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Philosophical Review

A Study of Concepts. by Christopher Peacocke Review by: Robert Hanna The Philosophical Review, Vol. 103, No. 3 (Jul., 1994), pp. 541-544 Published by: Duke University Press on behalf of Philosophical Review Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2185793 . Accessed: 06/11/2012 18:09
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BOOK REVIEWS
sory stimulation and scientific intersubjectivity is mediated by mentalistic discourse. In this and many other ways Pursuit of Truthpresents a fascinating new view of the relationship between naturalistic and mentalistic perspectives on cognitive meaning and objective knowledge.22 GARYEBBS

University ofPennsylvania

now that Quine stressesthe role of empathyin shaping our linguisticdispositions, and accepts "irreducibly mental waysof grouping physicalstatesand events" (72). There is no hope leftfor an austere naturalistic account of the objectivepull. I am grateful to Scott Kimbrough,Gary 22Forhelpfulcommentson earlier drafts Hatfield, JayWallace, and Miriam Solomon.

1994) Vol. 103, No. 3 (July Review, ThePhilosophical


PEACOCKE. Cambridge: MIT A STUDY OF CONCEPTS. By CHRISTOPHER Press, 1992. Pp. xv,266.

semantics,and in epistemology, AfterKant, concepts have pride-of-place the philosophyof mind: theyfunctionas rules fororganizingperceptions, as the primaryobjects of rational analysis,as singularor general proposiof beliefs. Yet concepts have tional terms,and as the basic constituents littledirect,sustained attentionfrom contemporary received surprisingly (hereafterSC) adofConcepts philosophers of language and mind. A Study dresses thisoversight. the Buildingon Peacocke's earlierbooks (1983, 1986), SC pushes forward betweenFregeansemantics and conexplorationof thephilosophicalterrain of concepts His special routeinto the theory naturalism. temporary cognitive on thisapproach, a theoryof conis the analysisof "concept-possession": of concepts. capacityformastery cepts should be a theoryabout a thinker's of a concept is nothingmore than an epistemiccapacity And the mastery containingthatconcept. to have propositional attitudes to thought-contents Now one might ask, Why adopt the view that concepts are capacities-as opposed to, say,intensionalcomplexes,or termsin a functionallanguagePeacocke's answerappears to be that only if concepts are caof-thought? withFregean standsome chance ofbeing both (a) consistent pacitiesdo they naturalizableentities. and (b) scientifically respectable, semantics, The first three chaptersof SC workout the general outlines of a possession-theoretic analysis of concepts. In chapter 1 Peacocke develops the In a thesis that concepts are individuatedsolely by possession-conditions. he holds thatthese conditionsmustmention "what spirit, Wittgensteinian 541

BOOK REVIEWS thinkersemployingthe concept find it natural to believe," that is, what theyfind "primitively compelling" (13). Moreover,the conditions must mention criteriaforknowingthe referenceor semanticvalue of thatconcept. Building on thatfoundation,in chapter 2 he argues thatsome basic "systematic"features of thought-capacities for recombining the same concepts with different singular terms-can be traced directlyto a concept's essential connection with its semanticvalue. In chapter 3 he then worksout a possession-theoretic analysisof perceptual concepts in which such concepts reston fundamentalnonconceptual spatial representations. The last fivechaptersexplore the broader philosophical implicationsof the possession-theoretic analysis.Chapter 4 deals with the metaphysics of concepts; here Peacocke treatsdiscourse about concepts as a special case under the general problem of analyzingdiscourse that (seemingly)mentions abstractobjects such as numbers. In chapter 5 he gives an account of how normativefeaturesof concepts can be explained consistently with naturalism,but withoutappeal to "naturalized teleology" of the sort recentlydeveloped by Ruth Millikan (1984). His strategy is to tie concepts to the fact that "a thinkerfindscertain transitions and principlesprimitively compelling and does so fromcertain causes" (138). Chapter 6 extends his theoryto the analysisof the concept of belief,by givingposseson thatconcept in termsof conditionsof its self-ascription sion-conditions In chapter 7 he argues that philosophical and psyand other-ascription. chological theoriesof concepts must interpenetrate, and that there exists an empirical solution to Wittgenstein's famous puzzle of rule following: one can explain primitively in termsof "subrationcompelling transitions in chapter 8 he claims thathis theoryof concepts al" causal states.Finally, can demonstratethe unintelligibility of certainphilosophical concepts and hypotheses withoutfallinginto verificationism. SC is a rich, nuanced, and provocativephilosophical work; each of its densely argued chapters meritsfurtherclose study.But in the space remaining I want to focus critically on what I take to be the fundamental thesisof the book, namely,the "Principle of Dependence":
There can be nothingmore to the natureof a concept thanwhatis determined who has masteredthe concept by a correctaccount of the capacityof a thinker to have propositionalattitudesto contentscontainingthat concept. (5)

Thus a concept is individuated accordby itspossession-condition. Moreover, of Concepts" (2), concepts are to be ing to the principleof "Distinctness of the same criterion discriminated thatFrege uses fordisby employment senses: for everydifference in cognitiveinformativeness under criminating failureof truth-preserving intersubstitution into opaque contextsthereis a in concepts.Concepts are thereby difference thatare corresponding entities than eitheractual-world extensionsor properties. far more fine-grained 542

BOOK REVIEWS But Peacocke's theoryruns head-on into a problem thatmimicsthe famous "Mates problem" (Mates 1950) in the theoryof synonymy: it systematicallydistinguishes between concepts that must be, on any intuitively acceptable theoryof concepts, completelyidentical.' For example, take the conceptsFURZE and GORSE; theseare completely identicalconceptsifany are (althoughany twoconceptsexpressedbyintuitively synonymous general terms willdo); in particular, theyare identicalbyvirtueof sharingthe same "conceptual microstructure," namely,M = (spiny + yellow + flowered+ evergreen+ shrub + growson European wastelands).Now, as mentioned, Peacocke adopts a Fregean testforconcept-discrimination. But while (1) A, an arbitrarily chosen rational human thinker, never wonders even for a splitsecond whetherfurzeis furze is certainly true, chosen rational human thinker, (2) A, an arbitrarily never wonders even for a splitsecond whetherfurzeis gorse is just as certainly false. For rational human thinkersnever wonder even for a split second about instantiations of the law of identity in the form "Fs are Fs." But any rational human thinker,because nonomniscient, could certainly wonder forjust a split second whetherfurze is gorse. So according to Peacocke's theory, FURZE and GORSE must have different possession-conditions and so be different concepts; but thatis contrary to the hypothesis. Can we give a diagnosis of Peacocke's "Mates problem"? It stems, I think,preciselyfrom his attemptto create a holy alliance between Fregean semanticsand cognitivenaturalism.Fregean contentsare supersensitiveto epistemicdifferences across equivalent beliefs;yetnaturalizability requires that these contentsbe able to enter directly into physico-causal relations. Peacocke's solution is to think of concepts as capacities-forpropositional-attitudes; but thisseems to have the unhappy resultof making them neither fishnor fowl.Antinaturalists about concepts (say,Kantians) will thinkthatPeacocke's concepts lack sufficient internalstructure for concept-analysis; and thoroughgoing naturalistswill think that Peacocke's concepts are too fine-grained for integrationinto physico-causal roles. So Peacocke's theoryis bound to please neithercamp: the alliance
is unholy.2

University ofColorado, Boulder

ROBERT HANNA

Fodor notes the same difficulty in his 1993 (15). 'Jerry 21 wouldlike to thank Christopher Shieldsformanyinteresting conversations about SC, and especiallyfor helpfulcommentson an earlier draftof thisreview.

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BOOK REVIEWS
REFERENCES

(7 October): ofBooks 1993. "Unpacking a Dog." LondonReview Fodor,Jerry. 14-15. in Publications of California University Mates, Benson. 1950. "Synonymity." Press, 201-26. of California Philosophy, vol. 25. Berkeley:University and other BiologicalCateMillikan,Ruth Garrett.1984. Language, Thought, MIT Press. Cambridge: gories. Oxford: Oxford University 1983. Senseand Content. Peacocke, Christopher. Press. Clarendon Press, Oxford: Blackwell. . 1986. Thoughts. 1994) Review, Vol. 103, No. 3 (July ThePhilosophical REPRESENTATION,MEANING,AND THOUGHT By GRANT GILLETT. OxPress, Clarendon Press, 1992. Pp. 213. ford:Oxford University "Concepts and Generality,"the title of the firstchapter,aptly describes thisbook as a whole: it is about concepts and it is general. Gillettsensibly avoids the nastyproblem of sayingwhat a concept is by regarding"grasping a concept as primaryand the notion of a concept as an abstraction from that" (7). Grasping a concept allows one "both to group certain objects in a principledwayand to be able to reason about thatgrouping." because "in using a concept one affair, rule-governed This is a normative, acknowledgesand is answerable to a norm which governswhetherone is we are never rightor wrongin applyingthe concept" (8). Unfortunately, told whatthese rules or normssay.For example, does the rule forapplying thatthe canarybe yellow, to one's canarydemand simply the concept yellow when one required?Accordingto Gillett, or is somethingmore substantial to a number of objects,thenwe (and he) "can apply the concept correctly knowwhathe means by 'yellow'and it is clear thathe graspsthe concept" depends on (13). However,what counts as applyingthe concept correctly is the which concept is in question, and Gillettdoes not explain whyyellow applying the concept yellow one. Gillettneeds to distinguishincorrectly from correctlyapplying some other concept that shares some of its instances. It does not help to speak of "go[ing] on in the same way" (13) unless we knowwhat counts as the same. Also, speaking of "the" concept to implies there is but one such concept. Perhaps Gillettis referring yellow the meaning of the word 'yellow',assuming there is one such thing,but of an expressionis the wayof thinkto say that "the cognitivesignificance ing about or pickingout an object thatis involvedin a giventhoughtabout thatobject" (141) does not explain how thatconcept gets tied to thatword. We learn only that "the cognitivesignificanceof a termis the way that it 544