Re: [quickphilosophy] Fodor on Concepts IV: Circularity

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 13 Sep 2010 22:47:07 -0700 (PDT)

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 
3. Second for W, the application criteria for a concept are constitutive of its 
[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 
6. But, the PAIN concept isn't the same as the BEHAVIOR-MANIFESTATION-OF-PAIN 
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.

--- On Mon, 9/13/10, wavelets@xxxxxxxxxxx <wavelets@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

From: wavelets@xxxxxxxxxxx <wavelets@xxxxxxxxxxx>
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 

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 

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.







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