The 'compositional rigidity' of recognitionality

Philosophical Papers 33 (2):147-169 (2004)


Abstract Empiricist philosophers of mind have long maintained that the possession conditions of many concepts include recognitional abilities. One of Jerry Fodor's recent attacks on empiricist semantics proceeds by attempting to demonstrate that there are no such, ?recognitional? concepts. His argument is built on the claim that if there were such concepts, they would not compose: i.e., they would exhibit properties which are not in general ?inherited? by complex concepts of which they are components. Debate between Fodor and his critics on this issue has focused on his construal of compositionality, the critics in effect advocating a weaker conception than that assumed by Fodor. I argue that the critics' contention is under-motivated, and in the current context ad hoc. But there is something else wrong with Fodor's argument. He misidentifies the notion of recognitionality in which the empiricist should trade. A proper understanding of recognitionality allows us to disarm Fodor's argument without resolving the question about compositionality that divides Fodor and his critics. I end with two very general remarks. First a contention about the motivation for empiricist semantics, and second, a suggestion that my proposal about recognitionality may be extended to disarm a more familiar and influential type of concern about their viability

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Darragh Byrne
University of Birmingham

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