[quickphilosophy] Re: Fodor on Concepts III: Other Arguments Against BCP

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 01 Sep 2010 01:07:23 -0000

--- In quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Ron Allen <wavelets@...> wrote:
> Hi Walter:
> I've been out of town and unable to devote much time to Fodor.
> Just an observation: I think you are reformulating Fodor's development and 
> combining parts of different arguments. That's OK, though.
> I agree completely that he's attacking BCP as if it were committed to 
> sorting and inference as sufficient conditions for concept possession, when, 
> in all likelihood, they are just necessary conditons. Individually and 
> conjoined, then, they are still weaker than concept possession. 
> Would not a kind of Chinese Room Argument be relevant to this question? 

It seems so to me.

>For example, suppose I had a person inside the CRA who was asked to sort and 
>make inferences upon objects that were presented to the window. The little 
>guy in the CRA has to sort dieseldowns and he has to make inferences about 
>them. But, he just follows a set of ad hoc rules that somehow, 
>coincidentally, just happen to work for the particular sequence of dieseldown 
>and non-dieseldown examples we hold up in the window and for the dieseldown 
>and non-dieseldown deductive problems we hold up to the window. Now, this ad 
>hoc, rule-driven luck is not sufficient to say that the Room has the concept 
>of a dieseldown, even though, sure enough, it made a whole handsome series of 
>sortations and a pretty decent pattern of inferences.


> Also, another thing about your reformulated argument below. In your point (2) 
> you define compositionality as concepts being decomposed into smaller ones. 
> This is different from Fodor, who only asserts that they add together or 
> permute in some fashion, not that they decompose.

(2) doesn't require that all concepts decompose.  It just says what's supposed 
to follow from concepts that do.

>  Also, the decomposition leads to an infinite regress. I either come to some 
> concepts that are not compositional (and not composed of smaller ones) or I 
> have compositional concepts all the way down (to minus infinity). But, if we 
> don't regress, then all of our concepts are built up from atomic concepts, 
> and a BCP advocate with an Atomic Propositions and Atomic Perceptions 
> foundationalism underneath would not at all be unsatisfied with that result. 
> If Fodor were to argue for the kind of compositionality that you seem to 
> suggest here, then his Dog as such concept would be just a collection of 
> atomic perceptions, better or worse known to a subject.

I take from that article that he actually is some sort of atomist.  

> So, at least with your (2) below, I think that you have an infinite regress, 

No, there's no regress from (2), which, again, only says what's supposed to 
follow if a concept IS "decomposable."   It doesn't require that every concept 

and if not that, then you dissolve concepts as such into a variant acceptable 
to BCP.

I don't see that. Can you explain?

I repost the argument below for easy reference.

> (1) For language/understanding to work (be generative), most concepts must be 
> compositional.
> (2) For any concept C, C is compositional iff (if C is composed of (littler 
> concepts) A + N, then for any person S, if S understands A + S understands N, 
> then S will also understand C).
> (3) For the BCPer, for all persons S and concepts C, if S undertands C, then 
> S can sort representative Cs in favorable conditions.
> (4) Therefore, for the BCPer, a concept C is compositional iff (for all Cs 
> and Ss, if C is composed of A and N, then if S can sort both As and Ns in 
> favorable conditions, then S can also sort representative ANs (i.e. 
> representative Cs) in favorable conditions. [from (2) and (3)]
> (5) But for many (perhaps most?) concepts of the AN type, there are many 
> (perhaps most?) Ss who can sort both representative As and representative Ns 
> in favorable conditions but CANNOT sort representative ANs in favorable 
> conditions. [Fodor gives his night bluebird as an example here].
> (6) Language/understanding is generative and does work.
> (7) Therefore, BCP is wrong.

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