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Summary Many theories in developmental psychology and anthropology assume that it makes sense to talk about a concept's changing over time. Similar appeals are often made in the history of science. For example, we may speak of changes in a child's concept of living things, a culture's concept of the afterlife, or the concept of energy in physics. Theories of conceptual change aim to explain what it means to speak of changes in a concept, to specify the sorts of processes by which concepts change, and to elucidate the ways in which the same concept can persist through change.
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  1. Jacob Beck, Can Bootstrapping Explain Concept Learning?
    Susan Carey’s account of bootstrapping aims to explain how important new concepts are learned. After arguing that Carey’s own formulations of bootstrapping fail in this aim, I critically evaluate three reformulations of bootstrapping that may have a better chance at success.
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  2. Ingo Brigandt, Scientific Practice, Conceptual Change, and the Nature of Concepts.
    The theory of concepts advanced in the present discussion aims at accounting for a) how a concept makes successful practice possible, and b) how a scientific concept can be subject to rational change in the course of history. To this end, I suggest that each scientific concept consists of three components of content: 1) the concept.
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  3. Ingo Brigandt, The Role a Concept Plays in Science: The Case of Homology.
    The present paper gives a philosophical analysis of the conceptual variation in the homology concept. It is argued that different homology concepts are used in evolutionary and comparative biology, in evolutionary developmental biology, and in molecular biology. The study uses conceptual role semantics, focusing on the inferences and explanations supported by concepts, as a heuristic tool to explain conceptual change. The differences between homology concepts are due to the fact that these concepts play different theoretical roles for different biological fields. (...)
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  4. Ingo Brigandt, An Alternative to Kitcher's Theory of Conceptual Progress and His Account of the Change of the Gene Concept.
    The present paper discusses Kitcher’s framework for studying conceptual change and progress. Kitcher’s core notion of reference potential is hard to apply to concrete cases. In addition, an account of conceptual change as change in reference potential misses some important aspects of conceptual change and conceptual progress. I propose an alternative framework that focuses on the inferences and explanations supported by scientific concepts. The application of my approach to the history of the gene concept offers a better account of the (...)
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  5. Ingo Brigandt, Reference Determination and Conceptual Change.
    The paper discusses reference determination from the point of view of conceptual change in science. The first part of the discussion uses the homology concept, a natural kind term from biology, as an example. It is argued that the causal theory of reference gives an incomplete account of reference determination even in the case of natural kind terms. Moreover, even if descriptions of the referent are taken into account, this does not yield a satisfactory account of reference in the case (...)
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  6. Ingo Brigandt (2013). A Critique of David Chalmers' and Frank Jackson's Account of Concepts. Protosociology 30:63–88.
    David Chalmers and Frank Jackson have promoted a strong program of conceptual analysis, which accords a significant philosophical role to the a priori analysis of (empirical) concepts. They found this methodological program on an account of concepts using two-dimensional semantics. This paper argues that Chalmers and Jackson’s account of concepts, and the related approach by David Braddon-Mitchell, is inadequate for natural kind concepts as found in biology. Two-dimensional semantics is metaphysically faulty as an account of the nature of concepts and (...)
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  7. Ingo Brigandt (2012). The Dynamics of Scientific Concepts: The Relevance of Epistemic Aims and Values. In Uljana Feest & Friedrich Steinle (eds.), Scientific Concepts and Investigative Practice. de Gruyter. 3--75.
    The philosophy of science that grew out of logical positivism construed scientific knowledge in terms of set of interconnected beliefs about the world, such as theories and observation statements. Nowadays science is also conceived of as a dynamic process based on the various practices of individual scientists and the institutional settings of science. Two features particularly influence the dynamics of scientific knowledge: epistemic standards and aims (e.g., assumptions about what issues are currently in need of scientific study and explanation). While (...)
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  8. Ingo Brigandt (2010). Scientific Reasoning Is Material Inference: Combining Confirmation, Discovery, and Explanation. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 24 (1):31-43.
    Whereas an inference (deductive as well as inductive) is usually viewed as being valid in virtue of its argument form, the present paper argues that scientific reasoning is material inference, i.e., justified in virtue of its content. A material inference is licensed by the empirical content embodied in the concepts contained in the premises and conclusion. Understanding scientific reasoning as material inference has the advantage of combining different aspects of scientific reasoning, such as confirmation, discovery, and explanation. This approach explains (...)
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  9. Ingo Brigandt (2010). The Epistemic Goal of a Concept: Accounting for the Rationality of Semantic Change and Variation. Synthese 177 (1):19-40.
    The discussion presents a framework of concepts that is intended to account for the rationality of semantic change and variation, suggesting that each scientific concept consists of three components of content: 1) reference, 2) inferential role, and 3) the epistemic goal pursued with the concept’s use. I argue that in the course of history a concept can change in any of these components, and that change in the concept’s inferential role and reference can be accounted for as being rational relative (...)
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  10. Ingo Brigandt (2006). A Theory of Conceptual Advance: Explaining Conceptual Change in Evolutionary, Molecular, and Evolutionary Developmental Biology. Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh
    The theory of concepts advanced in the dissertation aims at accounting for a) how a concept makes successful practice possible, and b) how a scientific concept can be subject to rational change in the course of history. Traditional accounts in the philosophy of science have usually studied concepts in terms only of their reference; their concern is to establish a stability of reference in order to address the incommensurability problem. My discussion, in contrast, suggests that each scientific concept consists of (...)
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  11. Ingo Brigandt (2006). Philosophical Issues in Experimental Biology. Biology and Philosophy 21 (3):423–435.
    Review essay of The Philosophy of Experimental Biology by Marcel Weber (Cambridge University Press, 2005).
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  12. Ingo Brigandt (2004). Biological Kinds and the Causal Theory of Reference. In J. C. Marek & M. E. Reicher (eds.), Experience and Analysis: Papers of the 27th International Wittgenstein Symposium. Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society.
    This paper uses an example from biology, the homology concept, to argue that current versions of the causal theory of reference give an incomplete account of reference determination. It is suggested that in addition to samples and stereotypical properties, the scientific use of concepts and the epistemic interests pursued with concepts are important factors in determining the reference of natural kind terms.
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  13. Ingo Brigandt (2004). Conceptual Role Semantics, the Theory Theory, and Conceptual Change. In Proceedings First Joint Conference of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology and the European Society for Philosophy and Psychology, Barcelona, Spain.
    The purpose of the paper is twofold. I first outline a philosophical theory of concepts based on conceptual role semantics. This approach is explicitly intended as a framework for the study and explanation of conceptual change in science. Then I point to the close similarities between this philosophical framework and the theory theory of concepts, suggesting that a convergence between psychological and philosophical approaches to concepts is possible. An underlying theme is to stress that using a non-atomist account of concepts (...)
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  14. Ingo Brigandt (2004). Holism, Concept Individuation, and Conceptual Change. In M. Hernandez Iglesias (ed.), Proceedings of the 4th Congress of the Spanish Society for Analytic Philosophy.
    The paper discusses concept individuation in the context of scientific concepts and conceptual change in science. It is argued that some concepts can be individuated in different ways. A particular term may be viewed as corresponding to a single concept (which is ascribed to every person from a whole scientific field). But at the same time, we can legitimately individuate in a more fine grained manner, i.e., this term can also be considered as corresponding to two or several concepts (so (...)
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  15. Ingo Brigandt (2003). Homology in Comparative, Molecular, and Evolutionary Developmental Biology: The Radiation of a Concept. Journal of Experimental Zoology (Molecular and Developmental Evolution) 299:9-17.
    The present paper analyzes the use and understanding of the homology concept across different biological disciplines. It is argued that in its history, the homology concept underwent a sort of adaptive radiation. Once it migrated from comparative anatomy into new biological fields, the homology concept changed in accordance with the theoretical aims and interests of these disciplines. The paper gives a case study of the theoretical role that homology plays in comparative and evolutionary biology, in molecular biology, and in evolutionary (...)
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  16. Harold I. Brown, Conceptual Comparison and Conceptual Innovation.
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  17. Harold I. Brown (1986). Sellars, Concepts, and Conceptual Change. Synthese 68 (August):275-307.
    A major theme of recent philosophy of science has been the rejection of the empiricist thesis that, with the exception of terms which play a purely formal role, the language of science derives its meaning from some, possibly quite indirect, correlation with experience. The alternative that has been proposed is that meaning is internal to each conceptual system, that terms derive their meaning from the role they play in a language, and that something akin to "meaning" flows from conceptual framework (...)
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  18. Susan Carey, The Origin of Concepts, Chapter.
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  19. Susan Carey (2009). Where Our Number Concepts Come From. Journal of Philosophy 106 (4):220-254.
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  20. Susan Carey (2009). The Origin of Concepts. Oxford University Press.
    Only human beings have a rich conceptual repertoire with concepts like tort, entropy, Abelian group, mannerism, icon and deconstruction. How have humans constructed these concepts? And once they have been constructed by adults, how do children acquire them? While primarily focusing on the second question, in The Origin of Concepts , Susan Carey shows that the answers to both overlap substantially. Carey begins by characterizing the innate starting point for conceptual development, namely systems of core cognition. Representations of core cognition (...)
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  21. Chris Daly (2007). Wandering Significance: An Essay on Conceptual Behaviour. – Mark Wilson. Philosophical Quarterly 57 (228):498–501.
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  22. Eric Dietrich (2010). Analogical Insight: Toward Unifying Categorization and Analogy. Cognitive Processing 11 (4):331-.
    The purpose of this paper is to present two kinds of analogical representational change, both occurring early in the analogy-making process, and then, using these two kinds of change, to present a model unifying one sort of analogy-making and categorization. The proposed unification rests on three key claims: (1) a certain type of rapid representational abstraction is crucial to making the relevant analogies (this is the first kind of representational change; a computer model is presented that demonstrates this kind of (...)
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  23. Eric Dietrich, Arthur B. Markman & Michael Winkley (2003). The Prepared Mind: The Role of Representational Change in Chance Discovery. In Yukio Ohsawa Peter McBurney (ed.), Chance Discovery by Machines. Springer-Verlag, pp. 208-230..
    Analogical reminding in humans and machines is a great source for chance discoveries because analogical reminding can produce representational change and thereby produce insights. Here, we present a new kind of representational change associated with analogical reminding called packing. We derived the algorithm in part from human data we have on packing. Here, we explain packing and its role in analogy making, and then present a computer model of packing in a micro-domain. We conclude that packing is likely used in (...)
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  24. Brian Epstein (2010). The Diviner and the Scientist: Revisiting the Question of Alternative Standards of Rationality. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 78 (4):1048-1086.
    Are the standards of reasoning and rationality in divination, religious practice, and textual exegesis different from those in the sciences? Can there be different standards of reasoning and rationality at all? The intense “rationality debate” of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s focused on these questions and the related problems of relativism across cultures and systems of practice. Although philosophers were at the center of these debates at the time, they may appear to have abandoned the question in recent years. On (...)
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  25. Mikkel Gerken (2009). Conceptual Equivocation and Epistemic Relevance. Dialectica 63 (2):117-132.
    Much debate has surrounded "switching" scenarios in which a subject's reasoning is said to exhibit the fallacy of equivocation ( Burge 1988 ; Boghossian 1992, 1994 ). Peter Ludlow has argued that such scenarios are "epistemically prevalent" and, therefore, epistemically relevant alternatives ( Ludlow 1995a ). Since a distinctive feature of the cases in question is that the subject blamelessly engages in conceptual equivocation, we may label them 'equivocational switching cases'. Ludlow's influential argument occurs in a discussion about compatibilism with (...)
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  26. Paul E. Griffiths & Karola Stotz (2008). Experimental Philosophy of Science. Philosophy Compass 3 (3):507–521.
    Experimental philosophy of science gathers empirical data on how key scientific concepts are understood by particular scientific communities. In this paper we briefly describe two recent studies in experimental philosophy of biology, one investigating the concept of the gene, the other the concept of innateness. The use of experimental methods reveals facts about these concepts that would not be accessible using the traditional method of intuitions about possible cases. It also contributes to the study of conceptual change in science, which (...)
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  27. Steven Horst, How (Not) to Give a Theory of Concepts.
    This paper presents the lineaments of a new account of concepts. The foundations of the account are four ideas taken from recent cognitive science, though most of them have important philosophical precursors. The first is the idea that human conceptuality shares important continuities with psychological faculties of other animals, and indeed that there is a well-distinguished hierarchy of such faculties that extend up and down the phylogenetic scale. While it would very likely be a mistake to look at some conglomeration (...)
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  28. Zoltan Jakab, How to Improve on Quinian Bootstrapping – a Response to Nativist Objections. Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.
    Quinian bootstrapping is Susan Carey's solution to Fodor’s paradox of concept learning. Carey claims that contrary to Fodor’s view, not all learning amounts to hypothesis testing, and that there are ways in which even primitive concepts can be learned. Recently Georges Rey has argued that Carey’s attempt to refute radical concept nativism is unsuccessful. First it cannot explain how the expressive power of mental representational systems could increase due to learning. Second, both Fodorian circularity charges and Goodmanian problems of indeterminacy (...)
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  29. Dunja Jutronic (2001). Is There a Third Way of Concept Acquisition? Acta Analytica 16 (26):97-108.
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  30. Muhammad Ali Khalidi (1998). Incommensurability in Cognitive Guise. Philosophical Psychology 11 (1):29 – 43.
    Philosophers and historians of science have made the claim that successive scientific theories are incommensurable, that is, that many or all of their concepts fail to coincide. This claim has been echoed by cognitive psychologists who have applied it to the successive conceptual schemes of young children, or of children and adults. This paper examines the psychological evidence for the claim and proposes ways of reinterpreting it which do not involve imputing incommensurability. An alternative approach to understanding conceptual change is (...)
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  31. Stephen Laurence & Eric Margolis (2007). Linguistic Determinism and the Innate Basis of Number. In Peter Carruthers (ed.), The Innate Mind: Foundations and the Future.
    Strong nativist views about numerical concepts claim that human beings have at least some innate precise numerical representations. Weak nativist views claim only that humans, like other animals, possess an innate system for representing approximate numerical quantity. We present a new strong nativist model of the origins of numerical concepts and defend the strong nativist approach against recent cross-cultural studies that have been interpreted to show that precise numerical concepts are dependent on language and that they are restricted to speakers (...)
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  32. Stephen Laurence & Eric Margolis (2005). Number and Natural Language. In Peter Carruthers, Stephen Laurence & Stephen P. Stich (eds.), The Innate Mind: Structure and Content. New York: Oxford University Press New York. 1--216.
    One of the most important abilities we have as humans is the ability to think about number. In this chapter, we examine the question of whether there is an essential connection between language and number. We provide a careful examination of two prominent theories according to which concepts of the positive integers are dependent on language. The first of these claims that language creates the positive integers on the basis of an innate capacity to represent real numbers. The second claims (...)
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  33. 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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  34. Jean M. Mandler (2008). On the Birth and Growth of Concepts. Philosophical Psychology 21 (2):207 – 230.
    This article describes what the earliest concepts are like and presents a theory of the spatial primitives from which they are formed. The earliest concepts tend to be global, like animal and container, and it is hypothesized that they consist of simplified redescriptions of innately salient spatial information. These redescriptions become associated with sensory and other bodily experiences that are not themselves redescribed, but that enrich conceptual thought. The initial conceptual base becomes expanded through subdivision, sometimes aided by language that (...)
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  35. 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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  36. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (2011). Beyond the Building Blocks Model. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 34 (3):139-140.
    This article is a commentary on Carey (2009) The Origin of Concepts. Carey rightly rejects the building blocks model of concept acquisition on the grounds that new primitive concepts can be learned via the process of bootstrapping. But new primitives can be learned by other acquisition processes that do not involve bootstrapping, and bootstrapping itself is not a unitary process. Nonetheless, the processes associated with bootstrapping provide important insights into conceptual change.
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  37. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence, Concepts. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    This entry provides an overview of theories of concepts that is organized around five philosophical issues: (1) the ontology of concepts, (2) the structure of concepts, (3) empiricism and nativism about concepts, (4) concepts and natural language, and (5) concepts and conceptual analysis.
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  38. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (2011). Learning Matters: The Role of Learning in Concept Acquisition. Mind and Language 26 (5):507-539.
    In LOT 2: The Language of Thought Revisited, Jerry Fodor argues that concept learning of any kind—even for complex concepts—is simply impossible. In order to avoid the conclusion that all concepts, primitive and complex, are innate, he argues that concept acquisition depends on purely noncognitive biological processes. In this paper, we show (1) that Fodor fails to establish that concept learning is impossible, (2) that his own biological account of concept acquisition is unworkable, and (3) that there are in fact (...)
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  39. 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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  40. U. Neisser (ed.) (1981). Concepts and Conceptual Development. Cambridge University Press.
    Concepts and Conceptual Development draws together theorists from a wide range of theoretical orientations to consider many different aspects of 'the psychology ...
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  41. Elisabeth Pacherie (2001). Conscious Experience and Concept-Forming Abilities. Acta Analytica 16 (26):45-52.
    Pierre Jacob's book, What Minds Can Do , is mainly concerned with intentionality. Jacob's primary goal is to explain both how it is possible for a physical system to have intentional mental states and how the intentional content of such mental states can play a role in the causal explanation of behaviour. Yet, he also tackles the issue of the nature of conscious experience. I shall focus here on a claim he makes in connection with this latter topic. The claim (...)
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  42. Mark Perlman (2000). Conceptual Flux: Mental Representation, Misrepresentation, and Concept Change. Kluwer.
    Readership: One of the most thorough examinations of mental representation and meaning holism available, this book should be read by everyone interested in the...
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  43. Matthew Rellihan (2005). Epistemic Boundedness and the Universality of Thought. Philosophical Studies 125 (2):219-250.
    Fodor argues that our minds must have epistemic limitations because there must be endogenous constraints on the class of concepts we can acquire. However, his argument for the existence of these endogenous constraints is falsified by the phenomenon of the deferential acquisition of concepts. If we allow for the acquisition of concepts through deferring to experts and scientific instruments, then our conceptual capacity will be without endogenous constraints, and there will be no reason to think that our minds are epistemically (...)
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  44. Marjorie Rhodes & Henry Wellman (2013). Constructing a New Theory From Old Ideas and New Evidence. Cognitive Science 37 (3):592-604.
    A central tenet of constructivist models of conceptual development is that children's initial conceptual level constrains how they make sense of new evidence and thus whether exposure to evidence will prompt conceptual change. Yet little experimental evidence directly examines this claim for the case of sustained, fundamental conceptual achievements. The present study combined scaling and experimental microgenetic methods to examine the processes underlying conceptual change in the context of an important conceptual achievement of early childhood—the development of a representational theory (...)
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  45. Dan Ryder, Concept Acquisition: How to Get Something From Nothing.
    First I should clarify my thesis. When I say the mind starts off as a blank slate, I’m saying that it’s devoid of substantive concepts or ideas, that is non-logical concepts or ideas. Some examples of substantive concepts are: the concept of a cat, the concept of a quark, the concept of being square, and the concept of heaviness.
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  46. John Sarnecki (2006). Retracing Our Steps: Fodor's New Old Way with Concept Acquisition. [REVIEW] Acta Analytica 21 (40):41-73.
    The acquisition of concepts has proven especially difficult for philosophers and psychologists to explain. In this paper, I examine Jerry Fodor’s most recent attempt to explain the acquisition of concepts relative to experiences of their referents. In reevaluating his earlier position, Fodor attempts to co-opt informational semantics into an account of concept acquisition that avoids the radical nativism of his earlier views. I argue that Fodor’s attempts ultimately fail to be persuasive. He must either accept his earlier nativism or adopt (...)
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  47. Wilfrid S. Sellars (1974). Conceptual Change. In , Essays in Philosophy and its History. Reidel.
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  48. Nicholas Shea (2011). New Concepts Can Be Learned. Biology and Philosophy 26 (1):129 - 139.
  49. Gale M. Sinatra & Paul R. Pintrich (eds.) (2003). Intentional Conceptual Change. L. Erlbaum.
    This volume brings together a distinguished, international list of scholars to explore the role of the learner's intention in knowledge change. Traditional views of knowledge reconstruction placed the impetus for thought change outside the learner's control. The teacher, instructional methods, materials, and activities were identified as the seat of change. Recent perspectives on learning, however, suggest that the learner can play an active, indeed, intentional role in the process of knowledge restructuring. This volume explores this new, innovative view of conceptual (...)
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  50. Michael Strevens (2012). Theoretical Terms Without Analytic Truths. Philosophical Studies 160 (1):167-190.
    When new theoretical terms are introduced into scientific discourse, prevailing accounts imply, analytic or semantic truths come along with them, by way of either definitions or reference-fixing descriptions. But there appear to be few or no analytic truths in scientific theory, which suggests that the prevailing accounts are mistaken. This paper looks to research on the psychology of natural kind concepts to suggest a new account of the introduction of theoretical terms that avoids both definition and reference-fixing description. At the (...)
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