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

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 02 Sep 2010 23:17:31 -0000


--- In quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "gabuddabout" <gabuddabout@...> wrote:
>
> 
> 
> --- In quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "walto" <calhorn@> wrote:
> >
> > 
> > 
> > --- In quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "gabuddabout" <gabuddabout@> wrote:
> > >
> > > Nice exchange between Walter and Ron.
> > > 
> > > Walter writes:
> > > 
> > > >Right, but now I'm beginning to wonder whether the more complex concept 
> > > >really
> > > IS nothing more than what can be composed of those constituents. I mean,
> > > couldn't somebody object that whenever one CAN sort As and Bs but CAN'T 
> > > sort ABs
> > > we have good evidence that AB ISN'T just made up of Aness and Bness?
> > > 
> > > 
> > > Because of this objection you raise, do we choose (or must we choose) to 
> > > allow epistemic clauses in the analysis of concept possession?  I'll 
> > > allow for my not getting the point.
> > > 
> > 
> > As I understand it, Fodor's conclusion that there is nothing epistemic (as 
> > I think he understands that) in concept possession is supposed to follow 
> > from these:
> > 
> > (i) Language has a finite # of terms but is generative, allowing people to 
> > communicate nicely, understand new things, etc.
> > 
> > (ii) (i) can only be the case if (some?/many?/most?/all?) concepts are 
> > compositional.
> > 
> > (iii) if concept possession is epistemic, (some/many/most/all) concepts are 
> > not compositional.
> > 
> > Therefore, concept possession is not epistemic (i.e., BCP is false).
> > 
> > But, as Ron points out this argument puts a lot of pressure precisely where 
> > no empirical info is provided--on the "some/many/most/all".  My point above 
> > was just that somebody could hold that maybe it's true that Fodor can give 
> > a few a counter-examples to compositionality if BCP is true, but it doesn't 
> > matter because those are just unusual outlier concepts.  This person might 
> > hold that it's still the case that USUALLY, compositionality works even for 
> > BCPers, and that's enough for (i) to be true.
> > 
> > 
> > > 
> > > > I suppose
> > > that in that case Fodor would just go back to his claim that many (most? 
> > > all?)
> > > concepts simply MUST be compositional, or language understanding wouldn't 
> > > be
> > > possible.
> > > 
> > > 
> > > Isn't Fodor concerned with concept possession in a way that is distinct 
> > > from "language understanding."  Aren't these sort of different animals 
> > > insofar as language understanding involves idioms that aren't part of the 
> > > science of concept possession?  I'll allow that I just blew a big fart 
> > > here in not getting yet another point.
> > > 
> > 
> > I think he uses the obvious truth that there is language understanding and 
> > that we aren't stuck in some finite box of just a few props we can 
> > understand to try to prove that concept possession is not epistemic. That 
> > is, he DOES think they're different animals and that the fact of one shows 
> > that the other is wrong.  But, as indicated, I don't think the argument 
> > quite works.
> > 
> > 
> > > 
> > > > But, again, why couldn't there just be a handful of AB-type concepts
> > > that aren't compositional in that way without language being completely 
> > > stymied?
> > > 
> > > If idioms may be such handfuls, and we are not stymied by idioms, then 
> > > perhaps none of us, including Fodor, are stymied by this possibility.  
> > > But again, maybe I missed the point.
> > > 
> > 
> > We clearly aren't stymied, and what that shows, I think, is that either (a) 
> > compositionality need not be universal for language to be generative, (b) 
> > BCP doesn't require that sorting be sufficient, only necessary, or (c) BCP 
> > is false.  Fodor jumps right to (c) but I think there are two other 
> > possibilities.
> > 
> > W
> 
> That was pretty excellent, Walter.  I wonder if there is an example where 
> sorting isn't necessary for concept possession?  Perhaps a causal theory of 
> perception is one thing, while discrimination among concepts can always have 
> sorting as a necessary condition? 
> 
> Budd
>

You know what, you're probably right about that.  I think Ron suggested that 
the idea that somebody could have a concept with sorting ability was wild, but 
I'm not convinced.  I bet we could come up with something if we thought about 
it a bit.

W

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