Leading linguists and philosophers report on all aspects of compositionality, the notion that the meaning of an expression can be derived from its parts. This book explores every dimension of this field, reporting critically on different lines of research, revealing connections between them, and highlighting current problems and opportunities.
Synesthesia is a phenomenon in which an additional nonstandard perceptual experience occurs consistently in response to ordinary stimulation applied to the same or another modality. Recent studies suggest an important role of semantic representations in the induction of synesthesia. In the present proposal we try to link the empirically grounded theory of sensory-motor contingency and mirror system based embodied simulation to newly discovered cases of swimming-style color synesthesia. In the latter color experiences are evoked only by showing the synesthetes a (...) picture of a swimming person or asking them to think about a given swimming style. Neural mechanisms of mirror systems seem to be involved here. It has been shown that for mirror-sensory synesthesia, such as mirror-touch or mirror-pain synesthesia, concurrent experiences are caused by the overactivity in the mirror neuron system responding to the specific observation. The comparison of different forms of synesthesia has the potential of challenging conventional thinking on this phenomenon and providing a more general, sensory-motor account of synesthesia encompassing cases driven by semantic or emulational rather than pure sensory or motor representations. (shrink)
Colloquially, episodic memory is described as “the memory of personally experienced events”. Even though episodic memory has been studied in psychology and neuroscience for about six decades, there is still great uncertainty as to what episodic memory is. Here we ask how episodic memory should be characterized in order to be validated as a natural kind. We propose to conceive of episodic memory as a knowledge-like state that is identified with an experientially based mnemonic representation of an episode that allows (...) for a mnemonic simulation thereof. We call our analysis the Sequence Analysis of Episodic Memory since episodes will be analyzed in terms of sequences of events. Our philosophical analysis of episodic memory is driven and supported by experimental results from psychology and neuroscience. We discuss selected experimental results that provide exemplary evidence for uniform causal mechanisms underlying the properties of episodic memory and argue that episodic memory is a natural kind. The argumentation proceeds along three cornerstones: First, psychological evidence suggests that a violation of any of the proposed conditions for episodic memory amounts to a deficiency of episodic memory and no form of memory or cognitive process but episodic memory fulfills them. Second, empirical results support a claim that the principal anatomical substrate of episodic memory is the hippocampus. Finally, we can pin down causal mechanisms onto neural activities in the hippocampus to explain the psychological states and processes constituting episodic memory. (shrink)
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)
What has the self to be like such that introspective awareness of it is possible? The paper asks if Descartes’s idea of an inner self can be upheld and discusses this issue by invoking two principles: the phenomenal transparency of experience and the semantic compositionality of conceptual content. It is assumed that self-awareness is a second-order state either in the domain of experience or in the domain of thought. In the former case self-awareness turns out empty if experience is transparent. (...) In the latter, it can best be conceived of as a form of mental quotation. Various proposed analyses of direct and indirect quotation are discussed and tested regarding their applicability to thought. It is concluded that, on the assumption of compositionality, the inner self is only insofar accessible to awareness as it has an accessible phonological structure, as apparently only inner speech does. (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.
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)
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.
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)
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)
The paper critically reviews Jerry Fodor's book In Critical Condition: Polemic Essays on Cognitive Science and the Philosophy of Mind. It focuses on Fodor's compositionality arguments and their relevance to the following questions: How should concepts be individuated? What has semantics to do with epistemology? Who is right in the debate over classical and connectionist theories of cognition? How can the semantic properties of a mental state be inherited from the semantic properties of the state's constituents? The paper finally argues (...) that Fodor's opposition to functional role semantics might jeopardize his view that semantic compositionality requires appropriate constituent relations between complex and less complex concepts. (shrink)