuroscience, computational science, and bio-informatics. (shrink)
The Complex-First Paradox consists in a set of collectively incompatible but individually well-confirmed propositions that regard the evolution, development, and cortical realization of the meanings of concrete nouns. Although these meanings are acquired earlier than those of other word classes, they are semantically more complex and their cortical realizations more widely distributed. For a neurally implemented syntaxsemantics interface, it should thus take more effort to establish a link between a concept and its lexical expression. However, in ontogeny and phylogeny, capabilities (...) demanding more effort, ceteris paribus, develop and evolve later than those demanding less effort. The paradox points to an explanatory deficit in linguistic theory. (shrink)
We defend a realistic attitude towards biological species. We argue that two species are not different species because they differ in intrinsic features, be they phenotypic or genomic, but because they are separated with regard to gene flow. There are no intrinsic species essences. However, there are relational ones. We argue that bearing a gene flow relation to conspecifics may serve as the essence of a species. Our view of the species as a Gene-Flow Community differs from Mayr’s definition of (...) the species as a reproductive community. In a reproductive community, each organism is able to successfully reproduce with each other. However, there are species in which geographically distant organisms lost their ability to successfully reproduce, due to strong genetic adaptations to the respective local environmental conditions. Despite this loss of the ability to mutually reproduce, they are still bound by gene flow via continuous intermediate populations. This replacement of Mayr’s notion of an interbreeding potential as a criterion for species membership has important implications for the treatment of populations in allopatry and sympatry. (shrink)
This paper addresses various solutions to Meno's Problem: Why is it that knowledge is more valuable than merely true belief? Given both a pragmatist as well as a veritist understanding of epistemic value, it is argued that a reliabilist analysis of knowledge, in general, promises a hopeful strategy to explain the extra value of knowledge. It is, however, shown that two recent attempts to solve Meno's Problem within reliabilism are severely flawed: Olsson's conditional probability solution and Goldman's value autonomization solution. (...) The paper proceeds with a discussion of the purpose of having a higher value of knowledge as opposed to merely true belief, both in evolutionary and social terms. It claims that under a reliabilist analysis of knowledge it can be explained how knowers could evolve rather than just truthful believers. Subsequently, the paper develops an account of how we can manipulate our testimonial environment in an epistemically beneficial way by valuing reliably produced true belief more that just true belief and so gives an indirect justification of the extra value of knowledge. (shrink)
The paper argues that cognitive states of biological systems are inherently temporal. Three adequacy conditions for neuronal models of representation are vindicated: the compositionality of meaning, the compositionality of content, and the co-variation with content. Classicist and connectionist approaches are discussed and rejected. Based on recent neurobiological data, oscillatory networks are introduced as a third alternative. A mathematical description in a Hilbert space framework is developed. The states of this structure can be regarded as conceptual representations satisfying the three conditions.
The doctrine that meanings are entitieswith a determinate and independent reality is often believed tohave been undermined by Quine's thought experiment of radicaltranslation, which results in an argument for the indeterminacy oftranslation. This paper argues to the contrary. Starting fromQuine's assumption that the meanings of observation sentences arestimulus meanings, i.e., set-theoretical constructions of neuronalstates uniquely determined by inter-subjectively observable facts,the paper shows that this meaning assignment, up to isomorphism,is uniquely extendable to all expressions that occur inobservation sentences. To do so, (...) a theorem recently proven byHodges is used. To derive the conclusion, one only has to assumethat languages are compositional, abide by a generalized contextprinciple and by what I call the category principle. Theseassumptions originating in Frege and Husserl are coherent withQuine's overall position. It is concluded that Quine'snaturalistic approach does not justify scepticism with regard tomeaning, but should rather result in a view that affiliatessemantics with neuroscience. (shrink)
Experimental data suggest that the division between the visual ventral and dorsal pathways may indeed indicate that static and dynamical information is processed separately. Contrary to Hurford, it is suggested that the ventral pathway primarily generates representations of objects, whereas the dorsal pathway produces representations of events. The semantic object/event distinction may relate to the morpho-syntactic noun/verb distinction.