The Implicit Conception of Implicit Conceptions. Reply to Christopher Peacocke
Peacocke's characterization of what he calls implicit conceptions recognizes the significance of a subset of contentful states in making rational behavior intelligible. What Peacocke has to offer in this paper is an account of (i) why we need implicit conceptions; (ii) how we can discover them; (iii) what they explain; (iv) what they are; and (v) how they can help us to better understand some issues in the theory of meaning and the theory of knowledge. The rationalist tradition in which Peacocke's project ought to be located is concerned with the nature of understanding. His notion of implicit conceptions is invoked to explain non-straightforwardly inferential but rational patterns of concept-involving behavior. We come to know about implicit conceptions because we treat the thinker's practices as having a certain representational content. They are implicit in what the thinker does. I intend to focus on the question of what implicit conceptions are (although in doing so some of the other aspects will also come to the fore). I will argue for the following position: that —even at the personal level— certain inferential principles underlie the process that leads to the thinker's reliably differential responses and that subsequently point us in the direction of a notion such as that of an implicit conception. More precisely, I will argue that practical inferential processes are involved in the understanding-based capacities that support our ascription of personal-level implicit conceptions to the thinker. If I am right, then Peacocke's implicit conceptions don't preclude acceptance of personal-level conceptual role theories because that practical inferential articulation, i.e. that conceptual role, is the implicit conception itself.