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A Critique of the Case for Semantic Holism Author(s): Michael Devitt Source: Philosophical Perspectives, Vol. 7, Language and Logic (1993), pp. 281-306 Published by: Ridgeview Publishing Company Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2214126 . Accessed: 14/02/2014 20:35
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Philosophical Perspectives, 7, LanguageandLogic, 1993

A CRITIQUE OF THE CASE FOR SEMANTIC HOLISM

MichaelDevitt University of Maryland

I. Introduction I.l. Semantic Holismand Localism At its mostextreme, semantic, or meaning, holismis thedoctrine thatall of the inferential its meaning.This properties of an expressionconstitute doctrine is opposedby semantic localismwhich, at itsmostextreme, deniesthat ofan expression itsmeaning. anyof theinferential relations constitute Despite its primafacieimplausibility, semanticholismis ubiquitous.It in the Fodorsays,"something of thestatus has,as Jerry of thereceived doctrine philosophy oflanguage"(Fodor1987: 57). Anditis urged, or taken for granted, in psychology and AI. In this paper I shall look critically at the case for semantic holism. The case can alwaysbe madeto fit thefollowing "basic"argument: (1) Some ofan expression's inferential properties constitute its meaning. its (2) Ifsomeofan expression's inferential constitute properties meaning then they all do. ofan expression constitute its (3) So, all of theinferential properties meaning. Fodoris an extreme localist:he resists thisargument by rejecting premise (1) (pp. 73-95). Fodor's majorreasonforrejecting (1) is veryclear: he thinks that itleads inexorably which he regards as "a crazydoctrine" to holism (p. 60) Life As We Know It. He thinksthat(1) has this unfortunate threatening to(2) as themost becausehe accepts he is as committed consequence (2). Indeed, fervent holist.

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282/Michael Devitt thathe is I agree withFodor's view of theholistic conclusionbut think quitewrongabout(2). My aim in thispaperis to rejectthecase for(2). This ifwe are to be safefrom aim is veryimportant holism. First, thetotalrejection do not of (1) is hardto sustain. Even if it is plausiblethatsome expressions dependfortheir meanings on inferential properties, it is surely also plausible If a that someexpressions do so depend;thelikesof 'bachelor'spring to mind. significant proportion do so depend,and (2) is accepted,we stillface a dis(1).1 agreeably holistic future. Second,we lackanypersuasive argument against Finally,thelocalistshouldnotputall hereggs in theone basketof rejecting (1). So I shallbe defending a moderate localism according to which a fewof the inferential properties ofan expression mayconstitute itsmeaning.2 along the Why do people believe (2)? (2) is accompaniedby thinking lines: following The localist'sdistinction between theinferential properties that do nothas no constitute an expression's meaning andtheones that roleofthe principled basis.All of these properties bearon thesemantic somearemoreimportant than butimporexpression. Perhaps others, theones tanceis a matter ofdegree. There is no realdistinction between andtheonesthat do not.Onlyan that counttoward themeaning word shared all theinferential oftheoriginal expression that properties wouldreally share a meaning with it.3 whythis So, to understand why peoplearesemantic holists, we needtodiscover I in support "no-principled-basis" consideration, offered of (2), seemsplausible. shallconsider from andreject four arguments for theconsideration: theargument (III); confirmation holism (part II); theargument from therejection ofanalyticity from the argument frompsychological explanation (IV); and the argument functionalism (V). Rejectingarguments thatthereis no principled basis does notof course becausethey establish that there is a principled basis.Some aredrawn toholism think "no one has provided a convincing reasonforincluding some inferences thisconcern and excluding others" (Block 1991: 40). I shallnotbe addressing here;myarguments are againstthearguments for holismnot againstholism. I arguethat basisis largely Elsewhere (forthcoming), thedemand for a principled misconceived and that, insofar as a basisis needed, we haveit.I shallsummarize thisviewat theend. arenecessary thearguments. Somepreliminaries before considering I.2. Preliminaries the 1. My talkof "expressions" coversboththelinguistic and themental, I shallapplytheterms and 'word'to mental and thesimple. 'sentence' complex

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A Critique of theCase forSemantic Holism/283 expressions-thoughts and theirparts-as well as to linguisticones. The "meaning" ofan expression is thesameas its"content." 2. I shallfocuson semantic holism aboutwords, forI takethat to be more basic than holism aboutsentences. 3. I have locatedthedifference between theholist and thelocalistin their views of the extent to whichthe inferentialproperties of an expression contribute to itsmeaning. Sometimes thedifference is locatedin theextent to which beliefs associated with theexpression contribute to itsmeaning. Although these twoversions of thedispute are in factdistinct, as we shall see (III.4), they are usuallytreated as equivalent. My purpose is to reject thecase forbothversions I shallmostly ofholism. However, discuss"theinferential version" treating "the I think beliefversion" is calledfor. theinferential separately onlywhenthat that version oflocalism is close to thesort ofsemantics we should defend. in thebasic argument 4. The talkof expressions is of tokens; of datable, placeable mental states, inscriptions, sounds, etc. These tokens are,of course, in the written ones(forexample, tokens meaningful, differing from meaningless to speakersand sand by thewind) in their historically givencausal relations henceto other meaningful tokens and theworld. So they shouldnotbe thought of of as if they werestripped of theserelations and "uninterpreted." By talking meaningful tokens, we can avoidtalkof"propositions." Thisis an advantage not simply becausepropositions are creatures of darkness butalso because talkof themin thiscontext at one place I shall is explanatorily unhelpful. However, applythediscussion topropositions (III.6). in virtue of its 5. A mentalsentencetokenhas its inferential properties These inferential actual and potential inferential relations to othersentences. relations are (nonnormative) causal relations of a certain sort.The inferential properties ofa mental wordtoken arethosethat thesentence containing ithas in virtue of thatword(rather thanin virtue of other wordsor solelyin virtue of from the structure). The inferential properties of a linguistic token are derived properties of the mentaltokenthatcaused it. It is likelythateverywordis related byinferential properties toevery other word. is constituted notby 6. The extreme localist believesthat a word's meaning its inferential properties but onlyby its linksto the world.Such linksmust via or indirectly have something to do withtheword'smeaning, either directly, inferential relations to other words, on anyplausibletheory.4 So we shouldnot taketheholist arefully constituted as proposing that all meanings by inferential to do properties. The idea thattheexternal relations of languagehave nothing in thestructuralist with meaning is absurd (despite itspopularity tradition).5 7. Talk of "themeaning" of a tokenis vague. I think thatthisvagueness playsan important role in theholist'smisconception of theissue.In particular, A defense theimplication is very that a token hasjustone meaning misleading. aboutthe of localismwouldrequire ourbeingmuchmoreprecise, particularly

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284/Michael Devitt in assessing the meanings.Nevertheless, purposes for which we attribute arguments for we can leavethetalkof meaning holism, vague. forholismthatI shall considerare due to 8. Two of thefourarguments I shallnotconsider for theindeterminacy hisfamous argument Quine.However, from a "principle of translation arguments that start (1960). NorshallI consider ofcharity."6 I haveargued against suchprinciples elsewhere.7 I.3 A StrawMan? properties is that all of theinferential The conclusion of thebasic argument of an expression token constituteits meaning. This is a startlingly in myheadtohavethesamemeaning as one individualistic doctrine. Fora token inferential relations; in yoursthere difference in their mustnotbe thesmallest Indeed, for a (so far as inference is concerned). we must be functional duplicates in myheadlastweekI in myheadthisweekto meanthesameas a token token it is almost certain of myearlier self.As a result, must be a functional duplicate with no person noreven with person that eversharesa singlethought anyother himself at a different time. as holismmayseemso startling The individualistic aspectof thisextreme to it.Indeed, consider therecent to raisedoubts that subscribes response anyone of Todd Jones, EdmondMulaire, and Stephen Stichto Fodor's individualistic characterization ofholism:
We can't think endorsed thisveryradical of anyonewho has explicitly no versionof Holism.Nor is Fodormuchhelpon thisscore;he offers man. (1991: 69). references.... Fodor's MeaningHolistis a straw

Arethey right? A problemwithsemantic holismis thatit is seldom statedclearlyand Fodor complainsof this (1987: 55). Jones,Mulaire, and Stich explicitly. concedethepoint(1991: 69). Nevertheless, we findfairly explicit sometimes likeextreme holism: statements ofan individualistic doctrine
we believe,on all the Whatourwordsmeandependson everything in the createsdifferences theoretical difference between individuals ...every those whenever identities of their reference failure conceptsand threatens theories are faulty. (Papineau 1987: 98) ...theholistically role of 'polio' in some world-view individuated conceptual of theunderlying can notonlybe altered out aboutthenature by finding of thedisease,butalso by finding that, say,myAuntSally had it as etiology a younggirl.(McClamrock1989: 260) and you say "Wateris more ...ifI say "Wateris moregreenish thanbluish", for"water"...in contents bluishthangreenish," narrow thenwe have different thereal worldwe can expect no twocases to be subsumed by thesame law of content. (Block 1991: 40-1)

we aremaking. (Harman 1973:14) assumptions

is doctrine something close to the extreme Apartfromwhatis explicit, in mostholist thisis that One persuasive reasonforthinking implicit writings.8

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A Critique Holism/285 of theCase forSemantic of theargument ifthearguments forholism weregood then, with theexception from functionalism (V), they wouldestablish an extreme doctrine. Fodorand shouldalarmus Anything close to theextreme doctrine alarms all. However,my rejection of thearguments forholismdoes not dependon their taking conclusions as extreme. The arguments arenotgood in anycase. II. The Argument from Confirmation Holism of holismis theidea that One cause of theinexplicitness Quine somehow established thedoctrine years ago in "Two Dogmas"(1953: 2046). in "Two Dogmas"andelsewhere, tomysatisfaction WhatQuineestablished at least, was the epistemological holism:put extremely, view,confirmation ofa sentence depends on the justification perhaps tooextremely, the justification of every other sentence.Combiningthis with the semanticview, verififor semanticholism.For, cationism, does indeed yield a simple argument is itsmethod ofjustifiaccording to verificationism, themeaning of a sentence cation. So if thatjustification dependson everysentencethenso does the meaning.9 can be related Thiscombination ofconfirmation holism andverificationism oftheargument: to thebasic argument as follows. Consider thefirst premise (1) constitute its Some ofan expression's inferential properties meaning.

becauseitis Whyshouldwe believethis? The verificationist has an easyanswer: Ifthisis in virtue a sentence is justified. of itsinferential that (partly) properties thereasonforbelieving then confirmation holismleads to the thefirst premise secondc (2) constitute its If someofan expression's inferential properties then meaning they all do.

that Therecan be no principled theinferential properties basisfor distinguishing count toward from thosethat do not. meaning is not supportedby any Despite its evident appeal, verificationism false. That it leads to and is, in my view, certainly compellingargument it(cfQuine 1969: 81).10 semantic holism is a compelling reasontoreject III. The Argument from the Rejection of Analyticity III.I Analyticity and theFregeanAssumption to Quineis usuallythought Independent ofanyverificationist assumptions, in hisattack on the havesupported (2) and theno-principled-basis consideration 11 It is claimedthatto reject(2) (after accepting analytic-synthetic distinction.

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286/Michael Devitt (1)) is to support thisdistinction. As a result, somesentences wouldbe known a in that priori;they could notconceivably be false;theywouldbe unrevisable they must be heldtrue comewhatmayin experience; there wouldbe privileged would require the analytic-synthetic distinction knowledge. Furthermore, principled distinctions between"changeof beliefand changeof meaning,"12 between"collateralinformation and thedeterminants of content,"13 between "what properly belongs in a dictionary and what properly belongs in an encyclopedia."14Quine is supposedto have shownus thatthereis no such privileged knowledge andthat there areno suchdistinctions. An analytically truesentence is often said to be one thatis truesolelyin is not virtue of meaning. A synthetically true sentence, in contrast, is one that truesolely in virtueof meaning.What has this distinction to do withthe of a rejection of (2)? The rejection of (2) has theconsequence that themeaning 15 is constituted linksto some of 'bachelor,' token, say a token by itsinferential -for example, 'frustrated.' words -for example, 'unmarried' -but notto others is true It may thenlook as though thesentence 'All bachelors are unmarried' in theabove of thisfactaboutmeaning and henceis analytic solelyin virtue of In contrast, 'All bachelors is nottrue solelyin virtue sense.16 are frustrated' iftrue meaning and hence, at all, is synthetically so. notedthatthis Appearances are deceptive. First, it has been insufficiently

reference.17From this assumptionit follows that 'bachelor"s meaninglinkto 'unmarried' is also reference-determining, andso 'bachelor' determining can onlyrefer objects. to objectsthat 'unmarried' refers to; that is, to unmarried Without the This is whatmakes'All bachelors are unmarried' appearanalytic. withthe linkwouldbe quitecompatible assumption themeaning-determining sentence's falsity.18 I agree withthe Fregeanassumption. As a resultI thinkthata truthproperties to referential semantics will explainthecontribution of inferential meaningat the same timethatit explainsreference (1981, 1989). However, of one factor many disagree. Theythink that theinferential properties constitute These two relatively meaningwhile reference and truth constitute another. conceptual-role (or independent factors require distinct semantics, a "narrow" 19 On semantics. semantics as wellas a "wide"truth-referential functional-role) of this"two-factor" therejection of (2) does not implyany doctrine theory, factorof analyticity. For, thatrejectionis concernedwith the inferential withthe meaning, whereasanalyticity, beinga doctrine of truth, is concerned other could haveno factor. So, forthistheory, theargument against analyticity to tend direct two-factor theorists holist consequences. Yet,interestingly enough, be holists. Presumably they areinfluenced byother arguments. on the The dependence of theargument from therejection of analyticity an Fregeanassumption undermines itas an argument for holism.For,clearly,

that line assumption": ofreasoning depends crucially onthe following "Fregean as they determine inferential properties constitute meaning onlyinsofar

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A Critique of theCase forSemantic Holism/287 easy localistresponse to theargument is simply to droptheassumption. There are tworeasonswhytheholist should notobjectto this response. 1. Suppose thatthe Fregean localist's view thatthereis a meaningdetermining relation between 'F' and 'G' commits herto theview that'All F's are G' is analytic. Then theFregeanholistshouldalso be committed to this view.For theholist also thinks that there is that meaning-determining relation between'F' and 'G.' He differs in thinking thatthereare manymore such relations:to 'H,' 'I,' 'J,' etc. (some, presumably, yieldingnon-universal sentences.) His disagreement withthelocalistshouldbe simply overthesize of thegroupof analytic If commitment statements. to analyticity posed a problem forthe localistwho accepts theFregeanassumption, it would pose a much worseone fortheholist whoacceptstheassumption. 2. The holist should not accept the Fregean assumption in any case. Consider itsconsequences for thereference ofa word.According to thelocalist, if,through some error in a person'stheory, theconjunction of herword'sfew reference-determining wordsfailsto refer, so also does theoriginal word;for if'adultunmarried example, male' failed torefer, so would'bachelor.' According to theholist,theslightest error in hertheory threatens general reference failure (as David Papineaunotesin a passagequotedin I.3); thereference of each word dependson so manyothers in thetheory. Givensuchtruisms as "If 'cat' does notrefer then there areno cats,"this loss ofreference threatens loss oftheworld. Manyholists resist thisthreat by claiming that we all "live in different worlds" of ourtheories' Sensibleholists willsimply making. droptheassumption.20 According to received opinion, we must accepttheno-principled-basis consideration and holismto avoid analyticity. Butlocalismcouldimply analyticity only given the Fregeanassumption. So localistscould avoid analyticity by theassumption, dropping as many holists do and all should.Theargumentfrom therejection ofanalyticity is really an argument against theFregeanassumption notlocalism. However, theassumption is worth andso wemust defending proceed. There is anotherreason forproceeding:one aspect of the analyticity argument-therevisability worry-can be resurrected without the Fregean assumption. Yet, we shallsee that even ifthat aspectweregood theargument wouldstilldo nothing to showthatnon-Fregean holismis preferable to nonFregeanlocalism (III.5). 111.2 andLogical Truth Analyticity Appearancesare deceptivein a second way. Even with the Fregean assumption, thesentence'All bachelorsare unmarried' is nottruesolely in virtue of meaning and so is notanalytic in theabove sense. The sentence is indeedtrue partly in virtue ofthefact that 'unmarried' must refer toanything that 'bachelor' refers to but it is also truepartlyin virtueof the truth of 'All unmarrieds are unmarried.' The latter sentence is whatQuine calls a "logical

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288/Michael Devitt in another, beinganalytic truth." So thelocalistis committed to thesentence by definition" to a logicaltruth. perhaps less popular, sense:it can be "reduced herto theview that logicaltruths are But herrejection of (2) does notcommit to thesentence being truesolelyin virtue of meaning. So she is notcommitted in theoriginal analytic sense. In virtue are unmarried' true? The localist could, ofwhatis 'All unmarrieds in virtue and I think answer itis true partly of whatitmeans should, as follows: in virtue and partly of the way the worldis, thefactthatall unmarrieds ai of 'All bachelors are unmarried' depends on this unmarried. Andsincethetruth on theworld.21 So ourlocalistcan go logicaltruth, itstruth also depends partly that thetruth of every sentence depends alongwiththegeneral Quineandictum on its meaning partly and partly on theworld.Hence she does notbelievethat are some sentences of meaning. She believesthat they are true solelyin virtue in virtue of meaning, are analytic true they onlyin this giventhelogical truths; weaksense. 'All bachelors and mathematical truths are are unmarried,' logical truths, to explainthisnecessity often to be logicallynecessary.The attempt thought to notethat It is important was a majormotivation fordoctrines of analyticity. withsuch of (2) does notcommit herto any doctrine thelocalist's rejection If she does think arenecessary. pretensions. She might notacceptthat thetruths theory of that necessity. that they are,sheneednotacceptanyparticular

Argumentfrom "Two Dogmas" III.3 The


Whathas "Two Dogmas" got to do withthis?The paperhas two sortsof The first sortare arguments againstattempts argument againstanalyticity. in terms of notions of synonymy, state mostly Carnap's-to explainanalyticity do that theexplanations andsemantic rule. Quineargues description, definition, notbreakout of theintensional cannot, of course, circle.But thesearguments prejudge all attempts to breakoutof thecircle.Theymustleave it as an open ofmeaning canbe whether a scientifically respectable account empirical question one with localist given;and whether a theory that givesthiswillbe a moderately of theabove sort. arguments. weakanalyticity So I shallsay no moreof these Itestablishes certain The secondsort ofargument hasbeenmoreinfluential. holism and empirical confirmation epistemological views, in particular, A consequence is thatno belief,not even a law of logic or revisability. in thefaceof experience; theweb ofbelief mathematics, is immune to revision is "seamless." The contrasting view-that theweb is seamed-supplied the to othermajormotivation of analyticity. fortraditional doctrines According thosedoctrines, epistemic status;theyare analyticbeliefshave a privileged So Quine's "Two Dogmas" knowna prioriand are empirically unrevisable. of stands aspectsof traditional doctrines clearly opposedto theepistemological

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A Critique of theCase forSemantic Holism/289

The rejectionof (2) is simplya semanticmatter, makingno epistemic claims at all.23 Insofar as theconsiderations above providea routefrom this rejectionto a doctrine worthy of the name "analyticity," it is a routeto a nonepistemic doctrine. This doctrine will yielda privileged epistemic status to thesentence, 'All bachelors are unmarried,' onlyifwe add assumptions about no good reasonforthelocalistto makeanyassumptions that yieldunQuinean conclusions. Considerlogical truths. The localistmaythink thatthese,like any other, in virtue are truepartly in virtue of their meaning and partly of theway the worldis. The logicaltruths do of courseenjoya privileged epistemic status of some sortbutthere need be no moreto thisthanQuine indicated: a sentence in our earnsitsplace on thelistof logicaltruths by having a certain centrality web ofbelief. Consider meanings.Cartesianism is still rife in this realm. Linguistic to themind. is thought to makemeanings (conceptual) competence transparent Merelyunderstanding thewords'bachelor'and 'unmarried' the (merely having of conceptsBACHELOR and UNMARRIED) yieldspropositional knowledge their And meanings, including therelations thesemeanings have to each other. thisknowledge can be brought beforetheconsciousmindby "analysis."The localist need not go along with this Cartesianism. Furthermore, the is implausible Cartesianism and almostentirely theresult unargued, apparently of thebeguiling 'knows use of thevagueterm 'know' in theordinary locution, I haveargued themeaning.' this at length elsewhere.24 Once (1) is accepted,we have seen thattherejection of (2), whichis so important to stopping holism, commits theFregean localistto thedoctrine that some sentences can be "reduced This doctrine by definition" to logical truths. does notpretend to explaineither or aprioricity.25 logical necessity Perhaps, itis notworthy of thename"analyticity." to the therefore, Thatis ofno concern localist. Herconcern doctrine is simply toreject (2), nottoresurrect a traditional I shallnowdrawoutin moredetailhowthisrejection ofanalyticity. is perfectly I shallconsider with of a priori a Quineanepistemology. thematter compatible knowledgefirst, the matter of the of revisability second, and the matter distinctions third. unprincipled

Butlocalism's analyticity. rejection of(2) doesnotcommit it toanyofthese epistemological aspects.22

ourknowledge ofmeanings andabout ourknowledge oflogical truths. There is

1.4 A Priori Knowledge


A priori notderived knowledge is often claimedto be knowledge fromexany appeal to perience, knowledgethatis, or could be, justifiedwithout The Fregean is notcommitted to suchknowledge. experience. localist Joebelievestokens of Supposethat

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290/Michael Devitt (A) All F's areG (S) AllF'sarelH of 'F' depends -they are in his"belief box." Supposefurther that themeaning of this, on itsinferential linksto 'G' butnoton itslinksto 'H'. On thestrength Suppose that Joe not let us say that(A) is, but(S) is not,"weaklyanalytic." that there onlybelievesthese sentences butknowsthem. Mustthelocalistthink in thewayhe knows, is a difference orcouldknow, them? No. The processes by must bothmeetthe which they getintothebelief box,and aremaintained there, same standardof justification, whateverthatmay be. The storyforboth inaccordwith sentences can be fully confirmation holism. Of course, there is a route to knowledge of (A) that is notavailablefor(S). IfJoeknows(i) that determined thereference of 'F' in his belief box is (partly) 'All G's areG' is true, then he can infer (A). bythereference of 'G,' and(ii) that However, this route is not interestingly different fromthe route for the semantic nonanalytic (S). Both (i), which is an applicationof theoretical at in theusual knowledge, and (ii), whichis a logical truth, mustbe arrived empirical way. as a resultof his Consider(i) in particular. The Cartesianview is that, linguistic competence, Joe knowsthat 'G' standsin themeaning-determining relationto 'F.' The localist should reject this,seeing competencenot as not semanticpropositional knowledgebut as a skill: it is knowledge-how to infer knowledge-that. So competence with'F' consists(partly)in tending that tokens of 'x is G' from tokens of 'x is F.' It does notconsistin knowing 'F' is relatedin thisway to 'G.' This knowledge of a wouldbe an application to to applythistheory semantic theory. Joemaywell be in a privileged position But thisdoes not his own thoughts, forhe has readyaccess to thosethoughts. givethetheory or itsapplication anyspecialepistemic status. I havepointed against theFregean outthat theanalyticity argument is really here.On the assumption notlocalism(III.1). The pointis worth emphasizing thenthe one hand,iftheassumption as it is by two-factor theories, is rejected, to localism. For, concernabout a prioriknowledgeis obviously irrelevant without the assumption, the inferential linksbetweenwordsneed not yield of the words 'lemon' and truths. For example,even if mereunderstanding to oftheir meanings leading, perhaps, 'yellow'didyieldpropositional knowledge that thebeliefwas thebelief,'All lemonsare yellow,'that wouldnotestablish true.26 ofmeanings couldnotyield Without theFregean assumption, knowledge On of thefacts. knowledge of facts and so couldnotyieldprivileged knowledge theother is accepted and we becomeconvinced by the hand,if theassumption conthatlocalism has unacceptableepistemological analyticity argument then has evenworseones:if we should that holism sequences, also be convinced localism yieldedprivilegedknowledgeof a few facts,holism would yield privileged knowledge ofmany.

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Holism/291 of theCase forSemantic A Critique there totheidea that of (2) givesno support localist'srejection The Fregean idea But there is another of from experience. that is notderived canbe knowledge theaboveidea): it wayofunderstanding (or,perhaps, another a priori knowledge Let us explore thisidea. concept. dispute. of theholism-localism twoversions Earlier(I.2), I distinguished to whichthe thedispute is overtheextent version According to theinferential According to thebelief itsmeaning. of a wordconstitute inferential properties associated with theword to whichbeliefs is overtheextent version thedispute version theinferential its meaning. So far, we havebeen discussing constitute it Atthispoint, thearguments to thebelief version.27 couldbe adapted although thetwoversions. between briefly to thedifference is necessary toattend of the Clearly,if it were thecase thata beliefin (A) were constitutive follow that Joecould notgain theword it would meaning of theword'F' then if it were thecase thattheinferential without gainingthebelief.In contrast, it would not 'x is G' from'x is F' were constitutive, practiceof inferring to thebelief, Joe would need two his inferential practice follow. To get from he followed thispractice and thelogicalbeliefthat other beliefs:thebeliefthat the that Thisdemonstrates thepractice wouldnotbe good unless(A) weretrue. dispute arenotequivalent. twoversions oftheholism-localism a belief alonedoes notevenrequire On theinferential competence version, knowledge of (A). On the in (A) and so there of itrequiring can be no question beliefversion,competence does requirethe beliefbut thereis no way that that turnsthe belief into competencealone can supply the justification does notyieldpropositional seenthat competence knowledge. We havealready about knowledge knowledge about 'F"s. No moredoes it yieldpropositional (A) to me that, where GeorgesRey has suggested Perhaps thisis too hasty. 'F' is indeedweaklyanalytic, a beliefin it gainedin theprocessof acquiring be claimed,this way of mightcountas one knowna priori.For, it might it is knowledge out,if thisis a priori gainingit is reliable. But,as Rey points a prioriin thissense and yetnot know something harmless. For, Joe might is a priori, Joehas toknowand knowthat theknowledge he does. To knowthat is weaklyanalytic. he has to knowthatthesentence theory; applya semantic as any.29 So, the factthata is, of course,as empirical And thatknowledge in thissense does notsupplyany basis forfootsentence is knowna priori thenit is if it is knowna priori, about it. Necessarily, stamping dogmatism if it is knownat all, thenit is true.The key empirical true.But, necessarily, thissortof a whether or not?In brief, Is it known, a priori questionremains: knowledge. supplies no privileged priori knowledge
F's.28

or oflearning a word inthe process world that canbegained is knowledge ofthe

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292 /Michael Devitt

III5. Unrevisable Sentences


Here is a typicalstatement of a common worry: has obvious epistemological Analyticity consequences:An analyticsentence wouldbe unrevisable, in thesensethat to denyor rejectit wouldbe eo ipso to abandonitsstandard meaning; one whocalled it falsewouldbe, as Quine says,not denying thedoctrine but changing thesubject.Thus nothing could countas evidenceagainstthetruth expressed by an analytic sentence, and moregenerally we could have no rational grounds fordoubting that truth (we could be mistaken onlyaboutthemeanings of therelevant words).(Lycan 1991: 112)

I thinkthatthe idea thatanalyticity leads to an unacceptable revisability is We shouldfirst remind ourselves that to the thelocalistis notcommitted logical necessity of analyticsentences (III.2). So if thereis to be a relevant worryabout revisability it mustconcernour epistemicrelationsto these sentences. theinferential version oflocalism. ForJoeto revisehisopinion Cons'ider of (A) is forhimto dropit from hisbelief Joecan box. Ourdiscussion showsthat drop (A) without changingthe meaningof 'F.' For, belief in (A) is not of understanding constitutive the meaning of 'F.' Thus,Joe might drop the sentence because,he is unaware that he follows themeaning-determining practice 'x is G' from 'x is F'; or becausehe does notrealizethat of inferring there is a logicallinkbetween this practice andthesentence. his Perhapsit is notpsychologicallypossible forJoe to drop (A) from beliefbox without changing meaning.But nothing interesting followsfrom this, and certainly nothing unQuinean does. It is, forexample, quitecompatible withQuinean epistemology thatit shouldbe psychologically impossiblefor humans toabandon various logicaltruths. Joe knewthat Thenhe wouldknow Suppose that (A) was weakly analytic. or abandonthat he can onlydropitfrom hisbelief box bychanging itsmeaning inga logicaltruth. But,of course, his knowledge that (A) is weakly analytic is as revisableas can be: it is theresultof thefallibleapplication of a fallible is no question theory; there ofitbeingheldcomewhat mayin experience.30 version Revisability does noteven appeartobe a problem for theinferential of localism.However, it mayappearto be forthebeliefversion. For,on that version, weaklyanalytic sentences are indeednotrevisablewithout meaning But suppose it were. There change.I shall argue thatthisis not a problem. wouldbe twointeresting consequences. the First, we shouldnotethat theproblem wouldremain evenifwe dropped Fregean assumption. Without that assumption thelocalistwouldnot,of course, be committed she wouldstill to anyanalyticity. However, on thebeliefversion, Ifa be committed to somesentences without beingunrevisable meaning change. beliefin (A) is constitutive of themeaning of 'F' then Joecannot drop(A) from
misguided.

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Holism/293 of theCase forSemantic A Critique or not.So, to whether (A) is analytic meaning changing his beliefbox without the Fregean without argument the analyticity we can resurrect this extent, if revisability were a thatassumption, Second, withor without assumption. For where fortheholist. forthelocalistit wouldbe a worseproblem problem theholist meaning change, without thelocalistmakesa fewbeliefsunrevisable A tokenis of a certain generalconsiderations. Here are some perfectly a pawn,a capitalist, a philosopher, itbe a cat,a pain,a hammer, type-whether constitute Thoseproperties properties. -in virtue certain of having orwhatever itwould did nothavethoseproperties so that ifsomething type itsbeingof that they areones properties arerelational; Often theconstitutive type. notbe of that things. to other of itsrelations an objecthas in virtue types:a tokenthatis a Let us comparetwo tokensthatare of relational has many capitalist that meansBACHELOR. The token and a token capitalist, thatmay changeover time.Some of thesechanges,for properties relational example ceasing to own a Volvo, do not affectthe person's still being a do affect forexampleceasingto own meansof production, Others, capitalist. is nothing But there she ceases to be a capitalist. property, this:ifshe loses that from to beinga capitalist to stopherlosingwhatis essential morein principle in Joe's beliefbox that has the token a particular whatis inessential. Similarly, BACHELOR maychangeovertime.(Or, if the of meaning property relational of it think far-fetched, timeis a little through idea of sucha tokencontinuing I shallignore thissubtlety.) relations. withdifferent beingreplacedby another ofthe themeaning do notaffect changes someofthese to thelocalist, According that we have been supposing version, tokenbutothers do. On theinferential FRUSTRATED does not to tokens meaning related ceasingto be inferentially relatedto tokensmeaning affect meaningwhilstceasing to be inferentially to related ceasingtobe appropriately version, UNMARRIED does. On thebelief a token sentence in the belief box meaning ALL BACHELORS ARE meaningwhilstceasing to be appropriately FRUSTRATED does not affect relatedto one thatmeansALL BACHELORS ARE UNMARRIED does. But to is nothing morein principle to stopthetokenlosingwhatis essential there cannotboth cease to be its meaningthan what is inessential.Something and be a capitalist. Something relatedto means of production appropriately othertokensand still relatedto certain cannotbothcease to be appropriately meanBACHELOR. whichtokens can have it.When In general, constrains thenature of a type are economic.When the thetypeis thatof beinga capitalist, theconstraints The latter are semantic. BACHELOR, theconstraints typeis thatof meaning even thanthe former, or surprising shouldbe no moreshocking constraints whenthey involve beliefs. droppinga token that means ALL Accordingto a semantictheory, BACHELORS ARE UNMARRIED changes meanings. According to an

forholism. noargument provide about revisability many. Worries makes

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294/Michael Devitt economictheory, ceasingto own meansof production changessomething from beinga capitalist. The former fact is no more reason for abandoning thesemantic theory than is thelatter for abandoning theeconomic theory. Such unrevisability

Theremay,of course, be good semantic reasonsfordoubting (as I do) that the meaning of a tokenis partly constituted by a certain belief.My pointis simply that theworry aboutunrevisability shouldnotbe amongthosereasons. My argument involves a distinction between theproperties of a token that constitute its beingof a certain typeand theproperties that do not.This may seemto result in an unQuinean in modalities. involvement But itneednot.The distinction andthemodalities can be sustained bymere for regularities; example, thefactthatall capitalists own meansof production buttheydo notall own Volvos. This is acceptableeven to Quine (1966: 50-1). Apartfrom this that, modal issue is quite general,having no special bearingon semanticsor epistemology. in anywaywith version of localismconflicts Neither confirmation holism, even in theextreme in whichwe stated form it. In thefaceof experience, each tokenin thebeliefbox, withits meaning-determining have to relations, might be assessedagainst As a every other one,with itsmeaning-determining relations. resultof thisassessment, any tokencould be droppedfromthe beliefbox. Linguistic or conceptual competence alone brings no knowledge (or, following Rey's suggestion, no knowledge of knowledge) and so does notprevent this revision. Localismcan acceptthat a person she can couldbe wrong aboutanything: Ifitseemsinconceivable believefalsesentence tokens anddisbelieve true ones.31 that we couldbe wrong needsexplanation. the aboutsomesentence, that Perhaps weak analyticity of thesentence That would could be partof theexplanation. require a psychological linkbetween that analyticity and theinconceivability (a link thatwe would have to discover without makingthe assumptionthat are competence alone yieldspropositional of meanings.) And there knowledge of inconceivability otherpossibleexplanations as Quine,Putnam, and others have shown.In any case, theinconceivability of error cannotestablish truth; whatwas once inconceivable is often now takenforgranted, as manyfamiliar show. examples In sum theinferential version of localismdoes noteven appearto have a problem withrevisability. The beliefversion mayappearto have butdoes not really: the unrevisability it is committed to has no consequences thatare or otherwise epistemologically objectionable. 111.6 Unrevisable Propositions So farI have avoidedany talkof propositions. thatthis Some will think missesthemainpoint. Theywillobjectthat itis a consequence of localismthat

is not epistemological; itis harmlessly "metaphysical."

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Semantic Holism/295 of theCase for A Critique But they wouldbe thisis dreadful. are unrevisable and that somepropositions overtopropositions. carries straight wrong. Ourdiscussion linksbetween'F' and 'G,' and thelogical On thebasis of theinferential theproposition that truth of theproposition all F's are F, we might say that that We shouldstart proposition unrevisable? analytic. Is this all F's are G is weakly to any once again,thatthelocalistis notcommitted by reminding ourselves, ourepistemic mustconcern So theworry aboutrevisability logical necessities. propositions. relations to analytic that all F's areG tocease to believeit ForJoewhobelievestheproposition is for him to drop fromhis belief box any sentencethat expresses the that proposition.Obviously Joe can do this. But suppose he entertains versionof proposition, thensurelyhe mustbelieve it? Not on theinferential requires a sentencethatexpresses thatproposition localism: entertaining in certain any particular inferential but it does notrequire practices engaging does indeed entertaining theproposition version, incontrast, belief. On thebelief his from revising seem to requirebelievingit. But Joe is no moreprevented to revising herrelation from thanwas ourcapitalist relation to theproposition IfJoeis to entertain he must believeit. theproposition themeansofproduction. In neither own meansof production. If thepersonis to be a capitalist she must objectionable. "metaphysical" unrevisability case is this Could Joe come to believe the proposition thatsome F's are not G? is theanswer he couldon theinferential version. On thebeliefversion, Certainly that meansSOME F'S ARE NOT G in his notso clear.ForJoeto havea token meansALL F'S ARE G. Perhaps belief box he wouldalso haveto haveone that she willanswer that thelocalistwillanswer that thisis notpossible.Or perhaps that someF's theproposition in thosecircumstances Joewouldbelieveneither are not G nor the proposition thatall F's are G. More plausibly,if less charitably,she may answer that Joe would believe both propositions. about theanswerexplainsthecautious"seem" in thelast para(Uncertainty concern. localist theanswer, there is no cause for graph.) Whatever in a teacup.And ifit worry about localismis a storm The unrevisability aboutholism. werenotitwouldbe moreofa worry Distinctions III.7. TheUnprincipled has undesirable to have shownnotonlythatanalyticity Quine is thought Once distinctions. itinvolves butalso that unprincipled epistemic consequences, localism. does notundermine again,Quine'sargument no unprincipled distinction version of localisminvolves (a) The inferential ofcontent" becauseitis not between "collateral information andthedeterminants this of content. (b) Similarly, committed to any information beingdeterminant ofbelief "change distinction between anyunprincipled localism does notinvolve ofchanging is nota matter and changeof meaning" becausechangeof meaning

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Devitt 296/Michael (c) Finally,thislocalism inferential practices. of changing beliefbuta matter entries and dica disturbing distinction between encyclopedia does notinvolve If thedictionary than are takento use rather definitions definitions. tionary entries from encyclopedia maydiffer in somecases,32they words, then mention willstillbe informative. suchdefinitions However, in beingweakly analytic. between collateral a distinction oflocalismdoes involve The beliefversion of content. And it has theconsequencethat and thedeterminants information andsomedo not.ButQuine'sargument changemeaning somechanges ofbelief knowledge abouta priori The concern these consequences. against does notcount And the knowledge. do notlead to a priori becausethedistinctions is irrelevant it than areunprincipled these distinctions worry no moreshowsthat revisability being a thatconstitute between the properties shows that the distinction that do notis unprincipled. andtheproperties capitalist

III.8. Conclusion
against is notan argument of analyticity therejection from The 'argument itis Strictly, and holism. consideration localismand fortheno-principled-basis meaning thatwhatconstitutes an argument againstthe Fregeanassumption fails.The Fregean In any case theanalyticity argument reference. determines Unless she also adopts some to weak analyticity. localistis only committed thisanalyticity and mistaken, are bothunnecessary thesesthat epistemological toknowlno commitment It involves consequences. epistemic has no disturbing can knowledge from Theremaybe a senseinwhich experience. edgenotderived in gaining sense.Thereis no objecbe obtained a concept, butit is a harmless in whichknowledge to be heldontocome what is unrevisable, tionable respect I do notrecom(which version oflocalism evenon thebelief mayin experience, one. notan epistemological matter, of (2) is a semantic mend).The rejection IV. The Argument from Psychological Explanation is: in ourbasic argument forholism, The belief of thefirst premise version itsmeaning. beliefs constitute associated (1)* Some ofan expression's to believeit because of therole of Whybelievethis?It seemsto be common in the in psychological We mustposit a difference explanation. expressions inbehavior result that inorder toexplain differences oftwoexpressions meaning in meaning can onlybe accounted that thisdifference It is thought from them. inassociated togo further: for beliefs. Somearetempted bya difference itsmeaning beliefs constitute associated (2)* Ifsomeofan expression's all do. then they The holist follows. conclusion

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Holism/297 A Critique of theCase forSemantic come perilously literature arguments in thepsychological I think that many also thefollowing: close to this.Consider
to accept are led thereby assumptions Individuals withdifferent theoretical different actions.Whytheninsistthatsuch different beliefsand to perform to whenthetendencies concepts, individuals have thesame causal-role us aboutare different?" to inform thought and actionwe wantthoseconcepts (Papineau 1987: 98).

example Ruritanian (1991: 60-1) of Putnam's Ned Block's adaptation Finally, of thissort. (1983: 144-7)is an argument Block's by considering I shallbring out theflawsin thissortof argument versionin some detail.The majorflawis thefinalmove to (2)*. This simply for, theno-principled-basis assumes whattheholistis supposedto be arguing move may seem plausible thatthisunargued consideration. However,I think forsomebeliefsit worked for(1)*: ifthat reasoning because of thereasoning that mayseem obviousthatitwouldworkforall. So I shallfocuson showing that is also flawed. reasoning Therearetwostages to Block's argument:33 at andBruceare 10-year-old twins whowereadopted Stage one: Barry each where andSouth Ruritania, they birth homesinNorth intodifferent to causesthedrinkers a liquidcalled'grug'that observe adults drinking is Scotchwhisky, southern "grug"is beer. act silly.Northern "grug" noneof Scotch andbeer, between differences Though there aremany on Barry impinged these differences hasas a matter offactdifferentially andBruceknow abouttheir respective "grugs" andBruce.All that Barry drunk. maketheadults toned liquidsthat is that earth they areroughly in"wide" inreference andhence Now clearly usesof 'grug'differ their between Barry differences areno relevant sincethere meaning. However, their usesof 'grug'arealikein"narrow" andBruce"in thehead," tofor the advert is what we must meaning meaning. Andnarrow ofpsychological explanation. purposes reachadolescenceand learnfour ordinary Stage two: Bruceand Barry Brucelearns, butdifferent facts aboutwhat call 'grug.'Forexample, they (B) to makeyoudrunk. It takesa lotof grug andBarry learns, to makeyoudrunk. takemuch grug (W) It doesn't of willclearly as a result differ Now thebehaviors ofBruceandBarry that we require explanation these So theneedsofpsychological changes. Yet theonly in narrow meaning. see their usesof 'grug'as nowdiffering So we must beliefs. ofthese from stageone are theacquisitions changes of 'grug.'But therespective meanings see these beliefs as constituting

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298 /Michael Devitt beliefs: many other equally is nothing specialaboutanyofthese there in suchchange beliefs wouldhavedoneas well.Every run-of-the-mill of 'grug.'Indeed, the be seenas changing themeaning belief must of changes with theacquisition of 'grug'continually narrow meaning knowledge. thatnarrow meaning is whatwe (i) I shall notchallengetheassumption to argueagainst(1)* -indeed, I And I am notconcerned need forpsychology. forsomeexpressions-norto think that (1) is probably true thecloselyrelated at stagetwo theuses of 'grug'by Bruceand Barry argueagainsttheclaimthat theabove to see that meanings. However, it is important have different narrow these lattertwo claims. It is considerations fall far shortof establishing beer thebehavior ofBrucetoward difference between indubitable that the expected in themeanings of by a difference and Barry whisky must be explained toward thenontheir an obviousexplanation: But thestory itself supplies expressions. whobelievesthat for example, (B) and(W). A person 'grug'difference between, x and willbehavedifferently toward a lotof x butnotmuchy makesyoudrunk is a Wherethere his concepts ofx and y are thesame or different. y whether in concept in conception a difference difference we haveno needto hypothesize in orderto explainbehavioral We cannot establish, forexample, difference.34 that is different from simply by pointing my'koala'-concept my'tiger'-concept I runawaywhenI think outthat that a tiger is on theloose butnotwhenI think is sufficiently explained that a koala is (cf.Block 1991: 61). For that difference To assumethata tigers butnotkoalas are dangerous. by thefactthatI think in conception in concept is to assumeholismnot entails a difference difference it. arguefor of a fewbeliefs like(B) and (W) after theacquisition (ii) But supposethat 'grug'-meanings. Must we say do differ in their narrow Bruceand Barry really ifthose that thisis attributable to thosebeliefs, (1)*? Of course, thusaccepting Butother we must. beliefs place,then aretheonlychanges that havetaken really linksto theworldare that direct changesare possible.I madethepointearlier the needs of reference important to meaning(I.2, 6). The pointarises from determination buta similar pointcan be made and so is aboutwide meaning, Thena assumption. aboutnarrow meaning. First, supposewe accepttheFregean as a valuegiven a widemeaning is a function that yields word's narrow meaning of somewords meanings theexternal context as an argument.35 So, thenarrow by the factthat, givencertain (at least) constituted (at least) mustbe partly direct their wide meanings are partly by certain (at least)constituted contexts, as Block assumption, Next,supposewe rejecttheFregean linksto that context. does. Then,thenarrow of some words(at least) mustbe functional meanings behavior.36 linksto stimuli and/or by direct roles partly (at least) constituted tochanges in themeanings of 'grug'maybe attributable Either waythechanges of in theseextra-linguistic perhaps from experiences links -changes resulting

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A Critique of theCase forSemantic Holism/299 beerandwhisky -not to thechangesin beliefs. This issuecannotbe settled by consulting ourintuitions aboutthemeagre facts provided in exampleslikethis. itrequires ofa theory Settling theapplication that accommodates thevastrange ofevidence relevant toa theory ofmeaning. (iii) But suppose,finally, thatsome of theseassociatedbeliefsdo indeed constitute therespective meanings. Whereis theargument that they all must? Whereis theargument for(2)*? On theFregeanassumption, forexample, the beliefsthatconstitute meaning determine reference and so are in thatrespect "special."It does notfollowthat all beliefs determine reference and are special. Of course,it maybe felt that is no principled there basis fordistinguishing the ones that determine from theones that do not.But,to repeat, thatis to assume holism notto argueforit. In sum,psychological considerations of thesortadducedby Block do not intheir showthat theadolescent BruceandBarry narrow differ 'grug'-meanings. in Even ifthey do so differ, that difference maynotbe attributable todifferences forthinking that belief.Even ifit is so attributable, no reasonhas been offered all changesin beliefchangemeanings. The argument does notestablish holism; itbegs thequestion. V. The Argument from Functionalism Acceptance of(1) amounts toacceptance ofa conceptual-role, or functionalrole,element to meaning. According to theFregeanassumption, thiselement determines So it shouldbe accommodated within a truth-referential reference. semantics. This is theview I favor. However,manydo not,claiminginstead that a specialfunctional-role viewthen semantics is required (111. 1). Thereceived seems to be thatthissemantics is essentially holistic.So we mustaccept(2). Thus Fodor claims that"functional-role semantics...is...inherently holistic" (1987: 83). Stich assumes without argument thatthe functional-roles that his "fat syntactic"properties constitute are holistic (1991: 248-9). Ron McClamrock simply identifies an individualistic doctrine of themostalarmingly extreme sort functional-role semantics (I.3) with (1989: 260). must be holistic? that functional-role semantics Whydo peoplethink They so far. we have considered mayof coursebe influenced by thearguments that the most popular However, there is oftenno sign of this. Furthermore, should not be thatfromthe rejectionof analyticity, argument, certainly influential because itdepends on theFregean assumption whichfunctional-role semantics thata further is influential: rejects.I think argument functional-role

Funcsemantics is functionalist is essentially holistic. andfunctionalism

tionalism is thought thefunctional to giveno principled basis for distinguishing rolesthat areconstitutive from theones that are not.

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Devitt 300/Michael I shall answer this using functionalist How holisticis functionalism? as examples. theories of themind thetype to David Lewis (1983: 99-107),whatmakessomething According havethecauses and effects ofpainscaptured by itstokens typically pain is that a token pain whatmakessomething and then of folkpsychology; theplatitudes theory is, in some sense, of thattype.So thisfunctionalist is thatit is a token We shall see thattypeholismis holistic.I shall say thatit is "type"-holistic. very mild. As a result, we hope we go scientific. We do notrest with folkpsychology: Do we thenhave to make theseconto come up withfresh generalizations. PAIN witha new one stitutive too and hencehave to replaceourold concept we didn't us a lot that notto be telling PAIN*? Must we takeour new theory but different, to be tellingus about something know about pains but rather The type-holistic? essentially is functionalism related, pains*?In brief, perhaps seemsto be,"Yes." Thus,Block,ina helpful to these questions received answer feelsobligedto talknotof pain butof pain "relative accountof functionalism, of "pain" (1980b: 174). musthave itsown concept to theory T"; everytheory mentalstatesby When Fodor says, "psychofunctionalism type-individuates them" (1987: 70), he that subsume generalizations reference tothepsychological of thatall therelations Bill Lycanseemsto think meansall thegeneralizations. a mental state must it(1988: 49). go intocharacterizing it is onlythenoticed of typeholismthat in thesediscussions It is implicit and psychonatures: platitudes their relations of mentalstatesthatconstitute that believe. So any relations we theorists are things logical generalizations of arenotconstitutive we havenotyetdiscovered painsorpains*mayhavethat their as painsorpains*. natures also in thesediscussionsthatthe relationsthatconstitute It is implicit including at least all mentalstatesare ones thatare realizedin a population cover us all. So Nigel, and generalizations (normal)people: the platitudes whatNigel has Lawrence, and Annacan all have painsor pains*even though himon, and whatAnnahas has turns makeshimthink of Eton,whatLawrence about the typeholismof individualistic makes her angry.There is nothing to take economic properties, mental (norof functionalist functionalist properties ofbeinga capitalist, 111.5 see thediscussion above). another example; from strikingly holismthatmostalarmsus differs semantic The extreme all it is nota holismof shared properties; typeholismin beingindividualistic: itsmeaning constitute shared or not, theinferential relations ofa token, whether and Annado not Nigel,Lawrence, between thedifferences (I.3). So, although This is the meanings. them sharing do prevent them sharing pains,they prevent holism.It getsno feature of extreme mostimplausible and themostdamaging from functionalism. support forholismto takingthe basic argument comes from The individualism this is what that I think is good reasonto think concern tokens. there expression

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Holism/301 A Critique of theCase forSemantic to concern supposewe taketheargument mostholistsintend (I.3). However, properties of an types.Then its holisticconclusionis thatall theinferential of that type-constitute its typical of tokens expression type-all theproperties of themind thetypeholismof Lewis' theory meaning. This is a movetoward holism in an important that all the butit stilldiffers from that aspect:itrequires an expression'smeaning, of a word constitute actual inferential properties them in ourtheory or not.Thisaspectgetsno support whether we have noticed from functionalism. -now takento concern Finally,if premise(2) of the basic argument itneedstobe established byfunctionalism alone,then types-is tobe supported an accidental matter that type-holistic. Ifitis simply functionalism is essentially we needfurther argument to of factthat theories are holistic, somefunctionalist The view show thatfunctional-role semantics is one of thoseholisttheories. thatfunctionalism but it is imholisticseems to be common, is essentially unargued. plausible and,so far as I know, holistic.Then thatfunctionalism wereessentially Suppose, nevertheless, of this"social" The mildness wouldbe type-holistic. functional-role semantics whenwe notice that onlya fewofa token'sinferential holism becomesapparent of itstype.Thus,it may of tokens properties are likelyto be believedtypical believedtypical of tokens properties well be thecase thattheonlyinferential thatmean BACHELOR are ones thatrelatethosetokensto ones thatmean arelikely to be ADULT, meanUNMARRIED, ormeanMALE. Suchproperties properties of any given token that means only a few of the inferential with moderate localism. maybe compatible BACHELOR. So type holism In sum,functionalism semantic holism. Andit givesno support to extreme to show thatit is an argument gives no support to any holismat all without semanticholism essentially holistic.Even if thiswere shown,the resulting wouldbe very mild. Some holistsseem to findtheno-principled-basis consideration obvious, too obviousto really Functionalism shouldgivetheseholists needan argument. wereobvious,whywouldit notbe equallyobvious pause. If theconsideration and Annaall was no principled that there basis forsaying that Nigel,Lawrence, havepains? VI. Conclusion

I consideration. Semanticholismrestson (2) and theno-principled-basis The arguthem all wanting. for holism andfound haveexamined four arguments The holismfailsbecause it restson verificationism. mentfrom confirmation from is notreallyforholismbut rather of analyticity argument therejection because it saddlesthelocalist It failsanyway againsttheFregeanassumption. exfrom psychological assumptions. The argument withunacceptable epistemic

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302/Michael Devitt planation failsbecause it begs thequestion. Finally, theargument from funcan extreme holism and,in anycase, is incomplete.37 tionalismcouldnotestablish To completethe case againstsemanticholism,we need to presentthe positive case forlocalism. I am attempting to presentthis case elsewhere I summarize. (forthcoming). to situate theissue The appeal of semantic holismarisesfrom thefailure to tokens for properly. Meanings are properties we theorists and folkattribute leadsus toascribe theoretical andpractical purposes. The variety ofourpurposes more than one such semanticproperty to a token.In these two respects, semantic properties are like theproperties we ascribeelsewhere:in biology, economics, and so on. Semantic holism'sidea that tokens can haveonlyholistic is misconceived. semantic properties It has no moreto be said forit thanthe properties. Andwe analogousidea that a tokencan haveonlyholistic biological thenatures of need no "principled basis" to show this.Whatever constitutes can constitute both properties, whether in semantics, biology,or wherever, issue holisticand localisticones. The interesting issue is notthisontological or localisticsemantic Shouldwe ascribe holistic butone abouttheories: propones is provided erties Evidencethat we shouldascribelocalistic by to tokens? in ordinary are localistic. 'that'-clauses thefact that theproperties we do ascribe localistic Further evidenceis provided by thefactthat thepractice of ascribing economics, ordinary properties is completely general, to be foundin biology, as could be: life,or wherever. Finally,thisgeneral practice is as "principled" but it would be interest in generality. We could ascribeholisticproperties one pointlessto do so. An interesting questionremains: Whydoes ascribing I think In semantics, localistic property rather than another serveourpurposes? theanswer is tobe found determines reference.38 that bylooking towhat
Notes an argument againstthecase for(1), but offer 1. Fodorand Lepore(1992), in effect, an argumentagainst (1). (The that is not of course the same as offering of the unusualpresentation is made necessaryby their "in effect" qualification of their notionanatomistic.) in terms basic argument that thinking accept (1) without localistmight notingthata "cluster" 2. It is worth is essential to the meaning:whatis essentialis a property any one inferential mostof a smallset of such properties. (weighted) it or "sorites"argument amounted to a "slippery-slope" 3. If thissortof thinking could perhaps be swiftlydismissed. But it is not obvious that any of the slopes: it is not obvious thattheyreston I shall considerare slippery arguments theclaim thatthere is no distinction because no sharpline can be drawnbetween thepropertiesthatcountand thepropertiesthatdo not (cf. Fodor and Lepore 1992: 25). (Thanksto Ned Block and GeorgesRey.) 4. Must the meaninginvolve links to the world rather thanmerelylinks to our leave we shouldhave toeither It mustbecauseotherwise of theworld? experiences reference or overlookthemessageof Putnam'sslogan,"meanings out of meaning thesloganin my 1990. just ain'tin thehead" (1975: 227). I defend

our inparticular localistic properties serve ourtheoretical and practical purposes,

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Holism/303 A Critique of theCase forSemantic


casual aboutthe 5. Fiona Cowie (unpublished) pointsout thatholistsare extremely as if they meaning,oftenwriting links in constituting place of extra-linguistic had no place: meaning is constituted solely by the relations between in the The casualness she pointsto is partof a generaltendency expressions. (Devitt 1989; 1991a). of psychology to ignoreinputsand outputs philosophy 6. E. g., Davidson 1980: 239; 1984: 199-201; Harman 1973: 14; Putnam1983: of such 149-50; 1988: 8-9. See Fodor and Lepore (1992: 59-104) fora criticism holism.They seem not to be forsemantic Sometimesthe arguments arguments. is (near (nihilism) -that there seem rather to presupposesemantic eliminativism accountof aboutmeaning-and to be fora holistic enough)no factof thematter 1983: xiii). (see, forexample,Putnam meanings our practiceof ascribing 1987: 244-9. 7. 1981: 115-8; 1991b: 192-9; Devittand Sterelny of affective manyseem to takeeven differences moreextreme: 8. If not something toneto be relevant to meaning. the suggestionin 9. Quine 1960: 12-13; 1969: 80-1; 1981: 70-1. (Quine regrets "Two Dogmas" thattheunitof significance is thewholeof science:a substantial in see 1991: 268.) There are signs of the argument is sufficient; body of theory theargument (1987: 62-3); so does Loar Putnam1983: 144-7. Fodor summarizes it to Harman. (1982: 273), attributing is another crucialflawin Quine's there 10. Fodorand Lepore(1992: 37-58) arguethat localism. holismpresupposessemantic confirmation argument: 1986: 265-7; Putnam 11. See, e. g., P. M. Churchland 1979: 46-54; P. S. Churchland 1988: 8-11. 12. See Harman1973: 108-9. 13. See Block 1986: 629. to Jerrold Katz. See also 14. Wilson 1967: 63; Wilson credits the formulation Harman1973: 97-100; Block 1991. distinction. 15. I shall mostly not be as pedanticas thisaboutthetype/token 16. What would appear to be analyticfor a "clusterlocalist" (note 2) would be mostof theproperties, G, H, of theform: 'All F's have a (weighted) something cluster from .' And thesame goes forthe"cluster holist."Clusterholismdiffers I ignorecluster in thecluster. localismsimplyin thesize of theset of properties wouldrequire heavyqualifications of them Takingaccount views in whatfollows. in points1 and 2 below. 17. Where inferential constitute the meaningof a word,theymake that properties could on the meaningsof otherwords.So thoseproperties meaningdependent not (fully)constitute of all words.Directlinksto theworldmust(at themeanings thereferences of some words least partly) and determine constitute themeanings 1987: 51-2). (1.2, point6; Devittand Sterelny is 18. The appearance of analyticity depends on the Fregean assumptionif truth is explained in termsof But what if truth explained in termsof reference. thendependson warranted assertability? (Thanksto Bill Lycan.) The appearance constitute meaningonly in so an analogous assumption:inferential properties far as theydetermine So, strictly warranted speaking,eitherthe assertability. Fregean assumptionor some analogue is necessary for the appearance of analyticity. 19. See, for example,Field 1977; McGinn 1982; Loar 1982; Block 1986. Earlier, intemal including Putnam had splitthemeaning of a wordintothree components, a "stereotype," (1975: 269). The and one externalcomponent,the referent reference. does not determine stereotype 20. Could we argue similarly thatthe holistshould not accept the analogue of the of set out in note 18? It seems not, but the identification Fregeanassumption worldanyway truth withwarranted threatens loss of theindependent assertability (Devitt 1991b: 44-6). 21. I emphasizethatthis is not the uninteresting dependenceof a sentenceon the alreadyfixed(1.2, point4), thesentence worldforits meaning.Withits meaning dependson theworldforitstruth.

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304/Mchael Devitt
counts only against an 22. Fodor and Lepore emphasize thatQuine's argument distinctionwith "an epistemic criterion"like aprioricity analytic/synthetic is possible and (1992: 56-8). However,theypresupposethatno othercriterion localism(p. 57). Quinehas refuted moderate hencearguethat propertieswhich are clearly epistemic: 23. Of course (2) is about inferential in beliefformation. The pointis thatneither are significant inferential properties (2), nor its rejection, are epistemic. The distinctionbetween inferential meaning and ones that do not-a distinctionthat propertiesthat constitute at all: it of (2)-need have no epistemicsignificance comes withtherejection about theepistemic statusof any sentence. entailsnothing 24.1981: 95-110; 1983: 674-5; 1991b: 270-5; Devitt and Sterelny1987: 146-8; 1989. 25.This weak doctrineis in the spiritof Putnam(1975: 33-40). See also Antony 1987. (1975: 26.The example comes fromPutnam's originaldiscussion of stereotypes 139-52): he thinksthatthe associationwith 'yellow' is partof the stereotype, and hence meaning,of 'lemon' even though'all lemons are yellow' is not analytic or even true. in 111.1 to show thatthe 27. For example,we could followthelines of theargument of 'All bachelors are unmarried'depends on an adapted apparentanalyticity Fregean assumption. 1987: 79-80. 28. This goes againstDevittand Sterelny "All men are rational 29. MortonWhitepointedout years ago that"the statement (1950: 320). This pointhas not had the animals' is analytic'is itselfempirical" impactit deserves. were sentences thatwere stronglyanalyticin thattheywere true 30. Even if there about the extrasolely in virtueof meaning,hence not in virtueof anything linguistic world, they would still be revisable. For, one's opinion of the woulddependwouldbe revisable. linguistic factsuponwhichsuchtruths by of course,a token of herscould notbothbe disbelieved 31. On thebeliefversion, her and have a meaning that is weakly analytic(perhaps, for example, the But note theneed forcautionin the meaningthatall bachelorsare unmarried). next section. not all: manydictionary entriesare obviouslynot candidatesfor 32. But certainly analyticity. version.I mean to capturethe essence of his 33.This is a modifiedand shortened argument. theconceptECHIDNA. of echidnasis a set of beliefsinvolving 34. My conception So is yours.Unless holismhas been established, we have no reasonto rejectthe conceptionsinvolve the same concept. familiarview thatthese very different earlier (1991: 49) but distinction Block himselfnotes the concept/conception ignoresit in discussingRuritania. thusagreeing meaning, 35. 1 think thatthisis all that needs to be said aboutnarrow than withFodor 1991 againstBlock 1991 (althoughI am being more tolerant and wide meaning Fodorof theidea thatassociations withbeliefsmay constitute hencenarrow meaning). of a word properties 36. 1 have argued(1989) againstStich(1983) thatthesyntactic are insufficient forpsychologicalexplanation. of Mrs T (1983: 54-8, 84-6). 37. 1 have notconsidered Stich's well-known discussion Yet Fodorclaimsthat view is that MrsT makesa case fortheholism "thereceived of belief content" (1987: 62). If this is the receivedview it oughtnot to be. I have noted that Stich assumes without argumentthat his "fat syntactic" thathe thinkscognitive science are holistic.These are properties properties of Mrs T is partof one concerned does) ascribe.His discussion oughtto (perhaps folkdo ascribe(1983: 73-110). Whena matter of whatthe withtheverydifferent similarin certain personascribesa belief,Stich argues,she ascribessomething varying holistically to a certain beliefof herown,therequired similarity respects

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A Critique of theCase forSemantic Holism/305


withthecontext. He does seem to conflate thisholismwiththeholismof content for thelatter;i.e. fortheview that (pp. 54, 106), but thereis no clear argument by a large similarin the context is constituted the content thatis appropriately proportion of the belief's associations. Holistic ascriptionof contentis one thing, holisticcontent ascribedis another. 38. Most of the main ideas in this paper were in the firstdraftof "Meaning Localism,"an unpublished 1989 paper.They werealso in "Whatdid Quine Show at theannualconference of theSocietyfor us aboutMeaningHolism?",delivered to the and Psychology in San Franciscoin June,1991. I am indebted Philosophy Ned Block, Alex Byrne,Fiona Cowie, following forcomments: Louise Antony, David Lewis, Bill Lycan,Corliss Swain, Hartry Field, Jerry Fodor,Gil Harman, and especiallyGeorgesRey. References Louise M. 1987. "Naturalized Epistemology and theStudyof Language."In Antony, and Debra Nails. Dordrecht: Naturalistic Epistemology, editedby AbnerShimony D. Reidel Publishing Company:235-57. Block, Ned, ed. 1980a. Readings in Philosophy of Psychology, Volume 1. Press. Cambridge, Mass.: HarvardUniversity Whatis Functionalism?" In Block 1980a: 171-84. Block, Ned. 1980b. "Introduction: for a Semantics for Psychology".In French, Block, Ned. 1986. "Advertisement Uehlingand Wettstein 1986: 615-78. Content is Not." In Loewerand Rey 1991: 33-64. Block,Ned. 1991. "WhatNarrow Toward a UnifiedScience of the Churchland, Patricia S. 1986. Neurophilosophy: Mind-Brain. Mass.: MIT Press. Cambridge, Realismand thePlasticity ofMind. Cambridge: Churchland, Paul M. 1979. Scientific Cambridge University Press. of Sydney, Cowie, Fiona. Unpublished. "Meaning Holism." BA thesis,University 1987. Press. Davidson,Donald. 1980. Essays on Actionsand Events.Oxford:Clarendon and Interpretation Oxford:Clarendon Davidson, Donald. 1984. InquiriesintoTruth Press. Press. Devitt,Michael. 1981. Designation.New York: ColumbiaUniversity of French, Michael. 1983. "Realismand Semantics," partII of a critical study Devitt, Uehlingand Wettstein 1980. Nous 17: 669-81. Theoryof the Mind." In RereDevitt,Michael. 1989. "A NarrowRepresentational presentation:Readings in the Philosophy of Psychological Representation, edited by StuartSilvers. Dordrecht:Kluwer Academic Publishers:369-402. in Mindand Cognition: A Reader,editedby WilliamG. Lycan.Oxford: Reprinted Basil Blackwell. Ain'tin theHead." In Meaningand Method: Devitt,Michael. 1990. "MeaningsJust Essays in Honor of Hilary Putnam, edited by George Boolos. Cambridge: Press: 79-104. Cambridge University Devitt,Michael. 1991a. "WhyFodor Can't Have it Both Ways". In Loewer and Rey Oxford: Basil Blackwell,2ndedn revised Devitt,Michael. 1991b. Realismand Truth. (lst edn, 1984). Coming to Our Senses: A Programfor Semantic Devitt, Michael. Forthcoming. Localism. to 1987. Language and Reality:An Introduction Devitt,Michael, and Kim Sterelny. thePhilosophy Basil Blackwell. ofLanguage. Oxford: Devitt, Michael, and Kim Sterelny.1989. "Linguistics:What's Wrong with 'the Volume3: Philosophyof Mind and RightView. "' PhilosophicalPerspectives, CA: Ridgeview ActionTheory, Atascadero, 1989, editedby JamesE. Tomberlin. PublishingCompany.
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