UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 12 (2000)

Meaning postulates and deference


Fodor (1998) argues that most lexical concepts have no internal structure. He rejects what he calls Inferential Role Semantics (IRS), the view that primitive concepts are constituted by their inferential relations, on the grounds that this violates the compositionality constraint and leads to an unacceptable form of holism. In rejecting IRS, Fodor must also reject meaning postulates. I argue, contra Fodor, that meaning postulates must be retained, but that when suitably constrained they are not susceptible to his arguments against IRS. This has important implications for the view that certain of our concepts are deferential. A consequence of the arguments I present is that deference is relegated to a relatively minor role in what Sperber (1997) refers to as reflective concepts; deference has no important role to play in the vast majority of our intuitive concepts.

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