Meaning, prototypes, and the future of cognitive science

Minds and Machines 1 (3):233-57 (1991)
In this paper I evaluate the soundness of the prototype paradigm, in particular its basic assumption that there are pan-human psychological essences or core meanings that refer to basic-level natural kinds, explaining why, on the whole, human communication and learning are successful. Instead I argue that there are no particular pan-human basic elements for thought, meaning and cognition, neither prototypes, nor otherwise. To illuminate my view I draw on examples from anthropology. More generally I argue that the prototype paradigm exemplifies two assumptions that dominate cognitive science: (1) If human beings use words they mean something particular and what they mean can be discovered by scientific methods. (2) There is a fixed number of domains of categorization, each made up of a fixed number of basic categories. I suggest that these two assumptions lead to Brave New World.
Keywords Meaning  concept  categorization  cognitive model  prototype  salience  natural kind  holism  intercultural communication  biological taxa  basic colours  basic emotions
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DOI 10.1007/BF00351180
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