[quickphilosophy] Fodor on Concepts IV: Circularity

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 13 Sep 2010 18:46:24 -0000

Hi quickphilosophers:

Fodor claims that neither of the conditions that Bare-Bones Concept Pragmatism 
(BCP) finds to be jointly sufficient for concept possession, sorting and 
inference, can be formulated without a vicious circularity.

Beginning with the sorting criterion in Section 3.3 of his article 'Having 
Concepts,' Fodor worries about the extension of a sort. He proceeds by example. 

1. Consider someone that can sort DOGs according to the concept of a BARKER. 
This sort works as long as the only things that bark are DOGs and all DOGs 
bark. 

2. So, for the sort to be a criterion for concept possession, it seems that 
sort must be successful in counterfactual conditions: the sort must work for 
cases of barking non-dogs, canine non-barkers, and so on.

3. Yet, it seems that even under counterfactual conditions, the extension that 
results from a sort does not determine the concept that motivates the sort.

4. To show this, Fodor offers more examples: (a) TRIANGLE and 
CLOSED-TRILATERAL, (b) TWO and EVEN-PRIME, and (c) WATER and H2O. 

5. You can have the first of these concepts, without having the second.

6. Thus, the necessary coextension of two sorts does not imply that the sorts 
reveal the same concept.

7. One must sort according to some concept that one has.

8. BCP must therefore claim that only sorts according to a conceptually 
equivalent concept can produce the same sort.

9. So BCP must claim that the sorting condition for a concept possession C 
presupposed some possessed concept C' that is either identical to C or 
conceptually equivalent to C.

10. This is a vicious circle. 

Fodor goes on to comment on how Wittgenstein attempted to deal with this 
circularity. I'll cover that in my next post.

Thanks!
--Ron 

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