An electron clearly has the property of having a charge of þ1.6 10 19 coulombs, but does it also have the property of being charged ? Philosophers have worried whether so-called ‘determinable’ predicates, such as ‘is charged’, actually refer to determinable properties in the way they are happy to say that determinate predicates, such as ‘has a charge of þ1.6 10 19 coulombs’, refer to determinate properties. The distinction between determinates and determinables is itself fairly new, dating only to its (...) definition by the Cambridge logician W. E. Johnson early in the last century.1 But despite its newly minted condition the distinction has found little currency in on-going philosophical debates. Or at least until recently. Renewed interest in realist positions about properties, and arguments that the determinable-determinate relation may hold the key to understanding mental causation, have thrust Johnson’s distinction to the fore. With this new attention has also come new ‘optimistic’ positions that endorse the existence of determinable properties. David Armstrong, Evan Fales, and Sydney Shoemaker, among others, have all defended such optimistic accounts that take determinable predicates, such as ‘is charged’, to refer to determinable properties.2 In this paper, our goal is to carefully assess optimism and to argue that a pessimistic view, which rejects the existence of determinable properties, is actually the appropriate default position. (shrink)
By quantifying over properties we cannot create new properties any more than by quantifying over individuals we can create new individuals. Someone murdered Jones, and the murderer is either Smith or Jones or Wang. That “someone,” who murdered Jones, is not a person in addition to Smith, Jones, and Wang, and it would be absurd to posit a disjunctive person, Smith‐or‐Jones‐or‐Wang, with whom to identify the murderer. The same goes for second‐order properties and their realizers. (Kim 1997a, 201).
This paper concerns the dialectal role of Frege Cases in the debate between Concept Cartesians and Concept Pragmatists. I take as a starting point Christopher Peacocke’s argument that, unlike Cartesianism, his ‘Fregean’ Pragmatism can account for facts about the rationality and epistemic status of certain judgments. I argue that since this argument presupposes that the rationality of thoughts turn on their content, it is thus question-begging against Cartesians, who claim that issues about rationality turn on the form, not the content, (...) of thoughts. I then consider Jerry Fodor’s argument that ‘modes of presentation’ are not identical with Fregean senses, and argue that explanatory considerations should leads us to reject his ‘syntactic’ treatment of Frege cases. Rejecting the Cartesian treatment of Frege cases, however, is not tantamount to accepting Peacocke’s claim that reasons and rationality are central to the individuation of concepts. For I argue that we can steer a middle course between Fodor’s Cartesianism and Peacocke’s Pragmatism, and adopt a form of Pragmatism that is constrained by Fregean considerations, but at the same time denies that concepts are constitutively tied to reasons and rationality. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
It has now been over twenty years since Elizabeth Prior, Robert Pargetter, and Frank Jackson (1982) published their classic paper on dispositions, in which they defend the following theses: (1) The Distinctness Thesis: Each disposition is distinct from its base. (2) The Impotence Thesis: Dispositions are causally impotent.1..
The difficulties facing Humean regularity accounts of laws have led some philosophers to a theory that takes laws to be necessitation relations between universals. In this paper I evaluate David Armstrong's version of this theory by considering two of its key elements: its solution to the so-called “Inference Problem” and its denial of uninstantiated universals. After considering some potential problems with each of these elements on their own, I argue that Armstrong's solution to the Inference Problem and his denial of (...) uninstantiated universals are not two independent aspects of his view. His solution to the Inference Problem depends upon his denial of uninstantiated universals. (shrink)
Conceptual role semanticists argue that concepts are individuated in terms of their roles in cognition. Some prominent conceptual role semanticists argue for the further claim that concepts are individuated in terms of their rational roles in cognition. This further claim places substantive normative constraints on concept-constitutive roles. I argue that conceptual role semanticists can and should resist the claim that conceptual roles must be specified in inherently normative terms.
In this paper I defend the view that positing analytic, constitutive connections among concepts best explains certain semantic-cum-conceptual intuitions. Jerry Fodor and Eric Margolis and Stephen Laurence offer alternative explanations according to which such intuitions can be explained without positing analyticities. I argue that these alternative explanations fail. As a partial diagnosis of their failure, I suggest that critics have failed to recognize the extent to which a psychologized notion of analyticity must depart from the traditional notion of ‘truth in (...) virtue of meaning alone’. (shrink)
Recognitional concepts have the following characteristic property: thinkers are disposed to apply them to objects merely on the basis of undergoing certain perceptual experiences. I argue that a prominent strategy for defending the existence of constitutive connections among concepts, which appeals to thinkersâ semantic-cum-conceptual intuitions, cannot be used to defend the existence of recognitional concepts. I then outline and defend an alternative argument for the existence of recognitional concepts, which appeals to certain psychological laws.
It has been over thirty years since the publication of Jerry Fodor’s landmark book The Language of Thought (LOT 1). In LOT 2: The Language of Thought Revisited, Fodor provides an update on his thoughts concerning a range of topics that have been the focus of his work in the intervening decades. The Representational Theory of Mind (RTM), the central thesis of LOT 1, remains intact in LOT 2: mental states are relations between organisms and syntactically-structured mental representations, and mental (...) processes are computations defined over such representations. The differences between LOT 1 and LOT 2 are mostly differences of focus. Whereas LOT 1 had a number of targets—e.g. reductionism, behaviorism, empiricism, and operationalism—LOT 2 identifies “pragmatism” as the main enemy of the “Cartesian” kind of mentalism Fodor favors (pp. 11-12). Moreover, unlike LOT 1, a main aim of LOT 2 is to defend a theory of concepts that is atomistic and referentialist: lexical concepts lack structure, and their meaning is determined by their relation to the world and not by their relations to other concepts (pp. 16-20). In addition to new discussions of concepts and content, LOT 2 treats us to Fodor’s latest thoughts on compositionality, computationalism, nativism, nonconceptual content, and the causal theory of reference. Although those familiar with Fodor’s work over the last thirty years will find its main conclusions unsurprising, LOT 2 is nevertheless an exciting, breezily written book that’s full of stimulating arguments and (in standard Fodor style) immensely interesting digressions. In the Introduction, Fodor bundles together a number of distinct doctrines under “pragmatism”—e.g., that “knowing how is the paradigm cognitive state and it is prior to knowing that in the order of intentional explanation” (p. 10), and that “the distinctive function of the mind is guiding action” (p. 13). But it’s clear by Chapter 2 that his main target is “concept pragmatism,” according to which concepts are individuated by their inferential properties. Fodor’s “Cartesianism,” in contrast, has it that none of the epistemic properties of concepts are constitutive.. (shrink)
Jerry Fodor was one of the most important philosophers of mind of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In addition to exerting an enormous influence on virtually all parts of the literature in the philosophy of mind since 1960, Fodor’s work had a significant impact on the development of the cognitive sciences. In the 1960s, along with Hilary Putnam, Noam Chomsky, and others, Fodor presented influential criticisms of the behaviorism that dominated much philosophy and psychology at the time. Fodor (...) went on to articulate and defend an alternative conception of intentional states and their content that he argues vindicates the core elements of folk psychology within a physicalist framework. (shrink)
This article considers three views about which properties are genuine. According to the first view, we should look to successful commonsense and scientific explanations in determining which properties are genuine. On this view, predicates that figure in such explanations thereby pick out genuine properties. According to the second view, the only predicates that pick out genuine properties are those that figure in our best scientific explanations. On this view, predicates that figure in commonsense explanations pick out genuine properties only if (...) such explanations are vindicated by the sciences. According to the third view, the only genuine properties are the fundamental, microphysical ones. On this view, although there are “higher-level” predicates that figure in true commonsense and scientific explanations, there are no “higher-level” properties corresponding to such predicates. The article argues that the third view is superior to the others. (shrink)