Hello Walto & quick-fill group: For his second obliteration of Bare-Bones Concept Pragmatism (BCP) in his article "Having Concepts" Fodor argues that BCP's epistemic account of possessing concepts fundamentally conflicts with the compositionality of thought and language. This, Fodor has argued, is essential for explaining the productivity and systematicity of thought and language. BCP, in Fodor's characterization, comprises both sortability and inference, and, really, I think, nothing else; these are necessary and sufficient criteria as Fodor relates them. Again, as I think Neil pointed out, it's not for Fodor to state their conditions, but for the conceptual pragmatists to do the same. That's one thing that is glaringly missing from this argument. Where are the citations that somebody actually puts forward BCP? I see none. But,OK, BCP asserts (so Fodor) a sorting capability within concept possession. [rla aside: Does Fodor not accept this? Is it possible that the concept of a dog as such might not be sortable from a cat as such, and yet the two concepts should nonetheless be distinct?] Fodor argues that if BCP is correct, then to have a concept C is to be able to sort objects in its extension. Here is Fodor's argument: 1. OK, what about dogs? 2. You can't pick out dogs that are relativistically outside our perceptual scope. There might be dogs that are so far away that the finiteness of the speed of light precludes our seeing them and discriminating them from non-dogs. [rla: What an unbelievably specious argument. I'm appalled.] 3. [But no one in BCP claims that we have to sort physically unknowable objects. Was the possible dog outside our lightcone whelped by a dog inside our cone? If not, why even suggest that it's a dog? Why even suggest that it exists, let alone make this imaginary thing a crucial entity for deciding our intellectual dilemma? This is really a quite specious line of argumentation. What does BCP say? It can only be fresher.] 4. The BCP requires us to identify dogs that died a long time ago and for which there are no traces. So, for instance, we'd have to be able to say that the "dogs" that darted around the Achaean camp in the Iliad were really dogs, not jackals, in order for BCP to be correct. These dogs/jackals are gone. We can't know anything about them. Therefore, the epistemic account of concept possession is false. 5. We're not done yet. If it is required [rla: who said it was? Fodor has quoted nobody on these goofball points] that dog owners distinguish dogs from anything else, then only God has this ability, and if one is an atheist, then indeed no one can distinguish dogs from anything else [rla: because you might make a mistake with a jackal or a dingo or a fox or even a wolf]; thus, you can't sort dogs. Thus, you have no concept of dogs. 6. So, maybe you need good instances of dogs to be able to identify them? or maybe you need favorable conditions? But, so Fodor argues, neither the quality of the conditions for identifying dogs nor the conditions which might be favorable for identifying them are compatible with compositionality; BCP (which is not compositional) cannot be a good candidate for explaining the possession of concepts (which is compositional). Thanks!--Ron (My errant thought/language: Does it not seem odd that thought and language are taken to be isomorphic in this argument? Are they really? Navajo vs. Sanskrit?) --- On Tue, 8/24/10, Ron Allen <wavelets@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote: From: Ron Allen <wavelets@xxxxxxxxxxx> Subject: Re: [quickphilosophy] Fodor on Concepts III: Other Arguments Against BCP To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Date: Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 10:21 AM Hi Walter & quick-phil group: Fodor's second refutation of Bare-Bones Concept Pragmatism (BCP) begins in section 3.2 of his article "Having Concepts." He introduces the ideas of productivity and systematicity. Human language and thought are both productive and systematic. That language and thought are productive means that "there are approximately infinitely many thoughts that one can think." There's a footnote to this odd formulation, where Fodor rejects as a red herring the possible counterpoint of "performance constraints". My guess is that someone might make the obviously correct reply that a human being cannot think infinitely many thoughts. A finite brain and a finite lifetime in a finite universe ought to be constraint enough, but Fodor just blithely ignores the obvious here. Probably, Fodor is just making the assertion that given a few thoughts, one can combine them or extend them in simple ways, and this results in a new thought. So, OK, we can probably live with that. That language and thought are systematic means that "there are certain symmetries of expressive power in human conceptual systems/languages." Fodor does not provide a list of the symmetries...perhaps this has been done by someone else, say Chomsky. What he does is to give a rather poor example of such a symmetry in language & thought: "John loves Mary." If a mind can entertain the thought that John loves Mary, then, because of systematicity, it can entertain the thought that Mary loves John. Well, OK, we can probably live with this example, but almost any other subject-transitive verb-direct object sentence in a natural language is going to fail the symmetry relation that supports systematicity. For example, what if I think "John loves the color blue." Do I get to think that "The color blue loves John"? I would say, yes, sure, you can formulate such a thing, but it doesn't make much sense. But, maybe that's what Fodor wants, just some vague set of rules for flipping around language elements. I think one could argue that this symmetry is exceptional, applying to some language elements, but not others. Indeed, different natural language families have quite different rules for combining concepts. It seems natural to think of verbs as have past, present, and future tense. But, in point of fact, if you talk about tense like that, it marks you as someone who speaks one of the languages in the Indo-European family. Other languages don't have this. For instance, in Navajo, you express your thoughts as something that you learned from someone else, something that you were a direct witness to yourself, or something that is a timeless truth. We could go on and on. But, I guess the way to get anywhere is just let Fodor have his proof by example, not quibble about how actual languages work and how they don't work the same way, and see where we grind to a halt. The next idea Fodor introduces is compositionality. Language and thought are systematic and productive because they are compositional. "There is, for each natural language, a finite set of 'lexical primitives' (words, more or less) and a finite system of constructive principles that the primitives fall under. The latter [rla: he means the constructive principles] apply recursively and may iterate without bound." Fodor says that compositionality is required to explain productivity and systematicity, and that therefore compositionality is non-negotiable. If someone proposes an explanation of concept possession and that explanation is incompatible with compositionality, then that theory of concept possession [rla: you can see that Fodor is going to blow away BCP because of this] must be rejected. I'll look at the argument in more detail in my next post. Thanks! --Ron --- On Tue, 8/24/10, walto <calhorn@xxxxxxx> wrote: From: walto <calhorn@xxxxxxx> Subject: [quickphilosophy] Fodor on Concepts III: Other Arguments Against BCP To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Date: Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 7:13 AM Ron???