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Minds without MeaningsAn Essay on the Content of Concepts$
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Jerry A. Fodor and Zenon W. Pylyshyn

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027908

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027908.001.0001

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Contrarian Semantics

Contrarian Semantics

(p.65) 3 Contrarian Semantics
Minds without Meanings

Jerry A. Fodor

Zenon W. Pylyshyn

The MIT Press

This chapter examines the main theories of concepts that are currently on offer in the cognitive science literature and argues that they are all irredeemably wrong-headed: they all presuppose a more or less “Fregean” account of conceptual content; and, as Gottlob Frege agreed, his sort of semantics would appear to rule out even the possibility of an empirical psychology of cognition. The chapter first considers the so-called “Frege arguments” and some arguments against referentialism, along with the notion of “empty” concepts. It then discusses intensions in relation to extensions. In particular, it reviews two principles: that intensions determine extensions (that is, intensionally identical representations are ipso facto coextensive); and that coextensive representations that are not semantically equivalent must be intensionally distinct. The chapter argues that there is nothing that satisfies both conditions, and hence that there are no such things as intensions—a view that is both contrarian and heretical, at least in the cognitive science community.

Keywords:   concepts, cognitive science, Gottlob Frege, semantics, cognition, Frege arguments, referentialism, empty concepts, intensions, extensions

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