Concepts – not just yardsticks, but also heuristics: rebutting Hacker and Bennett

Language Sciences 33 (3):464-472 (2011)
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Abstract

In their response to our article (Keestra and Cowley, 2009), Hacker and Bennett charge us with failing to understand the project of their book Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience (PFN; Bennett and Hacker, 2003) and do this by discussing foundationalism, linguistic conservatism and the passivity of perception. In this rebuttal we explore disagreements that explain the alleged errors. First, we reiterate our substantial disagreement with Bennett and Hacker (B&H) regarding their assumption that, even regarding much debated concepts like ‘consciousness’, we can assume conceptual consensus within a community of competent speakers. Instead, we emphasize variability and divergence between individuals and groups in such contexts. Second, we plead for modesty in conceptual analysis, including the use of conceptual ambiguities as heuristics for the investigation of explanatory mechanisms. Third, we elucidate our proposal by discussing the interdependence of perception and action, which in some cases appear to be problematic for PFN. Fourth, we discuss why our view of conceptual innovation is different from B&H’s, as we plead for linking explanatory ingredients with conceptual analysis. We end by repeating our particular agreement with their mereological principle, even though we present different reasons: psychological concepts should not be applied to mere components or operations of explanatory mechanisms, for which another vocabulary should be developed

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