• Minds with meanings (pace Fodor and Pylyshyn)

      Piattelli-Palmarini, Massimo; Univ Arizona, Psychol & Cognit Sci Program, Dept Linguist (MIMESIS EDIZIONI, 2020)
      Jerry Fodor and Zenon Pylyshyn have proposed a purely referential-causal semantics, a semantics without meanings. Adopting Pylyshyn's previous treatment of the fact that we can perceive and track something before we have any idea of what that is, these authors claim that such causal relations to external entities allow us to word-label them and thereby build an entire lexicon with specific referents. I disagree and explain why I do so. The kind of semantics that I prefer is radically opposite: the one proposed by Noam Chomsky and Paul Pietroski. This is an internalist semantics that only has meanings, reference being indirect, often indefinite, sometimes problematic. Chomsky insists that the only posit that is tenable is the internal structure of the speaker-hearer, a complex, abstractly characterizable, computational-derivational apparatus, optimal if left alone, that interfaces with other cognitive apparatuses: the articulatory-perceptual one and the conceptual-intentional one, satisfying the constraints that they impose. I show that the semantics proposed by Fodor and Pylyshyn is especially problematic when inexistent entities, possible entities, fictional characters and objects in the remote past are examined. It is, however, problematic even when dealing with more ordinary concepts. On the contrary, an internalist semantics avoids all these problems.