Bootstrapping conceptual normativity?

Thornton, Tim orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-0137-1554 (2021) Bootstrapping conceptual normativity? Philosophical Investigations, 44 (2). pp. 189-205. ISSN 0190-0536

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Both anti-reductionist and reductionist accounts of linguistic meaning and mental content face challenges accounting for acquiring concepts as part of learning a first language. Anti-reductionists cannot account for a transition from the pre-conceptual to conceptual without threatening to reduce the latter to the former. Reductionists of a representationalist variety face the challenge of Fodor’s argument that language learning is impossible.
This paper examines whether Ginsborg’s account of ‘primitive normativity’ might provide some resources for addressing these issues. I argue that primitive normativity can be understood in either of two ways: a ‘no conception’ version and a ‘local conception’ version. Rejecting the ‘no conception’ account of normativity in favour of a ‘local conception’ of a rule expressed in context-dependent demonstrations and examples provides one response to Fodor’s argument. It also provides anti-reductionism with at least one stepping stone to learning full-blown linguistically articulated concepts based on a more primitive local form of normativity.

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