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From Linguistic Contextualism to Situated Cognition: the Case of Ad Hoc Concepts

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Our utterances are typically if not always “situated,” in the sense that they are true or false relative to unarticulated parameters of the extra-linguistic context. The problem is to explain how these parameters are determined, given that nothing in the uttered sentences indicates them. It is tempting to claim that they must be determined at the level of thought or intention. However, as many philosophers have observed, thoughts themselves are no less situated than utterances. Unarticulated parameters need not be mentally represented. In this paper, I try to make precise the notion of representation at stake here. In one sense of ‘representation', something is represented if it is inferentially relevant. In another, less demanding sense, something is represented if it is relevant to the construction of a context-sensitive, ad hoc concept. Ad hoc concepts act as “proxies” for cognitively more demanding representations. They “imitate” the latter's epistemic and pragmatic roles while being inferentially less sophisticated. Thus, there are two senses in which a thought can be said to be situated: (1) its truth-value is relative to a non-represented contextual parameter, (2) its truth-value is not itself relative, but it involves a context-sensitive, ad hoc concept.
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Keywords: Ad Hoc Concepts; Contextualism; Relativism; Situated Cognition; Unarticulated Constituents

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-06-01

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