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Concepts

Edited by Daniel Weiskopf (Georgia State University)
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Summary Concepts are the basic elements of thought. One of their primary functions is to connect the mind to the world; thus, to have a concept is to have available a way of thinking about something. There are concepts of particular individuals, general categories, natural kinds and artifacts, properties and relations, actions and events, and so forth. Concepts are also used in formulating beliefs, desires, plans, and other complex thoughts and judgments. They therefore play an important role in explaining cognitive processes such as categorization, inductive inference, causal reasoning, and decision making.
Key works A collection of influential readings that makes a good starting point in getting acquainted with how theories of concepts have been handled in modern cognitive science is Margolis & Laurence 1999. An overview of the key phenomena that theories of concepts aim to cover, as well as the major theories themselves, can be found in the opening chapters of Prinz 2002. Fodor 1998 presents a critique of the major assumptions lying behind these theories.
Introductions General reviews of the subject may be found in Laurence & Margolis 1999 and Weiskopf 2013.
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Subcategories:See also:History/traditions: Concepts
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  1. Colin Allen (1998). Animal Concepts. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (1):66-66.
    Millikan's account of concepts is applicable to questions about concepts in nonhuman animals. I raise three questions in this context: (1) Does classical conditioning entail the possession of simple concepts? (2) Are movement property concepts more basic than substance concepts? (3) What is the empirical content of claiming that concept meanings do not necessarily change as dispositions change?
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  2. Quassim Cassam (2003). A Priori Concepts. In Hans-Johann Glock (ed.), Strawson and Kant. Clarendon Press
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  3. Arindam Chakrabarti (2006). The Concepts Ofjnana, Prama and Aprama. In Pranab Kumar Sen & Prabal Kumar Sen (eds.), Philosophical Concepts Relevant to Sciences in Indian Tradition. Distributed by Motilal Banarsidass 1--145.
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  4. E. B. Coleman (1964). Verbal Concept Learning as a Function of Instructions and Dominance Level. Journal of Experimental Psychology 68 (2):213.
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  5. Michel Combès (1969). Le Concept de Concept Formel. Association des Publications de la Faculté des Lettres Et Sciences Humaines de Toulouse.
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  6. David E. Cooper (1973). Grammar and the Possession of Concepts. Journal of Philosophy of Education 7 (2):204–222.
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  7. S. C. Dash (1997). Prabhacandra's Concept of Smrti. In V. N. Jha (ed.), Jaina Logic and Epistemology. Sri Sadguru Publications 209--164.
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  8. Srilekha Datta (2006). The Concept of Abhava. In Pranab Kumar Sen & Prabal Kumar Sen (eds.), Philosophical Concepts Relevant to Sciences in Indian Tradition. Distributed by Motilal Banarsidass 1--85.
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  9. Monique David-Ménard (2004). Créer des concepts dessiner l'impensé. Rue Descartes 45 (3):75.
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  10. John Dupre (2011). What Darwin Got Wrong by Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini (UK: Profile; US: Farrar, Straus and Giroux)£ 20/$26 (Hb). [REVIEW] The Philosophers' Magazine 50:118-120.
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  11. Dennis Earl (2007). Concepts. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  12. Dennis Edward Earl (2002). A Defense of the Classical View of Concepts. Dissertation, University of Colorado at Boulder
    Issues involving concepts find their way into nearly all areas of philosophy, yet those issues are studied most directly by those working in metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language. Many of the relevant investigations involving concepts carry over into psychology as well, in the form of investigations into language learning, categorization, and mental representation. But what are concepts? First, concepts are what get expressed by lexical terms of language: For instance, in the sentence "Asparagus is green," the predicate (...)
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  13. Brian Ellis (2011). Doing Without Concepts. Review of Metaphysics 64 (3):644-645.
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  14. Pascal Engel (2011). Les concepts neufs de l'empereur. Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 201 (2):231 - 245.
    Cette revue critique marque un contraste entre deux ouvrages récents sur les concepts : une approche psychologique cohérente qui met l'accent sur le développement des concepts et une approche philosophique superficielle qui se veut « contextualiste » et débouche sur l'affirmation que tous les concepts sont vagues et indéterminés. A critical review of two recent books on concepts. A contrast is made between a powerful psychological approach, which emphasises the developmental profile of concepts, and a shallow philosophical approach which calls (...)
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  15. M. F. (1956). Concepts of Space. Review of Metaphysics 9 (4):705-705.
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  16. Roderick Firth (1978). ``Are Epistemic Concepts Reducible to Ethical Concepts?&Quot. In Alvin Goldman & Jaegwon Kim (eds.), Values and Morals: Essays in Honor of William Frankena, Charles Stevenson, and Richard Brandt. Dordrecht: Kluwer 215-229.
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  17. Kurt Fischer & Ulas Kaplan (2003). Piagetian Theory, Development of Conceptual Structure. In L. Nadel (ed.), Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science. Nature Publishing Group
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  18. P. J. Fitzgerald (1961). The Concept of Law. Philosophical Books 2 (4):14-16.
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  19. B. M. Foss (1964). "Displacement of Concepts": Donald A. Schon. [REVIEW] British Journal of Aesthetics 4 (4):366.
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  20. Paul Franceschi, On a Class of Concepts.
    Classically, in the discussion relating to polar opposites1, one primarily directs his interest to the common and lexicalized concepts, i.e. for which there exists a corresponding word in the vocabulary inherent to a given language. This way of proceeding tends to generate several disadvantages. One of them resides in the fact (i) that such concepts are likely to vary from one language to another, from one culture to another. Another (ii) of the resulting problems is that certain lexicalized concepts reveal (...)
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  21. B. O. G. (1976). Concepts and Language. Review of Metaphysics 29 (3):556-557.
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  22. W. G. (1973). Essays on the Moral Concepts. Review of Metaphysics 26 (3):536-537.
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  23. Eugene T. Gendlin (2000). Three Types of Concepts. In Ralph D. Ellis (ed.), The Caldron of Consciousness: Motivation, Affect and Self-Organization. John Benjamins 16--109.
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  24. Rocco J. Gennaro (2013). Defending HOT Theory and The Wide Intrinsicality View: A Reply to Weisberg, Van Gulick, and Seager. Journal of Consciousness Studies 20 (11-12):82-100.
    This is my reply to Josh Weisberg, Robert Van Gulick, and William Seager, published in JCS vol 20, 2013. This symposium grew out of an author-meets-critics session at the Central APA conference in 2013 on my 2012 book THE CONSCIOUSNESS PARADOX (MIT Press). Topics covered include higher-order thought (HOT) theory, my own "wide intrinsicality view," the problem of misrepresentation, targetless HOTs, conceptualism, introspection, and the transitivity principle.
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  25. Rocco J. Gennaro (2012). The Consciousness Paradox: Consciousness, Concepts, and Higher-Order Thoughts. MIT Press.
    Consciousness is arguably the most important area within contemporary philosophy of mind and perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the world. Despite an explosion of research from philosophers, psychologists, and scientists, attempts to explain consciousness in neurophysiological, or even cognitive, terms are often met with great resistance. In The Consciousness Paradox, Rocco Gennaro aims to solve an underlying paradox, namely, how it is possible to hold a number of seemingly inconsistent views, including higher-order thought (HOT) theory, conceptualism, infant and animal (...)
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  26. Allan Gibbard (2002). Normative and Recognitional Concepts. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 64 (1):151-167.
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  27. Lila R. Gleitman, Henry Gleitman, Carol Miller & Ruth Ostrin (1996). Similar, and Similar Concepts. Cognition 58 (3):321-376.
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  28. Nada Gligorov (2010). The Revisability of Moral Concepts. AJOB Neuroscience 1 (4):32-34.
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  29. Hans Johann Glock, A Cognitivist Approach to Concepts.
    Th is article explores a cognitivist approach to concepts. Such an approach steers a middle course between the Scylla of subjectivism and the Charybdis of objectivism. While concepts are not mental particulars, they have an ineliminable cognitive dimension. Th e article explores several versions of cognitivism, focusing in particular on Künne’s Neo-Fregean proposal that concepts are modes of presentation. It also tackles a challenge facing all cognitivist accounts, namely the ‘proposition problem’: how can the cognitive dimension of concepts be reconciled (...)
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  30. Hans Johann Glock, Concepts: Where Subjectivism Goes Wrong.
    The debate about concepts has always been shaped by a contrast between subjectivism, which treats them as phenomena in the mind or head of individuals, and objectivism, which insists that they exist independently of individual minds. The most prominent contemporary version of subjectivism is Fodor's RTM. The Fregean charge against subjectivism is that it cannot do justice to the fact that different individuals can share the same concepts. Proponents of RTM have accepted shareability as a ‘non-negotiable constraint’. At the same (...)
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  31. Hans-Johann Glock (2010). Concepts, Abilities, and Propositions. Grazer Philosophische Studien 81 (1):115-134.
    This article investigates whether the concept of a concept can be given a fairly uniform explanation through a 'cognitivist' account, one that accepts that concepts exist independently of individual subjects, yet nonetheless invokes mental achievements and capacities. I consider various variants of such an account, which identify a concept, respectively, with a certain kind of abilitiy, rule and way of thinking. All of them are confronted with what I call the 'proposition problem', namely that unlike these explananda concepts are standardly (...)
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  32. Hans-Johann Glock (2009). Concepts: Where Subjectivism Goes Wrong. Philosophy 84 (1):5-29.
    The debate about concepts has always been shaped by a contrast between subjectivism, which treats them as phenomena in the mind or head of individuals, and objectivism, which insists that they exist independently of individual minds. The most prominent contemporary version of subjectivism is Fodor's RTM. The Fregean charge against subjectivism is that it cannot do justice to the fact that different individuals can share the same concepts. Proponents of RTM have accepted shareability as a 'non-negotiable constraint'. At the same (...)
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  33. Miles Groth (1994). Basic Concepts. Review of Metaphysics 48 (2):406-408.
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  34. Stuart Hampshire (1957). The Interpretation of Language: Words and Concepts. In J. H. Muirhead (ed.), British Philosophy in the Mid-Century. George Allen and Unwin 2--267.
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  35. Vigilius Haufniensis (1937). Le Concept D'Angoisse. Philosophical Review 46:448.
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  36. Jussi Haukioja (2009). Review of David Braddon-Mitchell, Robert Nola (Eds.), Conceptual Analysis and Philosophical Naturalism. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2009 (8).
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  37. Robert C. Haygood, Jean Sandlin, Delmar J. Yoder & David H. Dodd (1969). Instance Contiguity in Disjunctive Concept Learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology 81 (3):605.
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  38. W. Hinzen (2006). Spencerism and the Causal Theory of Reference. Biology and Philosophy 21 (1):71-94.
    Spencer’s heritage, while almost a forgotten chapter in the history of biology, lives on in psychology and the philosophy of mind. I particularly discuss externalist views of meaning, on which meaning crucially depends on a notion of reference, and ask whether reference should be thought of as cause or effect. Is the meaning of a word explained by what it refers to, or should we say that what we use a word to refer to is explained by what concept it (...)
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  39. Wolfram Hinzen (2007). An Essay on Names and Truth. Oxford University Press.
    This pioneering book lays new foundations for the study of reference and truth.
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  40. Terry Horgan (1998). Recognitional Concepts and the Compositionality of Concept Possession. Philosophical Issues 9:27 - 33.
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  41. Richard Horsey, The Content and Acquisition of Lexical Concepts.
    This thesis aims to develop a psychologically plausible account of concepts by integrating key insights from philosophy (on the metaphysical basis for concept possession) and psychology (on the mechanisms underlying concept acquisition). I adopt an approach known as informational atomism, developed by Jerry Fodor. Informational atomism is the conjunction of two theses: (i) informational semantics, according to which conceptual content is constituted exhaustively by nomological mind–world relations; and (ii) conceptual atomism, according to which (lexical) concepts have no internal structure. I (...)
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  42. Jan Ifversen (2011). About Key Concepts and How to Study Them. Contributions to the History of Concepts 6 (1):65-88.
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  43. Tarow Indow (1963). Space Concepts in Psychology. Journal of the Japan Association for Philosophy of Science 6 (2):47-55.
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  44. L. J. (1974). Essays in Analysis. Review of Metaphysics 27 (4):813-813.
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  45. Ray Jackendoff (1993). Some Elements of Conceptual Structure. In Alvin Goldman (ed.), Readings in Philosophy and Cognitive Science. Cambridge: MIT Press
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  46. Ray Jackendoff (1992). E-Concepts and L-Concepts. In E. Kittay & A. Lehrer (eds.), Frames, Fields, and Contrasts: New Essays in Semantic and Lexical Organization. Erlbaum 191.
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  47. Pierre Jacob (1994). Can Semantic Properties Be Non-Causal? Philosophical Issues 6:44-51.
    I discuss Jerry Fodor's atomic theory of the contents of concepts.
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  48. Malcolm Jones (1981). Innate Powers, Concepts and Knowledge: A Critique of D. W. Hamlyn's Account of Concept Possession. Journal of Philosophy of Education 15 (1):139–145.
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  49. P. F. K. (1965). Displacement of Concepts. [REVIEW] Review of Metaphysics 19 (2):383-384.
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  50. R. H. K. (1970). General Investigations Concerning the Analysis of Concepts and Truths. Review of Metaphysics 23 (3):559-560.
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