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

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 05 Oct 2010 13:20:25 -0000

Thanks, Ron.  That was very helpful.  The distinction you make regarding noun 
phrase conjunction is very telling against Fodor, it seems to me.  That's a 
great point.

I wonder if you could explain your (f) a little more, though.  I thought Fodor 
was claiming that in order to make the inferences Peacocke talks about one had 
to already have the very same concept that is supposed to be explicated by 
these inferences.  Why do you think Fodor is claiming one has to have some 
OTHER concept here?

W

--- In quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Ron Allen <wavelets@...> wrote:
>
> Hello once more QPers:
> It seems by the end of the 1st paragraph beginning on p. 44 of his article 
> that Fodor has absolved Peacocke of the crime of circular reasoning. But, 
> then Fodor reflects on the situation again and renews his argument that 
> Peacocke argues in a circle when he gives the rules of inference sufficient 
> for the CONJUNCTION concept in schema (I) (below, and on p. 41 of Fodor's 
> article.
> Fodor's renewed argument goes like this:
> 1. Consider the sentence 'if John swims and Mary swims, then John and Mary 
> swim'
> 2. This expresses the kind of thought the subject must find "primitively 
> compelling" (in Peacocke's words) in order to possess the concept of 
> CONJUNCTION.
> 3. English speakers can only be primitively compelled by this because they 
> know that the word 'and' in the antecedent of (1) expresses conjunction.
> 4. It's only because English speakers know that 'and' expresses conjunction 
> that they are compelled by arguments you get by substituting 'and' for 'C' in 
> schema (I).
> 5. Thus, Peacocke's possession criterion requires that the subject already 
> possess some other representation that expresses CONJUNCTION.
> 6. But, then the subject already possesses CONJUNCTION as a concept.
> 7. So, Peacocke is arguing in a circle.
> There are a number of problems with Fodor's argument here:
> (a) The sentence in (1) is not of the form of Peacocke's schema (I), which 
> lays out the inference pattern required for CONJUNCTION without using 'and' 
> at all.
> (b) The inference that Fodor says the subject must make in fact is not the 
> conjunction of propositions, but another proposition involving Noun Phrase 
> conjunction, which is not of the form that Peacocke specifies, and which only 
> a speaker of the natural language would be able to enunciate. Fodor seems to 
> recognize that his argument is a strawman and has a little footnote at the 
> bottom of p. 44 that says that he's only trying to "ease the exposition", but 
> it's a grand leap to get from Peacocke's schema (I) to NP 
> conjuction-containing sentences derived from a pair of conjoined propositions.
> (c) Indeed, Fodor's schema in general does not work, because its proper 
> application depends upon a knowledge of English semantics, which Peacocke's 
> schema (I) does not. For example, if I take "John is a single person and Mary 
> is a single person" and then by NP conjunction derive "John and Mary is a 
> single person", then, well, that's wrong. 
> (d) Fodor again argues by a single example in order to prove a general point. 
> Plato does this in order to present Socrates making a bad argument and draw 
> the reader into the thinking process. But that's a different form of 
> philosophical exposition.
> (e) Point (4) above is also false. English speakers could be compelled not by 
> the form of Fodor's false version of Peacocke's schema (I), because they 
> could be compelled by the semantics and because they may have learned this 
> restatement of the antecedent by rote.
> (f) Point (5) does not follow. Peacocke wants to show that a subject 
> possesses a concept of CONJUNCTION. But Fodor is claiming that the subject 
> possesses another concept, one other than the one that the primitive 
> compulsion is revealing. This appears to be a terrible blunder on Fodor's 
> part.
> (g) Well, maybe you see my point.
> I've arrived at the last paragraph beginning on p. 44. Phew.
> Thanks!--Ron
> 
> --- On Fri, 10/1/10, Ron Allen <wavelets@...> wrote:
> 
> From: Ron Allen <wavelets@...>
> Subject: Re: [quickphilosophy] Fodor on Concepts IV: Circularity + Peacocke
> To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Date: Friday, October 1, 2010, 11:22 AM
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
>  
>  
> 
> 
> 
>   
> 
> 
>     
>       
>       
>       As a pole around which to argue about types of circular reasoning, 
> Fodor introduces another rule (R) in his polemic against Peacocke:
>  
> (R) the inference to 'p and q' is valid iff p and q are both true
>  
> Now, this appears to be circular, because the elucidation of what 'p and q' 
> should mean relies on an instance of "and". Fodor goes on to say that there's 
> basically (almost) nothing wrong with this, because the second instance of 
> 'and' is a metalanguage element. In fact, Fodor says that as long as this is 
> a theory of the content of AND, it's all right to rely on an instance of AND 
> in the metalanguage. But, to be precise, Fodor argues, it's not OK for a 
> theory about how AND is learned to presuppose a language with the concept of 
> conjuction already present. This would be a circular argument.
>  
> I'm at the middle of p. 43 right now. Gotta go get some Thai food for lunch. 
> Back in a bit.
>  
> --Ron
>  
> 
> --- On Fri, 10/1/10, Ron Allen <wavelets@...> wrote:
> 
> 
> From: Ron Allen <wavelets@...>
> Subject: Re: [quickphilosophy] Fodor on Concepts IV: Circularity + Peacocke
> To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Date: Friday, October 1, 2010, 9:49 AM
> 
> 
>   
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> Hi quick group:
>  
> I'm still digging my way through Section 3.3 of Fodor's article 'Having 
> Concepts'. In the last paragraph beginning on p. 41, Fodor claims that 
> Peacocke (A Study of Concepts, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996) commits an 
> equivocation in formulating the concept possession condition for the implicit 
> definition theory. 
>  
> Peacocke says that someone has to follow the CONJUNCTION scheme (below, in 
> point 2. of my earlier post; it's on p. 41 of Fodor's article, where it's 
> labeled (I)) by virtue of its form alone. So Fodor says, well, does that mean 
> that the form is causally sufficient for the subject of Peacocke's experiment 
> to find them compelling? or, if not, then is that the reason that the subject 
> has for being compelled?
>  
> It seems to me, though, that this is a false dichotomy. If the form isn't 
> causally sufficient, then something else is required for the cause; it 
> doesn't mean that the form of the schema is the reason for the subject's 
> compulsion. All Peacocke wants out of this is to say that, whatever the 
> motivation or impetus for the subject to assent to the schema, it's the forms 
> themselves, and not some external factor, like whether the subject agrees 
> with or approves of the propositions p and q in the claim pCq, that result 
> in the subject's demonstrating facility with the schema. The subject doesn't 
> have to have a reason; she only has to follow the pattern of the implicit 
> definition. And, the cause for the subject's performance would probably 
> include something besides the form of the schema, such as knowledge of the 
> word 'C' in her language, willingness to play the game and assent or 
> dissent, and so forth. But, again, Peacocke doesn't
>  need to define causal sufficiency for the subject's performance; he 
> only wants to show that this performance, if it can be demonstrated, 
> whatever its cause, is sufficient to indicate possession of the concept 
> CONJUNCTION.
>  
> So, this little paragraph does not, by my lights, do much damage to 
> Peacocke's exposition.
>  
> Thanks for your patience!
> --Ron 
> 
> --- On Thu, 9/30/10, Ron Allen <wavelets@...> wrote:
> 
> 
> From: Ron Allen <wavelets@...>
> Subject: Re: [quickphilosophy] Fodor on Concepts IV: Circularity + Peacocke
> To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Date: Thursday, September 30, 2010, 10:36 AM
> 
> 
>   
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> Hi qp group:
>  
> Ah, it seems that my first post on this topic did make it to the list, but my 
> spam filter directed my email copy to the Spam folder. It protected me from 
> spamming myself. I feel so much safer now.
>  
> Anyway, Fodor's target now is two camps that are fellow-travelers of the BCP 
> crowd: the conceptual role group (Boghossian) and the implicit definition 
> group (Peacocke). It seems to me that BCP is more limited in its claims that 
> these other thinkers. In other words, you can sort and make inferences 
> without necessarily having a set of rules for conceptual roles or an implicit 
> definition. So Fodor seems to be attacking those that go a step beyond plain 
> vanilla BCP.
>  
> Also, it would seem to me that Boghossian would have to support BCP's 
> conditions for concept possession. If you were sophisticated enough to follow 
> a set of rules for expressions, then you'd be able to distinguish items in 
> the extension (sorting), and you'd be able to make inferences (which is just 
> to follow the rules in various situations). Similarly, holding an implicit 
> definition would imply being able to sort and being able to infer.
>  
> The upshot is that Fodor could damage conceptual role semantics and could 
> flummox implicit definiton and yet leave vanilla BCP unscathed.
>  
> Where does Fodor's attack begin? First he observes that conceptual role 
> semantics cannot be simply asserting that it's possible to provide rules. 
> That's easy enough to do in the case of referring expressions, like 
> 'bachelor'. What could be dicey for conceptual role advocates to claim is 
> that grasping a concept is to be identified with grasping the rules for the 
> introduction and elimination of the concept, as in the case of CONJUNCTION 
> given in the last post.
>  
> (The introduction of CONJUNCTION just means that you are given p and q and 
> you deduce pCq, introducing the C-symbol. Elimination means that you are 
> given pCq, and from that you infer p (eliminating the C-symbol) or q (no C 
> again).)
>  
> Fodor states that in the case of the logical constants, that's what 
> conceptual role semantics has to do. In other words, Fodor is saying that in 
> the case of their treatment of the logical constants, that conceptual role 
> semantics merges with implicit definition concept possession. I think that's 
> what he's saying in the 3rd paragraph beginning on p. 41 of his article.
>  
> Fodor is going to argue that the stronger claim to which the conceptual role 
> and implicit definition camps must commit--namely that introduction and 
> elimination rules must be identified with concept possession, not just 
> possible from concept possession--cannot be sustained.
>  
> I hope this isn't too plodding. I find this part of Fodor's article difficult.
>  
> Thanks!
> --Ron 
> 
> --- On Wed, 9/29/10, Ron Allen <wavelets@...> wrote:
> 
> 
> From: Ron Allen <wavelets@...>
> Subject: Re: [quickphilosophy] Fodor on Concepts IV: Circularity + Peacocke
> To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Date: Wednesday, September 29, 2010, 6:45 AM
> 
> 
>   
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> Hi quickphilosophy group: 
> 
> 
> I tried to post this last night, but it didn't stick for some reason. 
> Probably my ISP at fault. 
> 
> 
> Fodor has another argument in Section 3.3 of his paper 'Having Concepts' that 
> argues against 'conceptual role' semantics and the idea of an implicit 
> definition as the basis for concept possession. 
> 
> 
> 1. Conceptual role semantics assigns rules to expressions that govern their 
> use. There might be rules for referring expressions, such as 'flywheel', but 
> the best examples are of logical constants, such as AND and OR, because these 
> don't seem to have referents, and the only way to explain how they are used 
> is to specify use rules. An example of a conceptual role semanticist is Paul 
> Boghossian, whose forthcoming paper Fodor cites. (Fodor writes in 2004, and 
> Prof. Boghossian's paper appeared in Nous in Aug 1996; here's a link to a 
> draft on his NYU 
> homepage: http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/faculty/boghossian/papers/AnalyticityReconsidered.html).
> He says that "Implicit definition: It is by arbitrarily stipulating that 
> certain sentences of logic are to be true, or that certain inferences are to 
> be valid, that we attach a meaning to the logical constants. More 
> specifically, a particular constant means that logical object, if any, which 
> makes valid a specified set of sentences and/or inferences involving it."
> 
> 
> 2. The implicit definition camp is also represented by Christopher Peacocke, 
> (A Study of Concepts, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996). Peacocke says that 
> "Conjunction is that concept C to posess which a thinker must find 
> transitions that are instances of the following forms primitively compelling, 
> and must do so because they are of these forms:
> 
> 
> p
> q      pCq      pCq
> ---     -----      ------
> pCq  p          q      "
> 
> 
> (I hope that format aligns well in the group's page.) This is on p. 6 of 
> Peacocke's book. Fodor inserts "[inferential]" before "transitions" in the 
> quote above. So, basically, you possess the concept of CONJUNCTION if and 
> only if you're compelled by these transitions, which define the notion of 
> logical AND.
> 
> 
> Let me see if this reply sticks.
> 
> 
> Thanks!
> --Ron
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> --- On Mon, 9/13/10, Ron Allen <wavelets@...> wrote:
> 
> 
> From: Ron Allen <wavelets@...>
> Subject: Re: [quickphilosophy] Fodor on Concepts IV: Circularity
> To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Date: Monday, September 13, 2010, 10:47 PM
> 
> 
>   
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 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.
> 
> 
> 4. Fodor picks an example again: PAIN. The criteria for its 2nd person 
> application are behavioral.
> 
> 
> 5. To have the PAIN concept is to sort pains from non-pains [and (rla) to 
> make inferences; BCP isn't asserting that sorting alone suffices] by 
> behavioral manifestations.
> 
> 
> 6. But, the PAIN concept isn't the same as the BEHAVIOR-MANIFESTATION-OF-PAIN 
> concept.
> 
> 
> 7. A good instance of the behavioral manifestation an instance of pain, or 
> not?
> 
> 
> 8. Fodor does not think so, and he thinks that W should be confounded by this 
> as well: No wonder that W said things like "pain isn't a something" but "it 
> isn't a nothing either".
> 
> 
> [rla: this is Philosophical Investigations 304].
> 
> 
> 9. In summary, Fodor claims that "...either there is no sorting condition on 
> concept possession or, if you prefer, the sorting condition that there is is 
> circular." He has also convicted Wittgenstein, a bona fide sophisticated 
> BCPer, along with the hapless and crude BCP advocates (Skinner and Quine), of 
> the charge of circular reasoning.
> 
> 
> Next on the menu, Fodor is going to find vicious circularity within the 
> inference condition that BCP asserts for concept possession. I'll cover this 
> in the next few posts. Mostly, it's an attack on the theory of concepts that 
> Peacocke advances in A Study of Concepts, MIT Press, 1992.
> 
> 
> Thanks!
> --Ron
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> --- On Mon, 9/13/10, wavelets@... <wavelets@...> wrote:
> 
> 
> From: wavelets@... <wavelets@...>
> Subject: [quickphilosophy] Fodor on Concepts IV: Circularity
> To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Date: Monday, September 13, 2010, 11:46 AM
> 
> 
>   
> 
> 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
>


Other related posts: