[Wittrs] [quickphilosophy] Re: Fodor on Concepts I: The set-up

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 19 Aug 2010 23:13:03 -0000

--- In quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Ron Allen <wavelets@...> wrote:
> Hi Walter:
> For Fodor, how do we arrive at concepts? And what exactly does it mean to 
> think about a DOG as such?

Hey, Ron.  As to the first question, I haven't read enough Fodor to know.  I 
think Budd is the resident expert on him here.  On the second one, I'm guessing 
he'd say that it's primitive, unanalyzable.  

> For example, suppose I ask Fodor to think about a dieseldown. What does he do 
> when thinking about a dieseldown as such?

I take his claim in this paper to be that one need not DO anything, that part 
of where the concept pragmatists go wrong is to insist that we must DO 
something to THINK something.

> Descartes believed in innate ideas. Indeed, those things learned by 
> acquaintance and learned by description through experience were deemed quite 
> inferior indeed to such innate concepts such as God, and goodness, and 
> clarity. If Fodor does not himself resort to innateness in order to explain 
> at least some concept acquisition, then what >exactly is the source of the 
> concepts we contemplate as such? 

Again, I defer to Budd, but most 20th century philosophers have been 
empiricists with respect to concept formation.

>Does Fodor not come back to some sort of epistemic basis for the concept 
>acquisition? I would hesitate before ascribing this kind of concept possession 
>to Hume, though. Certainly, Locke does not buy it for a second.
> I like the cheekiness of the article, and I wish I could have been at the 
> Smart lecture back then. Prof. Fodor must be quite an entertaining lecturer. 

Well, I've never seen him, but his written work is almost always funny.  I 
think he could have been a comedy writer.

>The most entertaining lecturers at Berkeley that I remember were Searle and 
>Scriven. Their classes were always packed, but I never knew of anyone getting 
>an 'A' in one of Scriven's classes. There, the intellectual thrills came at a 
>steep price to your GPA. Ha!

I went to grad school at Brown, where there were Chisholm, Quinn, Sosa, Van 
Cleve, Lenz and Ackerman.  Then, I taught for a couple of years at Ithaca 
College when Black, Stalnaker, Ginet, and Shoemaker were at Cornell.  Nobody 
was funny, unless you count Steve Schwartz, a colleague of mine at I.C.: he 
told some pretty good stories about the heyday of Wittgensteinianism at 

Incidentally, I never got through a single Scriven paper myself.  


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