Regaining composure: A defense of prototype compositionality

Beginning in the late 1960s, psychologists began to challenge the view the definitional theory of concepts. According to that theory a concept is a mental representation comprising representations of properties (or “features”) that are individually necessary and jointly sufficient for membership in a category. In place of the definitional view, psychologists initially put forward the prototype theory of concept, according to which concepts comprise representations of features that are typical, salient, and diagnostic for category membership, but not necessarily necessary. The prototype theory gained considerable support in the 1970s, but came under attack in the 1980s. One objection, most forcefully advanced by Jerry Fodor, is that prototypes do not combine compositionally. Compositionality is said to be an adequacy condition on a theory of concepts. If prototypes don’t compose, then prototypes are not concepts. Or so the argument goes.
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