This volume examines two main questions: What is linguistics about? And how do the results of linguistic theorizing bear on inquiry in related fields, particularly in psychology? The book develops views that depart from received wisdom in both philosophy and linguistics. With regard to questions concerning the subject matter, methodological goals, and ontological commitments of formal syntactic theorizing, it argues that the cognitive conception adopted by most linguists and philosophers is not the only acceptable view, and that the arguments in (...) its favor collapse under scrutiny. Nevertheless, as the book shows, a detailed examination of the relevant psycholinguistic results and computational models does support the claim that the theoretical constructs of formal linguistics are operative in real-time language comprehension. These constructs fall into two categories: mental phrase markers and mental syntactic principles. Both are indeed psychologically real, but in importantly different ways. The book concludes by drawing attention to the importance of the often-elided distinction between personal and subpersonal psychological states and processes, as well as the logical character of dispositional and occurrent states. By clarifying these concepts, particularly by reference to up-and-running psychological and computational models, the book yields a richer and more satisfying perspective on the psychological reality of language. (shrink)
Wilfrid Sellars made profound and lasting contributions to nearly every area of philosophy. The aim of this collection is to highlight the continuing importance of Sellars’ work to contemporary debates. The contributors include several luminaries in Sellars scholarship, as well as members of the new generation whose work demonstrates the lasting power of Sellars’ ideas. Papers by O’Shea and Koons develop Sellars’ underexplored views concerning ethics, practical reasoning, and free will, with an emphasis on his longstanding engagement with Kant. Sachs, (...) Hicks and Pereplyotchik relate Sellars’ views of mental phenomena to current topics in cognitive science and philosophy of mind. Fink, deVries, Price, Macbeth, Christias, and Brandom grapple with traditional Sellarsian themes, including meaning, truth, existence, and objectivity. Brandhoff provides an original account of the evolution of Sellars’ philosophy of language and his project of "pure pragmatics". The volume concludes with an author-meets-critics section centered around Robert Brandom’s recent book, From Empiricism to Expressivism: Brandom Reads Sellars, with original commentaries and replies. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue for a modified version of what Devitt calls the Representational Thesis. According to RT, syntactic rules or principles are psychologically real, in the sense that they are represented in the mind/brain of every linguistically competent speaker/hearer. I present a range of behavioral and neurophysiological evidence for the claim that the human sentence processing mechanism constructs mental representations of the syntactic properties of linguistic stimuli. I then survey a range of psychologically plausible computational models of comprehension (...) and show that they are all committed to RT. I go on to sketch a framework for thinking about the nature of the representations involved in sentence processing. My claim is that these are best characterized not as propositional attitudes but, rather, as subpersonal states whose representational properties are determined by their functional role. Finally, I distinguish between explicit and implicit representations and argue that the latter can be drawn on as data by the algorithms that constitute our sentence processing routines. I conclude that skepticism concerning the psychological reality of grammars cannot be sustained. (shrink)
Gennaro presents a version of the higher-order thought theory of consciousness that differs from the version defended by Rosenthal . I explore several key differences between Gennaro's and Rosenthal's views, with an eye toward establishing that Rosenthal's Extrinsic Higher-Order Thought theory is preferable to Gennaro's Wide Intrinsicality View . Gennaro's attempts to demonstrate the superiority of the WIV rest on an unargued and implausible assumption to the effect that the higher-order intentional contents of self-representing conscious states are necessarily accurate. Gennaro (...) relies on this assumption in avoiding what he sees as problematic consequences of Rosenthal's EHOT theory, which countenances the possibility that higher-order thoughts sometimes misrepresent lower-order states. I argue that these consequences, far from being problematic, actually constitute a strength of the EHOT theory, allowing it to explain phenomena such as dental fear, perceptual learning, and rare c.. (shrink)
Paul Pietroski develops an iconoclastic account of linguistic meaning. Here, I invite him to say more about what it implies about the relations between language, truth, and conceptual content. Readers concerned with securing the objectivity of conceptual thought may be worried about his claims that typical concepts “have no extensions” and that they “fit one another better than they fit the world.” Others might applaud his anti‐extensionalism in natural‐language semantics but fear that his account re‐raises familiar problems about extensions at (...) the level of psychology. (shrink)
In this commentary, I contend that a representative sample of the arguments in the target article miss the mark. In particular, the interface problem provides no warrant for positing similarities between representational formats, and the evidence from neurocognitive, animal, and behavioral studies is inconclusive at best. Finally, I raise doubts about whether the authors' central hypothesis is falsifiable.
In “How We Know Our Own Minds: The Relationship Between Mindreading and Metacognition,” Peter Carruthers argues for a view according to which first-person awareness of one’s own propositional attitudes is always interpretive, though one’s awareness of “sensory-imagistic” states is not. In this commentary, I criticize Carruthers’ way of drawing the distinction between sensory states and propositional attitudes. Furthermore, I argue for the superiority of a view, which I derive from Wilfrid Sellars, according to which all self-ascriptions of mental states are, (...) at bottom, interpretive—i.e., the outputs of an inferential process that consists in applying a folk-psychological theory to oneself. (shrink)
I examine two arguments for the existence of demonstrative concepts—one due to Chuard (2006) and another due to Brewer (1999). I point out some important difficulties in each. I hope to show that much more work must be done to legitimize positing demonstrative concepts.
I defend a claim, central to much work in psycholinguistics, that constructing mental representations of syntactic structures is a necessary step in language comprehension. Call such representations “mental phrase markers”. Several theorists in psycholinguistics, AI, and philosophy have cast doubt on the usefulness of positing MPMs. I examine their proposals and argue that they face major empirical and conceptual difficulties. My conclusions tell against the broader skepticism that persists in philosophy—e.g., in the embodied cognition literature —about the usefulness of positing (...) mental representations in psychological models. Using my discussion of sentence parsing as a case study, I propose several conditions on an appropriate appeal to mental representations. Finally, I point out that the familiar arguments from productivity, systematicity, and inferential coherence suffice to establish that MPMs themselves have a c.. (shrink)
This is the first installment of a two-part essay. Limitations of space prevented the publication of the full essay in present issue of the Journal. The second installment will appear in the next issue, 2021 (1). My overall goal is to outline a strategy for integrating generative linguistics with a broadly pragmatist approach to meaning and communication. Two immensely useful guides in this venture are Robert Brandom and Paul Pietroski. Squarely in the Chomskyan tradition, Pietroski’s recent book, Conjoining Meanings, offers (...) an approach to natural-language semantics that rejects foundational assumptions widely held amongst philosophers and linguists. In particular, he argues against extensionalism—the view that meanings are (or determine) truth and satisfaction conditions. Having arrived at the same conclusion by way of Brandom’s defl ationist account of truth and reference, I’ll argue that both theorists have important contributions to make to a broader anti-extensionalist approach to language. What appears here as Part 1 of the essay is largely exegetical, laying out what I see as the core aspects of Brandom’s normative inferentialism (§1) and Pietroski’s naturalistic semantics (§2). In Part 2 (next issue), I argue that there are many convergences between these two theoretical frameworks and, contrary to first appearances, very few points of substantive disagreement between them. If the integration strategy that I propose is correct, then what appear to be sharply contrasting commitments are better seen as interrelated verbal differences that come down to different—but complementary—explanatory goals. The residual disputes are, however, stubborn. I end by discussing how to square Pietroski’s commitment to predicativism with Brandom’s argument that a predicativist language is in principle incapable of expressing ordinary conditionals. (shrink)
The neurocognitive evidence that Pickering & Garrod (P&G) cite in favor of positing forward models in speech production is not compelling. The data to which they appeal either cannot be explained by forward models, or can be explained by a more parsimonious model.