[quickphilosophy] Re: Fodor on Concepts IV: Circularity

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 14 Sep 2010 16:01:08 -0000

--- In quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Ron Allen <wavelets@...> wrote:
> Hi kwikphil group:
> Just to recapitulate: Fodor finds in section 3.3 of his paper 'Having 
> Concepts,' that there is a vicious circle in the BCP analysis of concept 
> possession. The sorting criterion (one of two, the other being inferential 
> skill) that is partly sufficient for concept possession depends on the notion 
> of the concept possessor possessing the same or an equivalent concept in 
> order to perform the sorting. So, attempting to explain concept possession in 
> terms of sorting and inference relies on (by way of the first condition, 
> sorting) a notion of concept possession already, and the concept in question 
> is the same or conceptually the same ans the one that BCP hopes to analyze. 
> Circular, and viciously so at that.
> But Fodor goes on to remark (p. 40) that this has irked many philosophers, 
> and Wittgenstein is one of them. Here is how Fodor reviews W's difficulties 
> in being a sophisticated BCP advocate, beset by the burden of the circularity 
> that Fodor is gesturing at:
> 1. For W, having a concept involves knowing a criterion for applying a 
> concept.
> [rla, insert] Note that a "criterion" for Wittgenstein is a problematic and 
> plastic term. I think that Baker and Hacker comment upon this, and that along 
> with Fodor, we need to be cautious in throwing the concept around.
> 2. Thus, minimally, one can apply the concept in good instances in favorable 
> conditions.
> 3. Second for W, the application criteria for a concept are constitutive of 
> its content.
> [rla] PI.208 seems to say this.

Thanks, Ron.

Fodor really may make a good case against Witt. who does often suggest that 
that use isn't just what we look for in order to determine the meaning, but 
just IS the meaning.  And Davidson says the same thing in several places (and, 
I suspect, Quine agrees).  So, while I think Fodor may have gone a bit 
overboard in attacking the entire 20th Century, he's certainly got some big 
players directly in his range.  

So, the question is, I guess, how would the Witters, Quineans, and Davidsonians 
respond to this attack?


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