Epistemological holism and semantic holism

In Yves Bouchard (ed.), Perspectives on Coherentism. Aylmar, Quebec: Editions du Scribe. pp. 17-33 (2002)
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Abstract
This paper draws upon the works of Wilfred Sellars, Jerry Fodor, and Ruth Millikan to argue against epistemological holism and conceptual holism. In the first section, I content that contrary to confirmation holism, there are individual beliefs ("basic beliefs") that receive nondoxastic/noninferential warrant. In the earliest stages of cognitive development, modular processes produce basic beliefs about how things are. The disadvantage of this type of basic belief is that the person may possess information that should have defeated the belief but that was not taken into account in the module's operations. For this reason, at more advanced stages of cognitive development, basic beliefs concern how things appear to be. These appearance beliefs are not formed holistically but should be checked against background beliefs before the person infers how things are. In the second section, I argue against functional-role/inferential-role semantics. Championing teleosemantics, I argue that many concepts' meanings are not determined by the meanings of other concepts. Rather, many concepts are skills of knowing how to identify of what the concept is. These skills can be developed independently of other beliefs or skills and are, in an important sense, theory-neutral.
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Scientific Realism and the Plasticity of Mind.Morton, Adam & Churchland, Paul
Holism: A Shopper's Guide.Fodor, Jerry & Lepore, Ernest

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2009-01-28

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