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Summary Theory-based views of concepts claim that they are identified or intimately associated with miniature theories of how things in their target domain tend to function. These theories take the form of general causal-explanatory principles describing how the properties, objects, and events in the category hang together and how deeper or hidden properties produce and sustain observable ones. Such theories often focus on describing essential properties for category membership such as having the right internal organization or composition. These theories differ from full-blown scientific theories in being sketchy, limited in their explanatory and predictive scope, and potentially mistaken in certain details.
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  1. Scott Atran (1989). Basic Conceptual Domains. Mind and Language 4 (1-2):7-16.
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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. 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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  6. 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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  7. Jerry A. Fodor (1995). Concepts: A Potboiler. Philosophical Issues 50 (1-3):133-51.
  8. 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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  9. Alison Gopnik & Eric Schwitzgebel (1998). Whose Concepts Are They, Anyway? The Role of Philosophical Intuition in Empirical Psychology. In M. R. DePaul & William Ramsey (eds.), Rethinking Intuition. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield. 75--91.
    This chapter examines several ways in which philosophical attention to intuition can contribute to empirical scientific psychology. The authors then discuss one prevalent misuse of intuition. An unspoken assumption of much argumentation in the philosophy of mind has been that to articulate our folk psychological intuitions, our ordinary concepts of belief, truth, meaning, and so forth, is itself sufficient to give a theoretical account of what belief, truth, meaning, and so forth, actually are. It is believed that this assumption rests (...)
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  10. Ulrike Haas-Spohn & Wolfgang Spohn (2001). Concepts Are Beliefs About Essences. In R. Stuhlmann-Laeisz, Albert Newen & Ulrich Nortmann (eds.), Proceedings of an International Symposium. Stanford, CSLI Publications.
    Putnam (1975) and Burge (1979) have made a convincing case that neither mea- nings nor beliefs are in the head. Most philosophers, it seems, have accepted their argument. Putnam explained that a subject.
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  11. 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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  12. Jussi Jylkkä (2008). Theories of Natural Kind Term Reference and Empirical Psychology. Philosophical Studies 139 (2):153-169.
    In this paper, I argue that the causal and description theories of natural kind term reference involve certain psychological elements. My main goal is to refine these theories with the help of empirical psychology of concepts, and to argue that the refinement process ultimately leads to the dissolution of boundaries between the two kinds of theories. However, neither the refined theories nor any other existing theories provide an adequate answer to the question of what makes natural kind terms rigid. To (...)
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  13. Jussi Jylkkä, Henry Railo & Jussi Haukioja (2009). Psychological Essentialism and Semantic Externalism: Evidence for Externalism in Lay Speakers' Language Use. Philosophical Psychology 22 (1):37-60.
    Some experimental studies have recently claimed to undermine semantic externalism about natural kind terms. However, it is unclear how philosophical accounts of reference can be experimentally tested. We present two externalistic adaptations of psychological placeholder essentialism, a strict externalist and a hybrid externalist view, which are experimentally testable. We examine Braisby's et al. (1996) study which claims to undermine externalism, and argue that the study fails in its aims. We conducted two experiments, the results of which undermine internalism and the (...)
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  14. Frank C. Keil (1989). Spiders in the Web of Belief: The Tangled Relations Between Concepts and Theories. Mind and Language 4 (1-2):43-50.
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  15. Muhammad Ali Khalidi (1995). Two Concepts of Concept. Mind and Language 10 (4):402-22.
    Two main theories of concepts have emerged in the recent psychological literature: the Prototype Theory (which considers concepts to be self-contained lists of features) and the Theory Theory (which conceives of them as being embedded within larger theoretical networks). Experiments supporting the first theory usually differ substantially from those supporting the second, which suggests that these the· ories may be operating at different levels of explanation and dealing with different entities. A convergence is proposed between the Theory Theory and the (...)
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  16. Sangeet Khemlani, Sarah-Jane Leslie & Sam Glucksberg (2012). Inferences About Members of Kinds: The Generics Hypothesis. Language and Cognitive Processes 27:887-900.
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  17. Jack M. C. Kwong (2006). Why Concepts Can't Be Theories. Philosophical Explorations 9 (3):309-325.
    In this paper, I present an alternative argument for Jerry Fodor's recent conclusion that there are currently no tenable theories of concepts in the cognitive sciences and in the philosophy of mind. Briefly, my approach focuses on the 'theory-theory' of concepts. I argue that the two ways in which cognitive psychologists have formulated this theory lead to serious difficulties, and that there cannot be, in principle, a third way in which it can be reformulated. Insofar as the 'theory-theory' is supposed (...)
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  18. Edouard Machery (2009). Doing Without Concepts. Oxford University Press.
    Over recent years, the psychology of concepts has been rejuvenated by new work on prototypes, inventive ideas on causal cognition, the development of neo-empiricist theories of concepts, and the inputs of the budding neuropsychology of concepts. But our empirical knowledge about concepts has yet to be organized in a coherent framework. -/- In Doing without Concepts, Edouard Machery argues that the dominant psychological theories of concepts fail to provide such a framework and that drastic conceptual changes are required to make (...)
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  19. Eric Margolis (1999). What is Conceptual Glue? Minds and Machines 9 (2):241-255.
    Conceptual structures are commonly likened to scientific theories, yet the content and motivation of the theory analogy are rarely discussed. Gregory Murphy and Douglas Medin's The Role of Theories in Conceptual Coherence is a notable exception and has become an authoritative exposition of the utility of the theory analogy. For Murphy and Medin, the theory analogy solves what they call the problem of conceptual coherence or the problem of conceptual glue. I argue that they conflate a number of issues under (...)
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  20. Eric Margolis (1995). The Significance of the Theory Analogy in the Psychological Study of Concepts. Mind and Language 10 (1-2):45-71.
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  21. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (eds.) (2007). Creations of the Mind: Theories of Artifacts and Their Representation. Oxford University Press.
    This volume will be a fascinating resource for philosophers, cognitive scientists, and psychologists, and the starting point for future research in the study of ...
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  22. 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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  23. 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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  24. 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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  25. 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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  26. Lance J. Rips (1995). The Current Status of Research on Concept Combination. Mind and Language 10 (1-2):72-104.
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  27. Wilfrid S. Sellars (1948). Concepts as Involving Laws and Inconceivable Without Them. Philosophy of Science 15 (October):287-313.
  28. Michael Strevens, The Myth of the Final Criterion.
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  29. Michael Strevens (2000). The Essentialist Aspect of Naive Theories. Cognition 74 (149):175.
    Recent work on children’s inferences concerning biological and chemical categories has suggested that children (and perhaps adults) are essentialists— a view known as psychological essentialism. I distinguish three varieties of psychological essentialism and investigate the ways in which essentialism explains the inferences for which it is supposed to account. Essentialism succeeds in explaining the inferences, I argue, because it attributes to the child belief in causal laws connecting category membership and the possession of certain characteristic appearances and behavior. This suggests (...)
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  30. Daniel A. Weiskopf (2009). The Plurality of Concepts. Synthese 169 (1):145 - 173.
    Traditionally, theories of concepts in psychology assume that concepts are a single, uniform kind of mental representation. But no single kind of representation can explain all of the empirical data for which concepts are responsible. I argue that the assumption that concepts are uniformly the same kind of mental structure is responsible for these theories’ shortcomings, and outline a pluralist theory of concepts that rejects this assumption. On pluralism, concepts should be thought of as being constituted by multiple representational kinds, (...)
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  31. 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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