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All the ideas for 'Posthumous notes', 'LOT 2' and 'A Résumé of Metaphysics'

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45 ideas

1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 3. Philosophy Defined
Who cares what 'philosophy' is? Most pre-1950 thought doesn't now count as philosophy [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Who cares what gets called 'philosophy'? It's my impression that most of what happened in philosophy before 1950 wouldn't qualify according to the present usage.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.3.5)
     A reaction: A rather breath-taking remark. Fodor is, of course, a devotee of David Hume, and of Descartes, but he never seems to refer to Greeks at all. Personally I presume that if you aren't doing what Plato and Aristotle were interested in, it ain't philosophy.
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 3. Analysis of Preconditions
Definitions often give necessary but not sufficient conditions for an extension [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Attempts to define a term frequently elicit necessary but not sufficient conditions for membership of its extension. This is called the 'X problem', as in 'kill' means 'cause to die' plus X.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.2.1 n3)
     A reaction: Fodor is one of the great sceptics about definition. I just don't see why we have to have totally successful definitions before we can accept the process as a worthwhile endeavour.
5. Theory of Logic / E. Structures of Logic / 2. Logical Connectives / d. and
A truth-table, not inferential role, defines 'and' [Fodor]
     Full Idea: I'm inclined to think that 'and' is defined by its truth-table (and not, for example, by its 'inferential-role').
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.7)
     A reaction: Sounds right, on my general principle that something can only have a function if it has an intrinsic nature. The truth-table just formalises normal understanding of 'and', according to what it makes true.
5. Theory of Logic / F. Referring in Logic / 1. Naming / a. Names
'Paderewski' has two names in mentalese, for his pianist file and his politician file [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Paderewski (as pianist and as politician) has two names in Mentalese. If you think there are two Paderewskis, it's important that what you get when you retrieve the pianist file differs from the politician file. You can then merge the two files.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.3 App)
     A reaction: The same will apply to 'Hespherus' and 'Phosphorus'. We can re-separate the 'morning star' and 'evening star' files if we wish to discuss ancient Egyptian attitudes to such things. I love this idea of Fodor's. Explanations flow from it.
Names in thought afford a primitive way to bring John before the mind [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Names in thought (in contrast to, say, descriptions in thought) afford a primitive way of bringing John before the mind.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.3 App)
     A reaction: I think the 'file' account of concepts which Fodor has now latched onto gives a wonderful account of names. They are simple if you haven't opened the file yet (like 'Louis', in Evans's example).
5. Theory of Logic / K. Features of Logics / 2. Consistency
P-and-Q gets its truth from the truth of P and truth of Q, but consistency isn't like that [Fodor]
     Full Idea: The truth of P-and-Q is (roughly) a function of the truth of P and the truth of Q; but the consistency of P&Q isn't a function of the consistency of P and the consistency of Q.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.4.5 n33)
     A reaction: This is a nice deep issue. Fodor is interested in artificial intelligence at this point, but I am interested in the notion of coherence, as found in good justifications. Even consistency isn't elementary logic, never mind coherence.
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 1. Possibility
There's statistical, logical, nomological, conceptual and metaphysical possibility [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Statistically, logically, nomologically, conceptually, and metaphysically possible. That's all the kinds of possibility there are this week, but feel free to add others.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.4.3)
     A reaction: There's also epistemic possibility (possibility 'for all I know'), but I suppose that isn't the real thing. How about 'imaginative possibility' (possibility 'as far as I can imagine')?
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 4. Belief / d. Cause of beliefs
Some beliefs are only inferred when needed, like 'Shakespeare had not telephone' [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Maybe some of your beliefs are inferred 'online' from what you have in your files, along with your inferential rules. 'Shakespeare didn't have a telephone' is a classic example, which we infer if the occasion arises.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.3 App)
     A reaction: A highly persuasive example. There seem to be a huge swathe of blatantly obvious beliefs (especially negative ones) which may never cross our minds during an entire lifetime, but to which we certainly subscribe.
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 6. Knowing How
Knowing that must come before knowing how [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Thought about the world is prior to thought about how to change the world. Accordingly, knowing that is prior to knowing how. Descartes was right, and Ryle was wrong.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.1)
     A reaction: The classical example is knowing how to ride a bicycle, when few people can explain what is involved. Clearly you need quite a bit of propositional knowledge before you step on a bike. How does Fodor's claim work for animals?
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 3. Idealism / d. Absolute idealism
Transcendental philosophy is the subject becoming the originator of unified reality [Kant]
     Full Idea: Transcendental philosophy is the act of consciousness whereby the subject becomes the originator of itself and, thereby, of the whole object of technical-practical and moral-practical reason in one system - ordering all things in God
     From: Immanuel Kant (Posthumous notes [1799], 21:78, p.245), quoted by A.W. Moore - The Evolution of Modern Metaphysics 06 App
     A reaction: This is evidently Kant's last word on the matter (c.1799), and Moore says he was drifting close to Fichte's idealism, in which reality is actually (sort of) created by our own minds. Disappointing! God's role here is unclear.
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 3. Pragmatism
Pragmatism is the worst idea ever [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Pragmatism is perhaps the worst idea that philosophy ever had.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.1)
     A reaction: Not an argument, but an interesting sign of the times. Most major modern American philosophers, such as Quine, seem to fit some loose label of 'pragmatist'. I always smell a feeble relativism, and a refusal to face the interesting questions.
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 1. Mind / c. Features of mind
Mental states have causal powers [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Mental states have causal powers.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.2.3)
     A reaction: I quote this because it gives you the link between a general account of causal powers as basic to reality, and an active account of what the mind is. It has to be a key link in a decent modern unified account of the world. See Idea 12638.
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 7. Seeing Resemblance
The different types of resemblance don't resemble one another [Fodor]
     Full Idea: The ways in which different kinds of thing are similar to one another aren't, in general, similar to one another.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.5.4)
     A reaction: Nice, but I think one would say that they lack similarity at the level of primary thought, but have obvious similarity (as concept-connectors) at the level of meta-thought.
17. Mind and Body / C. Functionalism / 2. Machine Functionalism
In the Representational view, concepts play the key linking role [Fodor]
     Full Idea: If the Representational Theory of Mind is true, then concepts are constituents of beliefs, the units of semantic evaluation, a locus of causal interactions among mental representations, and formulas in Mentalese.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.2.1)
     A reaction: I like this aspect of the theory, but then I can't really think of a theory about how the mind works that doesn't make concepts central to it.
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 4. Connectionism
Only the labels of nodes have semantic content in connectionism, and they play no role [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Connectionism has no truck with mental representations; on the one hand, only the node labels in 'neural networks' have semantic content, and, on the other, the node labels play no role in mental processes, in standard formulations.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.1)
     A reaction: Connectionism must have some truth in it, yet mere connections can't do the full job. The difficulty is that nothing else seems to do the 'full job' either. Fodor cites productivity, systematicity, compositionality, logical form as the problems.
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 1. Thought
Connectionism gives no account of how constituents make complex concepts [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Connectionist architectures provide no counterpart to the relation between a complex concept and its constituents.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.3.3 n29)
     A reaction: This is the compositionality of thought, upon which Fodor is so insistent. Not that a theory of how the mind is built up from the body is quite likely to give you a theory about what thinking is. I try to keep them separate, which may be wrong.
Associative thinking avoids syntax, but can't preserve sense, reference or truth [Fodor]
     Full Idea: The virtue of associative theories of thinking is that they don't require thoughts to have syntactic structure. But they can't be right, since association doesn't preserve either sense or reference (to say nothing of truth).
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.3.3 n28)
     A reaction: This is using the empiricist idea that knowledge is built from mechanical associations to give a complete account of what thinking is. Fodor resolutely opposes it.
18. Thought / B. Mechanics of Thought / 4. Language of Thought
Ambiguities in English are the classic reason for claiming that we don't think in English [Fodor]
     Full Idea: That there are ambiguities in English is the classic reason for claiming that we don't think in English.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.3.5)
     A reaction: I have always been impressed by this simple observation, which is my main reason for believing in propositions (as brain events). 'Propositions' may just be useful chunks of mentalese.
18. Thought / B. Mechanics of Thought / 5. Mental Files
Mental representations name things in the world, but also files in our memory [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Mental representations can serve both as names for things in the world and as names of files in the memory.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.3 App)
     A reaction: I am laughed at for liking this idea (given the present files of ideas before you), but I think this it is very powerful. Chicken before egg. I was drawn to databases precisely because they seemed to map how the mind worked.
We think in file names [Fodor]
     Full Idea: We think in file names.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.3 App)
     A reaction: This is Fodor's new view. He cites Treisman and Schmidt (1982) for raising it, and Pylyshyn (2003) for discussing it. I love it. It exactly fits my introspective view of how I think, and I think it would fit animals. It might not fit some other people!
18. Thought / B. Mechanics of Thought / 6. Artificial Thought / a. Artificial Intelligence
Frame Problem: how to eliminate most beliefs as irrelevant, without searching them? [Fodor]
     Full Idea: The frame problem is, precisely: How does one know that none of one's beliefs about Jupiter are germane to the current question, without having to recall and search one's beliefs about Jupiter?
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.4.4)
     A reaction: Presumably good chess-playing computers have made some progress with this problem. The only answer, as far as I can see, is that brains have a lot in common with relational databases. The mind is structured around a relevance-pattern.
18. Thought / C. Content / 5. Twin Earth
If concept content is reference, then my Twin and I are referring to the same stuff [Fodor]
     Full Idea: If the content of a concept is its reference, we can stop worrying about Twin Earth. If there are no senses, there is no question of whether my twin and I have the same WATER concept. Our WATER concepts aren't even coextensive.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.1)
     A reaction: This seems like a neat solution. So do 'tap water' and 'holy water' have the same content to a Christian and non-Christian, when they co-refer to the contents of the font?
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 2. Origin of Concepts / a. Origin of concepts
Nobody knows how concepts are acquired [Fodor]
     Full Idea: I don't know how concepts are acquired. Nor do you. Nor does anybody else.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.5.4)
     A reaction: This comes in the context of quietly modifying his earlier claim that concepts weren't acquired, because they were largely innate. Presumably we are allowed to have theories of concept acquisition? I quite like abstractionism.
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 2. Origin of Concepts / c. Nativist concepts
We have an innate capacity to form a concept, once we have grasped the stereotype [Fodor]
     Full Idea: What's learned are stereotypes. What's innate is the disposition to grasp such and such a concept (to lock to such a property) in consequence of having learned such and such a stereotype.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.5.4)
     A reaction: This is the late Fodor much ameliorated view, after a lot of scoffing about the idea of the tin-opener being innate in all of us. There may be a suspicion of circularity here, if we ask what mental abilities are needed to form a stereotype.
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 3. Ontology of Concepts / a. Concepts as representations
Having a concept isn't a pragmatic matter, but being able to think about the concept [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Pragmatism about concepts really is dead, and the only alternative about concept possession is Cartesianism. That is, it's the thesis that having concept C is being able to think about Cs (as such).
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.2.2)
     A reaction: I like this. It is very hard to pick out from Fodor the bits where he is clearly right, but this seems to be one of them. I don't like the pragmatic or Wittgensteinian line that having concepts is all about abilities and uses (like sorting or inferring).
Concepts have two sides; they are files that face thought, and also face subject-matter [Fodor]
     Full Idea: We think in file names, and file names are Janus-faced: one face turned towards thinking and the other face turned towards what is thought about. I do think that is rather satisfactory.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.3 App)
     A reaction: So do I. I do hope the philosophical community take up this idea (which they probably won't, simply because Fodor is in the late stages of his career!).
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 3. Ontology of Concepts / b. Concepts as abilities
Cartesians put concept individuation before concept possession [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Cartesians think that concept individuation is prior, in order of analysis, to concept possession.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.12)
     A reaction: Peacocke is someone who seems to put possession first, to the point where individuation is thereby achieved. The background influence there is Wittgenstein. I think I am more with Fodor, that concepts are entities, which need to be understood.
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 3. Ontology of Concepts / c. Fregean concepts
Frege's puzzles suggest to many that concepts have sense as well as reference [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Philosophers in droves have held that Frege cases are convincing arguments that concepts have not just referents but also senses.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.3.2)
     A reaction: [Frege cases are puzzles where simple reference seems to lead to confusion] I take the Fregean approach to concepts (of Dummett, Peacocke) to attempt to give an account of the sense, once the reference is decided. Idea 12629 gives Fodor's view.
If concepts have sense, we can't see the connection to their causal powers [Fodor]
     Full Idea: How are we to understand the connection between the identity of a concept and its causal powers if concepts are (or have) senses? Answer: I haven't a clue.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.3.3)
     A reaction: This seems to be the key to Fodor's attack on Peacocke and other Fregeans - that while they pay lip-service to the project of naturalising thought, they are actually committing us to some sort of neo-platonism, by losing the causal links. See Idea 12636.
Belief in 'senses' may explain intentionality, but not mental processes [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Supposing the mind to be conversant with senses can, maybe, provide for a theory of the intentionality of mental states; but it seems to shed no light at all on the nature of mental processes (i.e. of mental state transitions).
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.3.3)
     A reaction: I would track this back to Frege's hostility to 'psychologism'. That is, Fregeans don't care about Fodor's problem, because all their accounts (of mathematics, of logic, and of concepts) treat the subject-matter as self-contained sui generis.
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 4. Structure of Concepts / a. Conceptual structure
You can't think 'brown dog' without thinking 'brown' and 'dog' [Fodor]
     Full Idea: You can think 'brown dog' without thinking 'cat', but you can't think 'brown dog' without thinking 'brown' and 'dog'.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.4.3)
     A reaction: Fodor is talking about concepts in thought, not about words. The claim is that such concepts have to be compositional, and it is hard to disagree.
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 4. Structure of Concepts / d. Concepts as prototypes
Maybe stereotypes are a stage in concept acquisition (rather than a by-product) [Fodor]
     Full Idea: We needn't say that learning a stereotype is just a by-product of acquiring the concept; it could rather be a stage in concept acquisition.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.5.4)
     A reaction: He rejects stereotypes because they don't give concepts the necessary compositionality in thought. But this idea would mean that children were incapable of compositionality until they had transcended the primitive stereotype stage.
One stereotype might be a paradigm for two difference concepts [Fodor]
     Full Idea: The same stereotype can give difference concepts; chickens are paradigmatic instances both of FOOD and of BARNYARD FOWL.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.5.4)
     A reaction: And I'm guessing that lots of concepts could have two equally plausible stereotypes, even within a single mind. Stereotypes are interesting, but they don't seem to be the key to our understanding of concepts.
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 4. Structure of Concepts / g. Conceptual atomism
For the referential view of thought, the content of a concept is just its reference [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Pure referentialism is the kind of semantics RTM requires (reference is the only primitive mind-world semantic property). ...So the content of a concept is its reference.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.1)
     A reaction: This seems to say that the meaning of a concept is (typically) a physical object, which seems to be the 'Fido'-Fido view of meaning. It seems to me to be a category mistake to say that a meaning can be a cat.
Compositionality requires that concepts be atomic [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Atomism must be right about the individuation of concepts because compositionality demands it.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch1)
     A reaction: I suppose this seems right, though Fodor's own example of 'pet fish' is interesting. What is supposed to happen when you take a concept like 'pet' and put it with 'fish', given that both components shift their atomic (?) meaning in the process?
18. Thought / E. Abstraction / 2. Abstracta by Selection
Abstractionism claims that instances provide criteria for what is shared [Fodor]
     Full Idea: In the idea of learning concepts by 'abstraction', experiences of the instances provide evidence about which of the shared properties of things in a concept's extension are 'criterial' for being in the concept's extension.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.5.2 n6)
     A reaction: Fodor is fairly sceptical of this approach, and his doubts are seen in the scare-quotes around 'criterial'. He is defending the idea that only a certain degree of innateness in the concepts can get such a procedure off the ground.
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 7. Meaning Holism / c. Meaning by Role
'Inferential-role semantics' says meaning is determined by role in inference [Fodor]
     Full Idea: 'Inferential-role semantics' claims that the meaning of a word (/the content of a concept) is determined by its role in inference.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.2.1.2 n14)
     A reaction: Fodor is deeply opposed to this view. At first blush it sounds wrong to me, since there seems to be plenty of thought that can go on before inference takes place. Daydreamy speculation, for example.
19. Language / B. Reference / 1. Reference theories
Co-referring terms differ if they have different causal powers [Fodor]
     Full Idea: The representation of 'morning star' must be different from 'evening star' because their tokens differ in their causal powers.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.3.3)
     A reaction: This is Fodor trying to avoid the standard Fregean move of proposing that there are 'senses' as well as references. See Idea 12629. If these two terms have the same extension, they are the same concept? They 'seem' to have two referents.
We refer to individuals and to properties, and we use singular terms and predicates [Fodor]
     Full Idea: I assume that there are two kinds of reference: reference to individuals and to properties. This means, from the syntactic point of view, that the vehicles of reference are exhaustively singular terms and predicates.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.7)
     A reaction: The immediate possibility that comes to mind is plural quantification. See George Boolos, who confidently says that he can refer to 'some Cheerios' in his breakfast bowl, and communicate very well. He then looks to formalise such talk.
19. Language / C. Assigning Meanings / 2. Semantics
Semantics (esp. referential semantics) allows inferences from utterances to the world [Fodor]
     Full Idea: All you need for inferring from John's utterance to the world is the sort of thing that a semantics (i.e. referential semantics) provides.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.3.5)
     A reaction: Fodor is very good at saying nice simple things like that. But it is not enough to infer what objects are being discussed. All the hard cases must be covered (denials of existence, reference to non-existence, intentional contexts, modal claims).
Semantics relates to the world, so it is never just psychological [Fodor]
     Full Idea: Semantics is about constitutive relations between representations and the world. There is, as a matter of principle, no such thing as a psychological theory of meaning.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.3.5)
     A reaction: The second sentence is in capital letters, but I am still not convinced. The classic difficulty seems to be that you have to use language to pick out the things in the world that are being referred to. Of course, at some point you just see the objects.
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / a. Practical reason
Before you can plan action, you must decide on the truth of your estimate of success [Fodor]
     Full Idea: You can't think a plan of action unless you can think how the world would be if the action were to succeed; and thinking the world will be such and such if all goes well is thinking the kind of thing that can be true or false.
     From: Jerry A. Fodor (LOT 2 [2008], Ch.1)
     A reaction: This is part of Fodor's attack on the pragmatic view of concepts (that they should be fully understood in terms of action, rather than of thought). I take Fodor to be blatantly correct. This is counterfactual thinking.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 3. Pleasure / a. Nature of pleasure
Intelligent pleasure is the perception of beauty, order and perfection [Leibniz]
     Full Idea: An intelligent being's pleasure is simply the perception of beauty, order and perfection.
     From: Gottfried Leibniz (A Rsum of Metaphysics [1697], 18)
     A reaction: Leibniz seems to have inherited this from the Greeks, especially Pythagoras and Plato. Buried in Leibniz's remark I see the Christian fear of physical pleasure. He should have got out more. Must an intelligent being always be intelligent?
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 3. Divine Perfections
Perfection is simply quantity of reality [Leibniz]
     Full Idea: Perfection is simply quantity of reality.
     From: Gottfried Leibniz (A Rsum of Metaphysics [1697], 11)
     A reaction: An interesting claim, but totally beyond my personal comprehension. I presume he inherited 'quantity of reality' from Plato, e.g. as you move up the Line from shadows to Forms you increase the degree of reality. I see 'real' as all-or-nothing.
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 3. Problem of Evil / b. Human Evil
Evil serves a greater good, and pain is necessary for higher pleasure [Leibniz]
     Full Idea: Evils themselves serve a greater good, and the fact that pains are found in minds is necessary if they are to reach greater pleasures.
     From: Gottfried Leibniz (A Rsum of Metaphysics [1697], 23)
     A reaction: How much pain is needed to qualify for the 'greater pleasures'? Some people receive an awful lot. I am not sure exactly how an evil can 'serve' a greater good. Is he recommending evil?