Mind and Language 29 (2):109-132 (2014)

Georges Rey
University of Maryland, College Park
In her recent (2009) book, The Origins of Concepts, Susan Carey argues that what she calls ‘Quinean Bootstrapping’ and processes of analogy in children show that the expressive power of a mind can be increased in ways that refute Jerry Fodor's (1975, 2008) ‘Mad Dog’ view that all concepts are innate. I argue that it is doubtful any evidence about the manifestation of concepts in children will bear upon the logico-semantic issues of expressive power. Analogy and bootstrapping may be ways to bring about the former, but only by presupposing the very expressive powers Carey is claiming they explain. Analogies must be understood, and bootstrapping involves confirmation of hypotheses already expressible; otherwise they can't select among an infinitude of hypotheses compatible with the finite data the child has encountered, a fact rendered vivid by Goodman's ‘grue’ paradox and Chomsky's poverty of stimulus argument. The problems have special application to minds, since there is no reason to expect a child's concepts to be ‘projectible’ or to correspond to mind-independent natural kinds. I conclude with an ecumenical view that concepts are reasonably regarded as both innate and often learned, and that what is learned can in fact increase what really concerns Carey, the functioning psychological expressive power of the child, even if it leaves untouched what concerns Fodor, the semantic expressive power. Less ecumenically: maybe Fodor (2008) miscast the debate, and the real issue that bothers people concerns not nativism, but an issue on which Carey and Fodor surprisingly agree, his conceptual Atomism, or the view that all mono-morphemic concepts are primitive and unanalyzable. The issue deserves further discussion independently of Mad-doggery
Keywords Innateness   Concepts
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DOI 10.1111/mila.12044
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References found in this work BETA

Aspects of the Theory of Syntax.Noam Chomsky - 1965 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
The Language of Thought.Jerry A. Fodor - 1975 - Harvard University Press.
Word and Object.Willard van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
Fact, Fiction, and Forecast.Nelson Goodman - 1955 - Harvard University Press.
Origins of Objectivity.Tyler Burge - 2010 - Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Remembering Jerry Fodor and His Work.Georges Rey - 2018 - Mind and Language 33 (4):321-341.
Counterfactuals as Strict Conditionals.Andrea Iacona - 2015 - Disputatio 7 (41):165-191.

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