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Summary Concepts may be individuated in one of two ways: by the ways they are related to other concepts, or by features besides their relations to other concepts. Conceptual atomists claim that concepts are individuated without essential reference to any other concepts. So what makes something the concept CAT has nothing to do with its causal, functional, or inferential role relative to other concepts such as ANIMAL, FURRY, or HAS A TAIL. Instead, concepts are individuated by their relationships to things in the world. These may include such things as what they refer to, or what objects and properties they carry information about.
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  1. Marc Artiga (2014). Prinz's Naturalistic Theory of Intentional Content. Critica 46 (136):69-86.
    This paper addresses Prinz's naturalistic theory of conceptual content, which he has defended in several works (Prinz, 2000; 2002; 2006). More precisely, I present in detail and critically assess his account of referential content, which he distinguishes from nominal or cognitive content. The paper argues that Prinz's theory faces four important difficulties, which might have significant consequences for his overall empiricist project.
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  2. Murat Aydede (1998). Fodor on Concepts and Frege Puzzles. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 79 (4):289-294.
    ABSTRACT. Fodor characterizes concepts as consisting of two dimensions: one is content, which is purely denotational/broad, the other the Mentalese vehicle bearing that content, which Fodor calls the Mode of Presentation (MOP), understood "syntactically." I argue that, so understood, concepts are not interpersonally sharable; so Fodor's own account violates what he calls the Publicity Constraint in his (1998) book. Furthermore, I argue that Fodor's non-semantic, or "syntactic," solution to Frege cases succumbs to the problem of providing interpersonally applicable functional roles (...)
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  3. Kent Bach (2000). Review of Concepts: Where Cognitive Science Went Wrong. [REVIEW] Philosophical Review.
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  4. Manuel Bremer, One Solved and One Unsolved Problem for Conceptual Atomism.
    In this talk I consider two problems for conceptual atomism. Conceptual atomism can be defended against the criticism that it seems to contend that all concepts are simply innate (even technical concepts to pre-technological humanoids) by specifying the innateness thesis as one of mechanisms of hooking up mental representations (concepts as language of thought types) to properties in the world (§1). This theory faces a problem with non-referring expressions/concepts, it seems. Conceptual atomism can, however, deal with non-referring expressions/concepts (§2). Hooking (...)
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  5. Kevan Edwards (2010). Concept Referentialism and the Role of Empty Concepts. Mind and Language 25 (1):89-118.
    This paper defends a reference-based approach to concept individuation against the objection that such an approach is unable to make sense of concepts that fail to refer. The main line of thought pursued involves clarifying how the referentialist should construe the relationship between a concept's (referential) content and its role in mental processes. While the central goal of the paper is to defend a view aptly titled Concept Referentialism , broader morals are drawn regarding reference-based approaches in general. The paper (...)
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  6. Kevan Edwards (2009). What Concepts Do. Synthese 170 (2):289 - 310.
    This paper identifies and criticizes a line of reasoning that has played a substantial role in the widespread rejection of the view that Fodor has dubbed “Concept Atomism”. The line of reasoning is not only fallacious, but its application in the present case rests on a misconception about the explanatory potential of Concept Atomism. This diagnosis suggests the possibility of a new polemical strategy in support of Concept Atomism. The new strategy is more comprehensive than that which defenders of the (...)
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  7. Jerry A. Fodor (2004). Having Concepts: A Brief Refutation of the Twentieth Century. Mind and Language 19 (1):29-47.
  8. Jerry A. Fodor (2003). Hume Variations. Oxford University Press.
    Hume? Yes, David Hume, that's who Jerry Fodor looks to for help in advancing our understanding of the mind. Fodor claims his Treatise of Human Nature as the foundational document of cognitive science: it launched the project of constructing an empirical psychology on the basis of a representational theory of mind. Going back to this work after more than 250 years we find that Hume is remarkably perceptive about the components and structure that a theory of mind requires. Careful study (...)
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  9. Jerry A. Fodor (2000). Replies to Critics. Mind and Language 15 (2-3):350-374.
  10. Jerry A. Fodor (1998). Concepts: Where Cognitive Science Went Wrong. Oxford University Press.
    The renowned philosopher Jerry Fodor, a leading figure in the study of the mind for more than twenty years, presents a strikingly original theory on the basic constituents of thought. He suggests that the heart of cognitive science is its theory of concepts, and that cognitive scientists have gone badly wrong in many areas because their assumptions about concepts have been mistaken. Fodor argues compellingly for an atomistic theory of concepts, deals out witty and pugnacious demolitions of rival theories, and (...)
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  11. Jerry A. Fodor (1995). Concepts: A Potboiler. Philosophical Issues 50 (1-3):133-51.
  12. Michael T. Ghiselin (1998). Etiological Classification and the Acquisition and Structure of Knowledge. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (1):72-73.
    Millikan's account of how we acquire our most basic concepts might be clarified by a better ontological taxonomy, especially one that distinguishes between natural kinds on the one hand and wholes composed of parts on the other. The two have a different causal basis, which is important because once classification goes beyond the stage of naive induction, it becomes fundamentally etiological.
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  13. James T. Higginbotham (1995). Fodor's Concepts. In Philosophical Issues. Atascadero: Ridgeview. 25-37.
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  14. Juraj Hvorecký (2006). Appropriating A Priori. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 6 (1):113-120.
    The paper criticizes the novel approach of Mišcevic to apriority and analyticity. In a nutshell, it aims to show that Mišcevic has failed to appreciate the power and impact of semantic atomism in the theory of concepts. He simply assumes a clean distinction between concept-analyzing propositions and those that do not analyze concepts, misconstrue the way atomists understand concept-analyzing propositions, namely epistemically and not semantically, and fails to provide an answer to atomistic considerations. Finally, I analyze his examples of alleged (...)
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  15. Jussi Jylkkä (2009). Why Fodor's Theory of Concepts Fails. Minds and Machines 19 (1):25-46.
    Fodor’s theory of concepts holds that the psychological capacities, beliefs or intentions which determine how we use concepts do not determine reference. Instead, causal relations of a specific kind between properties and our dispositions to token a concept are claimed to do so. Fodor does admit that there needs to be some psychological mechanisms mediating the property–concept tokening relations, but argues that they are purely accidental for reference. In contrast, I argue that the actual mechanisms that sustain the reference determining (...)
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  16. Jussi Jylkkä (2008). Concepts and Reference: Defending a Dual Theory of Natural Kind Concepts. Dissertation, University of Turku
    In this thesis I argue that the psychological study of concepts and categorisation, and the philosophical study of reference are deeply intertwined. I propose that semantic intuitions are a variety of categorisation judgements, determined by concepts, and that because of this, concepts determine reference. I defend a dual theory of natural kind concepts, according to which natural kind concepts have distinct semantic cores and non-semantic identification procedures. Drawing on psychological essentialism, I suggest that the cores consist of externalistic placeholder essence (...)
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  17. Jack M. C. Kwong (2007). Is Conceptual Atomism a Plausible Theory of Concepts? Southern Journal of Philosophy 45 (3):413-434.
    Conceptual atomism is the view according to which most lexical concepts lack ‘internal’ or constituent structure. To date, it has not received much attention from philosophers and psychologists. A centralreason is that it is thought to be an implausible theory of concepts, resulting in untenable implications. The main objective of this paper is to present conceptual atomism as a viable alternative, with a view toachieving two aims: the first, to characterize and to elucidate conceptual atomism; and the second, to dispel (...)
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  18. Barbara Landau (2000). Concepts, the Lexicon and Acquisition: Fodor's New Challenge. Mind and Language 15 (2-3):319-326.
  19. S. Laurence & E. Margolis (1999). Review. Concepts: Where Cognitive Science Went Wrong (Jerry Fodor). British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 50 (3):487-491.
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  20. Stephen Laurence & Eric Margolis (2003). Radical Concept Nativism. Cognition 86 (1):25-55.
    Radical concept nativism is the thesis that virtually all lexical concepts are innate. Notoriously endorsed by Jerry Fodor (1975, 1981), radical concept nativism has had few supporters. However, it has proven difficult to say exactly what’s wrong with Fodor’s argument. We show that previous responses are inadequate on a number of grounds. Chief among these is that they typically do not achieve sufficient distance from Fodor’s dialectic, and, as a result, they do not illuminate the central question of how new (...)
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  21. A. Levine & Mark H. Bickhard (1999). Concepts: Where Fodor Went Wrong. Philosophical Psychology 12 (1):5-23.
    In keeping with other recent efforts, Fodor's CONCEPTS focuses on the metaphysics of conceptual content, bracketing such epistemological questions as, "How can we know the contents of our concepts?" Fodor's metaphysical account of concepts, called "informational atomism," stipulates that the contents of a subject's concepts are fixed by the nomological lockings between the subject and the world. After sketching Fodor's "what else?" argument in support of this view, we offer a number of related criticisms. All point to the same conclusion: (...)
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  22. Eric Margolis (1998). How to Acquire a Concept. Mind and Language 13 (3):347-369.
    In this paper, I develop a novel account of concept acquisition for an atomistic theory of concepts. Conceptual atomism is rarely explored in cognitive science because of the feeling that atomistic treatments of concepts are inherently nativistic. My model illustrates, on the contrary, that atomism does not preclude the learning of a concept.
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  23. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (eds.) (1999). Concepts: Core Readings. MIT Press.
    The first part of the book centers around the fall of the Classical Theory of Concepts in the face of attacks by W. V. O. Quine, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Eleanor ...
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  24. Ruth G. Millikan (2000). Introducing Substance Concepts. In , On Clear and Confused Ideas. Cambridge.
  25. Ruth G. Millikan (1997). A Common Structure for Concepts of Individuals, Stuffs, and Kinds: More Mama, More Milk, and More Mouse. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (1):55-65.
    Concepts are highly theoretical entities. One cannot study them empirically without committing oneself to substantial preliminary assumptions. Among the competing theories of concepts and categorization developed by psychologists in the last thirty years, the implicit theoretical assumption that what falls under a concept is determined by description (descriptionism) has never been seriously challenged. I present a nondescriptionist theory of our most basic concepts, substances, which include (1) stuffs (gold, milk), (2) real kinds (cat, chair), and (3) individuals (Mama, Bill Clinton, (...)
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  26. Ruth Garrett Millikan (2000). On Clear and Confused Ideas: An Essay About Substance Concepts. Cambridge University Press.
    Written by one of today's most creative and innovative philosophers, Ruth Garrett Millikan, this book examines basic empirical concepts; how they are acquired, how they function, and how they have been misrepresented in the traditional philosophical literature. Millikan places cognitive psychology in an evolutionary context where human cognition is assumed to be an outgrowth of primitive forms of mentality, and assumed to have 'functions' in the biological sense. Of particular interest are her discussions of the nature of abilities as different (...)
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  27. Ruth Garrett Millikan (1998). Words, Concepts, and Entities: With Enemies Like These, I Don't Need Friends. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (1):89-100.
    A number of clarifications of the target article and some corrections are made. I clarify which concepts the thesis was intended to be about, what “descriptionism” means, the difference between “concepts” and “conceptions,” and why extensions are not determined by conceptions. I clarify the meaning of “substances,” how one knows what inductions to project over them, the connection with “basic level categories,” how it is determined what substance a given substance concept is of, how equivocation in concepts occurs, and the (...)
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  28. Christopher Peacocke (2000). Fodor on Concepts: Philosophical Aspects. Mind and Language 15 (2-3):327-340.
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  29. Jesse J. Prinz (2002). Furnishing the Mind: Concepts and Their Perceptual Basis. MIT Press.
    In Furnishing the Mind, Jesse Prinz attempts to swing the pendulum back toward empiricism.
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  30. F. Recanati (2002). The Fodorian Fallacy. Analysis 62 (4):285-89.
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  31. Georges Rey (2004). Fodor's Ingratitude and Change of Heart? Mind and Language 19 (1):70-84.
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  32. Lance J. Rips (1995). The Current Status of Research on Concept Combination. Mind and Language 10 (1-2):72-104.
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  33. Bradley Rives (2009). Concept Cartesianism, Concept Pragmatism, and Frege Cases. Philosophical Studies 144 (2):211 - 238.
    This paper concerns the dialectal role of Frege Cases in the debate between Concept Cartesians and Concept Pragmatists. I take as a starting point Christopher Peacocke’s argument that, unlike Cartesianism, his ‘Fregean’ Pragmatism can account for facts about the rationality and epistemic status of certain judgments. I argue that since this argument presupposes that the rationality of thoughts turn on their content, it is thus question-begging against Cartesians, who claim that issues about rationality turn on the form, not the content, (...)
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  34. Bradley Rives (2009). The Empirical Case Against Analyticity: Two Options for Concept Pragmatists. [REVIEW] Minds and Machines 19 (2):199-227.
    It is commonplace in cognitive science that concepts are individuated in terms of the roles they play in the cognitive lives of thinkers, a view that Jerry Fodor has recently been dubbed ‘Concept Pragmatism’. Quinean critics of Pragmatism have long argued that it founders on its commitment to the analytic/synthetic distinction, since without such a distinction there is plausibly no way to distinguish constitutive from non-constitutive roles in cognition. This paper considers Fodor’s empirical arguments against analyticity, and in particular his (...)
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  35. Timothy Schroeder (2003). On Clear and Confused Ideas: An Essay About Substance Concepts Ruth Garrett Millikan New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000, Xiii + 258 Pp., $92.25, $35.50 Paper. [REVIEW] Dialogue 42 (01):148-.
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  36. Nicholas Shea (2002). Getting Clear About Equivocal Concepts. Disputatio 13:1 - 14.
    Just how far can externalism go? In this exciting new book Ruth Millikan explores a radically externalist treatment of empirical concepts (Millikan 2000). For the last thirty years philosophy of mind’s ties to meaning internalism have been loosened. The theory of content has swung uncomfortably on its moorings in a fickle current, straining against opposing ties to mind and world. In this book Millikan casts conceptual content adrift from the thinker: what determines the content of a concept is not cognitively (...)
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  37. Robert J. Stainton & Christopher D. Viger (2000). Review of Jerry A. Fodor's Concepts: Where Cognitive Science Went Wrong. [REVIEW] Synthese 123 (1):131-151.
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  38. Gerald Vision (2001). Flash! Fodor Splits the Atom. Analysis 61 (1):5-10.
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  39. Daniel A. Weiskopf (2009). Atomism, Pluralism, and Conceptual Content. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (1):131-163.
    Conceptual atomists argue that most of our concepts are primitive. I take up three arguments that have been thought to support atomism and show that they are inconclusive. The evidence that allegedly backs atomism is equally compatible with a localist position on which concepls are structured representations with complex semantic content. I lay out such a localist position and argue that the appropriate position for a non-atomist to adopt is a pluralist view of conceptual structure. I show several ways in (...)
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  40. Daniel A. Weiskopf (2007). Atomism, Pluralism, and Conceptual Content. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (1):131-163.
    Conceptual atomists argue that most of our concepts are primitive. I take up three arguments that have been thought to support atomism and show that they are inconclusive. The evidence that allegedly backs atomism is equally compatible with a localist position on which concepts are structured representations with complex semantic content. I lay out such a localist position and argue that the appropriate position for a non-atomist to adopt is a pluralist view of conceptual structure. I show several ways in (...)
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  41. Daniel A. Weiskopf & William P. Bechtel (2004). Remarks on Fodor on Having Concepts. Mind and Language 19 (1):48-56.
    Fodor offers a novel argument against Bare-bones Concept Pragmatism (BCP). He alleges that there are two circularities in BCP’s account of concept possession: a circularity in explaining concept possession in terms of the capacity to sort; and a circularity in explaining concept possession in terms of the capacity to draw inferences. We argue that neither of these circles is real.
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