Realism and folk psychology in the ascription of concepts

Philosophical Psychology 5 (4):369-390 (1992)
This paper discusses some requirements on a folk-psychological, computational account of concepts. Although most psychological views take the folk-psychological stance that concept-possession requires capacities of both representation and classification, such views lack a philosophical context. In contrast, philosophically motivated views stress one of these capacities at the expense of the other. This paper seeks to provide some philosophical motivation for the (folk-) psychological stance. Philosophical and psychological constraints on a computational level account provide the context for evaluating two theses. The first, the Classificatory View, is that concept-possession is constituted by the ability to classify states of the world. I argue, against this view, that to be able to classify, a thinker must also be able to represent the world. The second thesis, the Representational View, is that to possess a concept is constituted by the ability to represent the world. I argue that ascribing this ability is incoherent without ascribing an ability to classify. Hence, a detailed computational specification of concept-possession suggests that the folk-psychological stance is accurate. Philosophical views of concepts, (e.g. Fodor, 1987), adhering to one of the strong theses, whilst adverting to folk-psychological motivations, are thus both insufficiently complex and incoherent
Keywords Ascription  Concept  Folk Psychology  Metaphysics  Realism
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DOI 10.1080/09515089208573069
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