LINGUIST List 6.756

Thu 01 Jun 1995

Disc: Elm review

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  1. Barbara Abbott, Re: 6.737, Rev: "The Elm and the Expert" Jerry Fodor (1994)
  2. , Re: 6.737, Rev: "The Elm and the Expert" Jerry Fodor (1994)

Message 1: Re: 6.737, Rev: "The Elm and the Expert" Jerry Fodor (1994)

Date: Mon, 29 May 1995 11:42:11 Re: 6.737, Rev: "The Elm and the Expert" Jerry Fodor (1994)
From: Barbara Abbott <abbottbpilot.msu.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.737, Rev: "The Elm and the Expert" Jerry Fodor (1994)

Content-Length: 1528

Just a brief comment on one part of John Lee's review of Fodor's _The Elm
and the Expert_, which overall I enjoyed. At the end of his paragraph on
chapter 3 ("Rabbit Redux (or, 'Reference Scrutinized')"), Lee asks:

)how can we decide that a
)given connective is, say, conjunction? We might need a bit
)more convincing that Fodor is fully entitled to his assumption
)that the semantics of sentential connectives come "for free".
)In the enterprise of radical translation, it seems more likely
)that they will have to be worked out hand-in-hand with the
)development of the ontological scheme.

For what it's worth Quine asserted that the logical connectives could be
successfully translated in the situation of radical translation, with only
the normal problems of induction facing any scientific investigation. Thus
that they could be gotten essentially 'for free'. "The semantic criterion
of... conjunction is that it produces compounds to which...one is prepared
to assent always and only when one is prepared to assent to each component"
(Quine, 1960, _Word and Object_, pp. 57-8). It doesn't really matter what
the components of the compound are (with provisos about their being short
enough so that the whole can be successfully comprehended) -- they don't
even have to be observation sentences.

On the other hand there's much more to be said about semantic indeterminacy
and the inscrutability of reference -- I don't want to be understood as
agreeing with the rest of what Fodor says in this chapter of his book.
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Message 2: Re: 6.737, Rev: "The Elm and the Expert" Jerry Fodor (1994)

Date: Thu, 1 Jun 1995 12:31:01 GRe: 6.737, Rev: "The Elm and the Expert" Jerry Fodor (1994)
From: <K.M.Jaszczoltbton.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: 6.737, Rev: "The Elm and the Expert" Jerry Fodor (1994)


Fodor's (1994) attempt at a reconciliation of informational semantics and
computational psychology is stated from an ontological perspective which,
taken at its face value, is not very informative: the world is a policeman
that keeps computations and referential content in order, i.e. largely in
a bi-uniqueness relation. It seems essential at this point to ask about the
status of this explanation: is it a reasoning exercise, an attempt to reconcile
two theses which for the moment is the best suited one to do the job, or is it
an explanation of reference assignment which is epistemologically and ontologic
ally valid (here the question concerns atomism on one side, and Turing's
idea of mental processes as transformations on symbols on the other). After
all, all arguments in favour are partial: from trains of thought being
truth-preserving (re computations), from being able to think the same thought
twice (re atomism, against holism), etc. The commitment and the possible
objections would increase depending on which of the three kinds of status we
assign to Fodor's thesis. Perhaps if something more had been said about how
INTENTIONALITY of psychological laws works, contents and computations could
be reconciled in the strongest of the three senses? Comments welcome.
Kasia Jaszczolt
University of Brighton
K.M.Jaszczoltbton.ac.uk Exit
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