Conceptual Atomism and the Computational Theory of Mind

A defense of content-internalism and semantic externalism

| Virginia Commonwealth University
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ISBN 9789027252050 | EUR 115.00 | USD 173.00
 
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What is it to have a concept? What is it to make an inference? What is it to be rational? On the basis of recent developments in semantics, a number of authors have embraced answers to these questions that have radically counterintuitive consequences, for example:

  • One can rationally accept self-contradictory propositions (e.g. Smith is a composer and Smith is not a composer).
  • Psychological states are causally inert: beliefs and desires do nothing.
  • The mind cannot be understood in terms of folk-psychological concepts (e.g. belief, desire, intention).
  • One can have a single concept without having any others: an otherwise conceptless creature could grasp the concept of justice or of the number seven.
  • Thoughts are sentence-tokens, and thought-processes are driven by the syntactic, not the semantic, properties of those tokens.

In the first half of Conceptual Atomism and the Computational Theory of Mind, John-Michael Kuczynski argues that these implausible but widely held views are direct consequences of a popular doctrine known as content-externalism, this being the view that the contents of one’s mental states are constitutively dependent on facts about the external world. Kuczynski shows that content-externalism involves a failure to distinguish between, on the one hand, what is literally meant by linguistic expressions and, on the other hand, the information that one must work through to compute the literal meanings of such expressions.

The second half of the present work concerns the Computational Theory of Mind (CTM). Underlying CTM is an acceptance of conceptual atomism – the view that a creature can have a single concept without having any others – and also an acceptance of the view that concepts are not descriptive (i.e. that one can have a concept of a thing without knowing of any description that is satisfied by that thing). Kuczynski shows that both views are false, one reason being that they presuppose the truth of content-externalism, another being that they are incompatible with the epistemological anti-foundationalism proven correct by Wilfred Sellars and Laurence Bonjour. Kuczynski also shows that CTM involves a misunderstanding of terms such as “computation”, “syntax”, “algorithm” and “formal truth”; and he provides novel analyses of the concepts expressed by these terms. (Series A)

[Advances in Consciousness Research, 69]  2007.  x, 524 pp.
Publishing status: Available
Table of Contents
Introduction
ix
A defense of content-internalism and a descriptivist theory of concepts
1
Basic concepts
3–23
The predicative nature of sense-perception
25–39
Uniquely individuating descriptions
41–68
Some semantic consequences or our analysis: Tokens versus types, semantics versus pre-semantics
69–95
Modality, intensionality, and a posteriori necessity
97–108
Cognitive maps and causal connections: Why the causal story is an important part of the descriptive story
109–121
Concepts as knowledge of series of interlocking existence-claims
123–127
The problem of de re senses
129–151
Publicity problems and the nature of linguistic communication
153–162
Content-externalism and self-knowledge
163–179
Why one’s mental content is fixed by one’s epistemic situation
181–187
Jackson and Pettit on program-causality and content-externalism
189–213
Fodor, Conceptual Atomism, and Computationalism
215
Content-externalism and atomism
217–259
The concept of a symbol
261–284
Event-causation and the root-problem with CTM
285–292
Fodor’s first argument for conceptual atomism
293–313
Fodor’s second argument for conceptual atomism
315–326
Fodor’s third argument for conceptual atomism
327–396
Some arguments for the Symbolic Conception of Thought
397–407
A positive argument against SCT
409–418
Another argument against LOT: The concept of non-conceptual content
419–428
Propositional structure and the ineliminability of non-conceptual content
429–442
Conceptual content and the structure of the proposition
443–465
Peacocke on concept-possession
467–481
Semantics versus psychology
483–506
Conclusion
507–508
Bibliography
509–516
Index
517–524
“[...] In all, Kuczynski has constructed a powerful and plausible refutation of several of the ruling precepts in cognitive science, offering a sophisticated and informed alternative perspective.”
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Hamilton Fairley, Neil
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Subjects

Consciousness Research

Consciousness research

Linguistics

Semantics

Philosophy

Philosophy
BIC Subject: HPM – Philosophy of mind
BISAC Subject: PHI011000 – PHILOSOPHY / Logic
U.S. Library of Congress Control Number:  2007008592