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Crossing the Gap

the question

How do humans first come to know simple facts about physical objects, colours, minds and the rest?
Core knowledge exists.
There is a gap between core knowledge and knowledge knowledge.
Crossing the gap involves social interactions, perhaps involving words.
  1. Core knowledge exists.
  2. Core knowledge is real. Infants’ have unexpectedly sophisticated abilities concerning physical objects and categorical colour properties (and much more) even from the first year of life.
  3. There is a gap between core knowledge and knowledge knowledge.
  4. There is a gap between core knowledge and knowledge knowledge. It takes months if not years between clear manifestations of core knowledge and knowledge knowledge. Importantly,
  5. Crossing the gap involves social interactions, perhaps involving words.
  6. Crossing the gap involves social interactions, perhaps involving words.
core knowledge
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discriminate
Xs from non-Xs
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correctly
use word for Xs
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know facts
about Xs
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because experiecne
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because reflection
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Having core knowledge of something does not involve having any knowledge knowledge at all. Here I'm going to use the term ‘concept of X’ for that which enables one to have knowledge of Xs. How do we get from core knowledge to concepts?
Core knowledge enables one to distinguish things. For example it enables on to distinguish those things which are blue from those which are not; it enables one to distinguish those events which are causal interactions from those which are not; it enables one to distinguish those sets which have two members from others; and it enables one to distinguish different beliefs about the location of an object (say).
(Here I'm using core knowledge in the broad, schematic sense to refer to representations which are knowledge-like but not knowledge.)
I conjecture that core knowledge faciliates acquisition of the correct use of a word, perhaps very slowly. The idea is that being able to discriminate things allows one to apply a label to them.
Importantly we can discriminate without having concepts. If one thought that all discrimination involved concepts, this picture would become circular.
How does core knowledge enable one to correctly use words? I think it modifies the overall phenomenal character of your experience, typically by generating phenomenal expectations (which I called them perceptual expectations earlier in this version of the course). Tuning in to the perceptual expectations can take a long time, which is why there may be a long interval between observing core knowledge and observing the correct use of words.
I also conjecture that using the word facilitates concept acquisition. Many people would probably agree. But how does it do this?
My schematic suggestion is that using the word draws attention to all the things which are Xs. The concept is acquired when you are struck by the question, What do all these have in common?
(Clearly this is not an account of how thinking gets started at all; the appeal to reflection should make this obvious.)
We have quite good evidence for this picture in the cases of colour and number, and there is relevant evidence in the case of mindreading too. (Also speech: phonological awareness is linked to literacy and the particulars of the written language learnt, so that alphabetic languages give a different profile --- alphabet is roughly labelling phonemes.)
The question we've been looking at last week is how children come to correctly use words.
discriminate
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label
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blue
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stimulus sequence
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This is about the step from discrimination to learning the correct use of a verbal label.
So there's you and you're observing sequence of stimuli and thanks to core knowledge you're able to discriminate them.
And now along comes another person. What are they doing? Nothing yet. But ...
Oh look they're labelling stimuli. So now the blue ones (say) are special. You respond to them in one way and the other responds to them in her way, which is by labelling.
Now you can observe that your responses are correlated with her responses. So when you discriminate in a certain way, she applies the label. Observing this correspondence enables you to learn the label (say). This is triangulation roughly as Davidson describes it.
And having got this far you can ask yourself what all the things labelled have in common.
  1. Core knowledge exists.
  2. Core knowledge is real. Infants’ have unexpectedly sophisticated abilities concerning physical objects and categorical colour properties (and much more) even from the first year of life.
  3. There is a gap between core knowledge and knowledge knowledge.
  4. There is a gap between core knowledge and knowledge knowledge. It takes months if not years between clear manifestations of core knowledge and knowledge knowledge. Importantly,
  5. Crossing the gap involves social interactions, perhaps involving words.
  6. Crossing the gap involves social interactions, perhaps involving words.
backgroundLayer 1understandingactionunderstandingmindsjointactionreferentialcommunicationcommunicationwith words
Gradually build up from understanding minds and actions to words.