[quickphilosophy] Re: Fodor on Concepts IV: Circularity + Peacocke

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 30 Sep 2010 19:59:44 -0000

Oh, I wanted to cite one other quote (though I know I'm beating a dead horse at 
this point).  Fodor writes, 

"The meanings of sentences, thoughts and the like are constructs out of the 
meanings of the primitive words/concepts they contain, NOT THE OTHER WAY 
AROUND.  Likewise, since you can't draw an inference unless you ALREADY 
understand its premises and its conclusion, understanding a sentence is prior 
to grasping its inferential role, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND."

First, as I've harped, I don't believe the BCPer has to hold that concept 
possession just IS the ability to sort and/or the propensity to make the right 
inferences.  Second, even if the BCPer DOES claim this identity, it doesn't 
seem to me that he must require the PRIORITY of the grasping/sorting.  After 
all, if they're identical, there isn't any priority of either of them (though I 
suppose one may be held to be some sort of logical construct out of the 

And again, I continue not to have much understanding of what this prior 
understanding of, say, CONJUNCTION might be if it doesn't require the ability 
to infer A from A & B.  I mean, does Fodor really mean to suggest that somebody 
could grasp CONJUNCTION without it?

But as I've conceded all along, I don't think grasping/sorting can be 
sufficient for concept possession.  It's easy to come up with counterexamples.  
So what's left?  If we say one has to be able not just to grasp and sort, but 
to do so "for the right reasons," Fodor will obviously want to know what those 
reasons could be if they're supposed to be independent from having the concept 
in question and understanding its implications.  

I can't think of any good responses to this at present, myself.  But I'd love 
to hear a Witter, Quinean, Davidsonian or Putnamaniac respond to this attack.  
And I'm guessing there's plenty of literature out there somewhere....


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