Given the fundamental role that concepts play in theories of cognition, philosophers and cognitive scientists have a common interest in concepts. Nonetheless, there is a great deal of controversy regarding what kinds of things concepts are, how they are structured, and how they are acquired. This chapter offers a detailed high-level overview and critical evaluation of the main theories of concepts and their motivations. Taking into account the various challenges that each theory faces, the chapter also (...) presents a novel approach to concepts that is organized around two ideas. The first is a pluralistic view of differing types of conceptual structure. The second is a model that treats concepts as atomic representations that are linked to various types of conceptual structures. (shrink)
Thick terms and concepts in ethics (e.g. selfish, cruel and courageous) somehow combine evaluation and non-evaluative description. The non-evaluative aspects of thick terms and concepts underdetermine their extensions. Many writers argue that this underdetermination point is best explained by supposing that thick terms and concepts are semantically evaluative in some way such that evaluation plays a role in determining their extensions. This paper argues that the extensions of thick terms and concepts are underdetermined by their meanings (...) in toto, irrespective of whether their extensions are partly determined by evaluation; the underdetermination point can therefore be explained without supposing that thick terms and concepts are semantically evaluative. My argument applies general points about semantic gradability and context-sensitivity to the semantics of thick terms and concepts. (shrink)
This article is about the special, subjective concepts we apply to experience, called “phenomenal concepts”. They are of special interest in a number of ways. First, they refer to phenomenal experiences, and the qualitative character of those experiences whose metaphysical status is hotly debated. Conscious experience strike many philosophers as philosophically problematic and difficult to accommodate within a physicalistic metaphysics. Second, PCs are widely thought to be special and unique among concepts. The sense that there is something (...) special about PCs is very closely tied up with features of the epistemic access they afford to qualia. When we deploy phenomenal concepts introspectively to some phenomenally conscious experience as it occurs, we are said to be acquainted with our own conscious experiences. Accounts of PCs either have to explain the acquaintance relation, or acquaintance with our phenomenal experiences has to be denied. PCs have received much attention in recent philosophy of mind mainly because they figure in arguments for dualism and in physicalist responses to these arguments. The main topic of this article is to explore different accounts of phenomenal concepts and their role in recent debates over the metaphysical status of phenomenal consciousness. (shrink)
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 beliefs. The identification procedures, in turn, consist of prototypes, sets of exemplars, or possibly also theory-structured beliefs. I argue that the dual theory is motivated both by experimental data and theoretical considerations. The thesis consists of three interrelated articles. Article I examines philosophical causal and description theories of natural kind term reference, and argues that they involve, or need to involve, certain psychological elements. I propose a unified theory of natural kind term reference, built on the psychology of concepts. Article II presents two semantic adaptations of psychological essentialism, one of which is a strict externalistic Kripkean-Putnamian theory, while the other is a hybrid account, according to which natural kind terms are ambiguous between internalistic and externalistic senses. We present two experiments, the results of which support the strict externalistic theory. Article III examines Fodor’s influential atomistic theory of concepts, according to which no psychological capacities associated with concepts constitute them, or are necessary for reference. I argue, contra Fodor, that the psychological mechanisms are necessary for reference. (shrink)
This essay is a sustained attempt to bring new light to some of the perennial problems in philosophy of mind surrounding phenomenal consciousness and introspection through developing an account of sensory and phenomenal concepts. Building on the information-theoretic framework of Dretske (1981), we present an informational psychosemantics as it applies to what we call sensory concepts, concepts that apply, roughly, to so-called secondary qualities of objects. We show that these concepts have a special informational character and (...) semantic struc-ture that closely tie them to the brain states realizing conscious qualitative experiences. We then develop an account of introspection which exploits this special nature of sensory concepts. The result is a new class of concepts, which, following recent terminology, we call phenomenal con-cepts: these concepts refer to phenomenal experience itself and are the vehicles used in introspec-tion. On our account, the connection between sensory and phenomenal concepts is very tight: it consists in different semantic uses of the same cognitive structures underlying the sensory con-cepts, such as the concept of red. Contrary to widespread opinion, we show that information the-ory contains all the resources to satisfy internalist intuitions about phenomenal consciousness, while not offending externalist ones. A consequence of this account is that it explains and pre-dicts the so-called conceivability arguments against physicalism on the basis of the special nature of sensory and phenomenal concepts. Thus we not only show why physicalism is not threatened by such arguments, but also demonstrate its strength in virtue of its ability to predict and explain away such arguments in a principled way. However, we take the main contribution of this work to be what it provides in addition to a response to those conceivability arguments, namely, a sub-stantive account of the interface between sensory and conceptual systems and the mechanisms of introspection as based on the special nature of the information flow between them. (shrink)
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 are the output of dedicated input analyzers, as with perceptual representations, but these core representations differ from perceptual representations in having more abstract contents and richer functional roles. Carey argues that the key to understanding cognitive development lies in recognizing conceptual discontinuities in which new representational systems emerge that have more expressive power than core cognition and are also incommensurate with core cognition and other earlier representational systems. Finally, Carey fleshes out Quinian bootstrapping, a learning mechanism that has been repeatedly sketched in the literature on the history and philosophy of science. She demonstrates that Quinian bootstrapping is a major mechanism in the construction of new representational resources over the course of childrens cognitive development. Carey shows how developmental cognitive science resolves aspects of long-standing philosophical debates about the existence, nature, content, and format of innate knowledge. She also shows that understanding the processes of conceptual development in children illuminates the historical process by which concepts are constructed, and transforms the way we think about philosophical problems about the nature of concepts and the relations between language and thought. (shrink)
Frank Jackson’s famous Knowledge Argument moves from the premise that complete physical knowledge is not complete knowledge about experiences to the falsity of physicalism. In recent years, a consensus has emerged that the credibility of this and other well-known anti-physicalist arguments can be undermined by allowing that we possess a special category of concepts of experiences, phenomenal concepts, which are conceptually independent from physical/functional concepts. It is held by a large number of philosophers that since the conceptual (...) independence of phenomenal concepts does not imply the metaphysical independence of phenomenal properties, physicalism is safe. This paper distinguishes between two versions of this novel physicalist strategy –Phenomenal Concept Strategy (PCS) – depending on how it cashes out “conceptual independence,” and argues that neither helps the physicalist cause. A dilemma for PCS arises: cashing out “conceptual independence” in a way compatible with physicalism requires abandoning some manifest phenomenological intuitions, and cashing it out in a way compatible with those intuitions requires dropping physicalism. The upshot is that contra Brian Loar and others, one cannot “have it both ways.”. (shrink)
The book under review is a collection of thirteen essays on the nature phenomenal concepts and the ways in which phenomenal concepts figure in debates over physicalism. Phenomenal concepts are of special interest in a number of ways. First, they refer to phenomenal experiences, and the qualitative character of those experiences (aka “qualia”) whose metaphysical status is hotly debated. There are recent arguments, originating in Descartes’ famous conceivability argument, that purport to show that phenomenal experience is irreducibly (...) non-physical. Second, phenomenal concepts are widely thought to be special and unique among concepts. Both the anti-physicalist arguments and physicalist replies to these arguments turn on views about the nature of phenomenal concepts. In this review I survey the many ways in which the essays in this volume are engaged (pro or con) with anti-physicalist arguments and the role phenomenal concepts play in these arguments. (shrink)
So-called "thick" moral concepts are distinctive in that they somehow "hold together" evaluation and description. But how? This paper argues against the standard view that the evaluations which thick concepts may be used to convey belong to sense or semantic content. That view cannot explain linguistic data concerning how thick concepts behave in a distinctive type of disagreements and denials which arise when one speaker regards another's thick concept as "objectionable" in a certain sense. The paper also (...) briefly considers contextualist, presuppositional, and implicature accounts of the evaluative contents of thick concepts, but finds none clearly superior to the others. (shrink)
Some philosophers hold that so-called "thick" terms and concepts in ethics (such as 'cruel,' 'selfish,' 'courageous,' and 'generous') are contextually variable with respect to the valence (positive or negative) of the evaluations that they may be used to convey. Some of these philosophers use this variability claim to argue that thick terms and concepts are not inherently evaluative in meaning; rather their use conveys evaluations as a broadly pragmatic matter. I argue that one sort of putative examples of (...) contextual variability in evaluative valence that are found in the literature fail to support the variability claim and that another sort of putative examples are open to a wide range of explanations that have different implications for the relationship between thick terms and concepts and evaluation. I conclude that considerations of contextual variability fail to settle whether thick terms and concepts are inherently evaluative in meaning. In closing I suggest a more promising line of research. (shrink)
One popular materialist response to the explanatory gap identifies phenomenal concepts with type-demonstrative concepts. This kind of response, however, faces a serious challenge: that our phenomenal concepts seem to provide a richer characterization of their referents than just the demonstrative characterization of 'that quality'. In this paper, I develop a materialist account that beefs up the contents of phenomenal concepts while retaining the idea that these contents contain demonstrative elements. I illustrate this account by focusing on (...) our phenomenal concepts of phenomenal colour. The phenomenal colours stand in a similarity space relative to one another in virtue of being complex qualities—qualities that contain saturation, lightness, and various aspects of hue as component elements. Our phenomenal concepts, in turn, provide a demonstrative characterization of each of these component elements as well as a description of how much of that element is present in a given phenomenal colour. The result is an account where phenomenal concepts contain demonstrative elements and yet provide a significantly richer characterization of the intrinsic nature of their referents than just 'that quality'. (shrink)
This paper presents an alternative to the standard view that the evaluations that the so-called "thick" terms and concepts in ethics may be used to convey belong to their sense or semantic meaning. I describe a large variety of linguistic data that are well explained by the alternative view that the evaluations that (at least a very wide range of) thick terms and concepts may be used to convey are a certain kind of defeasible implications of their utterances (...) which can be given a conversational explanation. I then provide some reasons to think that this explanation of the data is superior to the standard view, but a fuller assessment must await further work. In closing I briefly survey the largely deflationary consequences of this account regarding the significance of thick terms and concepts for evaluative thought and judgment. (shrink)
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 sense of the research on concepts in psychology and neuropsychology. Machery shows that the class of concepts divides into several distinct kinds that have little in common with one another and that for this very reason, it is a mistake to attempt to encompass all known phenomena within a single theory of concepts. In brief, concepts are not a natural kind. Machery concludes that the theoretical notion of concept should be eliminated from the theoretical apparatus of contemporary psychology and should be replaced with theoretical notions that are more appropriate for fulfilling psychologists' goals. The notion of concept has encouraged psychologists to believe that a single theory of concepts could be developed, leading to useless theoretical controversies between the dominant paradigms of concepts. Keeping this notion would slow down, and maybe prevent, the development of a more adequate classification and would overshadow the theoretical and empirical issues that are raised by this more adequate classification. Anyone interested in cognitive science's emerging view of the mind will find Machery's provocative ideas of interest. (shrink)
Ethical thought is articulated around normative concepts. Standard examples of normative concepts are good, reason, right, ought, and obligatory. Theorists often treat the normative as an undifferentiated domain. Even so, it is common to distinguish between two kinds of normative concepts: evaluative or axiological concepts, such as good, and deontic concepts, such as ought. This encyclopedia entry discusses the many differences between the two kinds of concepts.
The author claims that concept possession is not only necessary but also sufficient for self-consciousness, where self-consciousness is understood as the awareness of oneself as a self. Further, he links concept possession to intelligent behavior. His ultimate aim is to provide a framework for the study of self-consciousness in infants and non-human animals. I argue that the claim that all concepts are necessarily related to the self-concept remains unconvincing and suggest that what might be at issue here are not (...) so much conceptual but rather metacognitive abilities. (shrink)
Boghossian’s (2003) proposal to conditionalize concepts as a way to secure their legitimacy in disputable cases applies well, not just to pejoratives – on whose account Boghossian first proposed it – but also to thick ethical concepts. It actually has important advantages when dealing with some worries raised by the application of thick ethical terms, and the truth and facticity of corresponding statements. In this paper, I will try to show, however, that thick ethical concepts present a (...) specific case, whose analysis requires a somewhat different reconstruction from that which Boghossian offers. A proper account of thick ethical concepts should be able to explain how ‘evaluated’ and ‘evaluation’ are connected. (shrink)
Arguments for and against the existence of demonstrative concepts of shades and shapes turn on the assumption that demonstrative concepts must be recognitional capacities. The standard argument for this assumption is based on the widely held view that concepts are those constituents of propositional attitudes that account for an attitude's inferential potential. Only if demonstrative concepts of shades are recognitional capacities, the standard argument goes, can they account for the inferential potential of demonstrative judgements about shades. (...) Shades are conceived as colour universals. Shade a is different from shade b iff it is possible to distinguish a from b visually. In this paper I will argue that the standard argument is based on a mistaken view of inference. We can correctly draw inferences from a demonstrative judgement about something x , even if we are not able to recognise or re-identify the previously demonstrated x during our reasoning. We are prima facie entitled to rely on our preservative memory as retaining our initial demonstrative apprehension of x . The fact that preservative memory entitles us to assume sameness of referent over time is linguistically manifest in the use of anaphoric pronouns: if we can no longer recognise and demonstrate our original demonstratum, we can use anaphoric expressions to pick it up, thereby ensuring sameness of reference. ('That is a nice bird. Now it has vanished. So there is a nice bird that has just vanished.') Since preservation of the initial episode of apprehending x grounds our reasoning from demonstrative judgements, there is no longer a reason to require demonstrative concepts to be recognitional capacities. The standard argument does not get off the ground. 1. (shrink)
This is an introductory essay from The Interplay between Consciousness and Concepts, which I guest edited as a special double issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies (vol. 14, Sept/Oct). It is also sold separately as a book by Imprint Academic.
In this paper I consider one of the influential challenges to the notion that perceptual experience might be completely conceptually structured, a challenge that rests on the idea that conceptual structure cannot do justice to the fineness of grain of perceptual experience. In so doing, I canvass John McDowell's attempt to meet this challenge by appeal to the notion of demonstrative concepts and review some criticisms recently leveled at McDowell's deployment of demonstrative concepts for this purpose by Sean (...) D. Kelly. Finally, I suggest that, though Kelly's criticisms might challenge McDowell's original presentation of demonstrative concepts, a modified notion of demonstrative concepts is available to the conceptualist that is proof against Kelly's criticisms. (shrink)
This paper advances a detailed exploration of the complex relationships among terms, concepts, and synonymy in the UMLS Metathesaurus, and proposes the study and understanding of the Metathesaurus from a model-theoretic perspective. Initial sections provide the background and motivation for such an approach, and a careful informal treatment of these notions is offered as a context and basis for the formal analysis. What emerges from this is a set of puzzles and confusions in the Metathesaurus and its literature pertaining (...) to synonymy and its relation to terms and concepts. A model theory for a segment of the Metathesaurus is then constructed, and its adequacy relative to the informal treatment is demonstrated. Finally, it is shown how this approach clarifies and addresses the puzzles educed from the informal discussion, and how the model-theoretic perspective may be employed to evaluate some fundamental criticisms of the Metathesaurus. (shrink)
In a recent paper, Dennis Plaisted examines an important argument that Leibniz gives for the existence of primitive concepts. After sketching a natural reading of this argument, Plaisted observes that the argument appears to imply something clearly inconsistent with Leibniz’s other views. To save Leibniz from contradiction, Plaisted offers a revision. However, his account faces a number of serious difficulties and therefore does not successfully eliminate the inconsistency. We explain these difficulties and defend a more plausible alternative. In the (...) process, we call attention to the neglected topic of Leibniz’s views on the nature of conceiving, and reveal his commitment to the somewhat surprising thesis that one can conceive something through a concept even if one has no conscious grasp of that concept. (shrink)
This book defends a novel theory of singular concepts, emphasizing the pragmatic requirements of singular concept possession and arguing that these requirements must be understood to institute traditions and policies of thought.
It is generally accepted that there are two kinds of normative concepts: evaluative concepts, such as good, and deontic concepts, such as ought. The question that is raised by this distinction is how it is possible to claim that evaluative concepts are normative. Given that deontic concepts appear to be at the heart of normativity, the bigger the gap between evaluative and deontic concepts, the less it appears plausible to say that evaluative concepts (...) are normative. After having presented the main differences between evaluative and deontic concepts, and shown that there is more than a superficial difference between the two kinds, the paper turns to the question of the normativity of evaluative concepts. It will become clear that, even if these concepts have different functions, there are a great many ties between evaluative concepts, on the one hand, and the concepts of ought and of reason, on the other. (shrink)
This paper asks (a) how new scientific objects of research are onceptualized at a point in time when little is known about them, and (b) how those conceptualizations, in turn, figure in the process of investigating the phenomena in question. Contrasting my approach with existing notions of concepts and situating it in relation to existing discussions about the epistemology of experimentation, I propose to think of concepts as research tools. I elaborate on the conception of a tool that (...) informs my account. Narrowing my focus to phenomena in cognitive neuropsychology, I then illustrate my thesis with the example of the concept of implicit memory. This account is based on an original reconstruction of the nature and function of operationism in psychology. (shrink)
There is widespread debate in contemporary philosophy of mind over the place of conscious experiences in the natural world – where the latter is taken to be broadly as described and explained by such sciences as physics, chemistry and biology; while conscious experiences encompass pains, bodily sensations, perceptions, feelings and moods. Many philosophers and scientists, who endorse physicalism or materialism, maintain that these mental states can be completely described and explained in natural terms. Frank Jackson’s knowledge argument is a very (...) influential objection to physicalism and, thus, to such an optimistic view about the scientific treatability of conscious experiences. According to the knowledge argument, we can know facts about our colour experiences that are not physical facts. At the heart of this book lies a response to the knowledge argument that aims to defend a version of physicalism, that the author calls modest reductionism. This reply is based on the endorsement of the phenomenal concept strategy. According to this response, the knowledge argument cannot prove that there are non-physical facts. Instead, it can only show that there are ways of thinking about colour experiences that are based on phenomenal concepts that differ from scientific concepts. The author argues for the superiority of the phenomenal concept strategy over other influential physicalist replies to the knowledge argument. However, he criticises some recent physicalist accounts of phenomenal concepts and develops his own distinctive theory of these concepts. (shrink)
Humans can think about their conscious experiences using a special class of ‘phenomenal’ concepts. Psycho-physical identity statements formulated using phenomenal concepts appear to be contingent. Kripke argued that this intuited contingency could not be explained away, in contrast to ordinary theoretical identities where it can. If the contingency is real, property dualism follows. Physicalists have attempted to answer this challenge by pointing to special features of phenomenal concepts that explain the intuition of contingency. However no physicalist account (...) of their distinguishing features has proven to be satisfactory. Leading accounts rely on there being a phenomenological difference between tokening a physical-functional concept and tokening a phenomenal concept. This paper shows that existing psychological data undermine that claim. The paper goes on to suggest that the recalcitrance of the intuition of contingency may instead by explained by the limited means people typically have for applying their phenomenal concepts. Ways of testing that suggestion empirically are proposed. (shrink)
Buzaglo (as well as Manders (J Philos LXXXVI(10):553–562, 1989)) shows the way in which it is rational even for a realist to consider ‘development of concepts’, and documents the theory by numerous examples from the area of mathematics. A natural question arises: in which way can the phenomenon of expanding mathematical concepts influence empirical concepts? But at the same time a more general question can be formulated: in which way do the mathematical concepts influence empirical (...) class='Hi'>concepts? What I want to show in the present paper can be described as follows. The problem articulated by Buzaglo deserves some semantic refinements. Following explications are needed: What is meaning? (In particular: What are concepts?) What are questions? (Or, equivalently: Semantics of interrogative sentences.) -/- Further, a useful notion will be the notion of problem. Taking over the notion of conceptual system from Materna (Conceptual Systems. Logos, Berlin, 2004) and using Tichý’s Transparent intensional logic (TIL) I can try to solve the problem of the relation between mathematical and empirical concepts (not only for the case of expanding some mathematical concepts). (shrink)
Jenkins has developed a theory of the a priori that she claims solves the problem of how justification regarding our concepts can give us justification regarding the world. She claims that concepts themselves can be justified, and that beliefs formed by examining such concepts can be justified a priori. I object that we can have a priori justified beliefs with unjustified concepts if those beliefs have no existential import. I then argue that only beliefs without existential (...) import can be justified a priori on the widely held conceptual approach. This limits the scope of the a priori and undermines arguments for essentialism. (shrink)
These are two of only three medieval treatises known to the editors explicitly devoted to discussion of concepts. That is not to deny that other works treat extensively of concepts among other matters.
Previous research with adults suggests that a catalog of minimally counterintuitive concepts, which underlies supernatural or religious concepts, may constitute a cognitive optimum and is therefore cognitively encoded and culturally transmitted more successfully than either entirely intuitive concepts or maximally counterintuitive concepts. This study examines whether children's concept recall similarly is sensitive to the degree of conceptual counterintuitiveness (operationalized as a concept's number of ontological domain violations) for items presented in the context of a fictional narrative. (...) Seven- to nine-year-old children who listened to a story including both intuitive and counterintuitive concepts recalled the counterintuitive concepts containing one (Experiment 1) or two (Experiment 2), but not three (Experiment 3), violations of intuitive ontological expectations significantly more and in greater detail than the intuitive concepts, both immediately after hearing the story and 1 week later. We conclude that one or two violations of expectation may be a cognitive optimum for children: They are more inferentially rich and therefore more memorable, whereas three or more violations diminish memorability for target concepts. These results suggest that the cognitive bias for minimally counterintuitive ideas is present and active early in human development, near the start of formal religious instruction. This finding supports a growing literature suggesting that diverse, early-emerging, evolved psychological biases predispose humans to hold and perform religious beliefs and practices whose primary form and content is not derived from arbitrary custom or the social environment alone. (shrink)
This book offers an overview of theories of the Concept, drawing on the philosopher Hegel and the Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky. Concepts are shown to be both units of the mind and units of a cultural formation.
Carey speculates that the representations of core cognition are entirely iconic. However this idea is undercut by her contention that core cognition includes concepts such as object and agency, which are employed in thought as predicates. If Carey had taken on board her claim that core cognition is iconic, very different hypotheses might have come into view.
Language acquisition is often said to be a process of mapping words into pre-existing concepts. If that is right, then we ought to be able to obtain experimental evidence for the existence of concepts in prelinguistic children. One line of research that attempts to provide such evidence is the work of Paul Quinn, who claims that looking-time results show that four--month old infants form “category representations”. This paper argues that Quinn’s results have an alternative explanation. A distinction is (...) drawn between conceptual thought and the perception of comparative similarity relations, and it is argued that Quinn’s results can be explained in terms of the latter rather than the former. (shrink)
Physics, at the various stages of knowlege, presents itself as an objective description of the natural world, and makes use, for this purpose, of rational concepts, proposed as universal. However, these concepts are built by human thought in particular subjective and historical situations, and are submitted to transformation processes. Is it possible to conciliate these two points of views, the objective and the relative ones? And how to conceive such transforrnations, uncler the sign of intelligibility, of this science (...) and of history as well? (shrink)
Qu'est-ce qu'un concept ? Cette question concerne au premier chef ceux qui ont fait du concept une profession : chercheurs dans les diverses sciences, humaines ou non, et travailleurs intellectuels en général. Plus largement, elle exprime cette curiosité naturelle, non dénuée d'inquiétude, à laquelle toute pensée, commune ou savante, semble exposée et qui nous pousse à souhaiter, sans savoir sans doute exactement ce que nous recherchons par là, une détermination plus exacte de ce que nous entendons par « pensée ». (...) Que veut dire pour la pensée que celle-ci, en un certain sens, passe par la mise en œuvre de ce que nous appelons « concepts » ? Quelle est la nature exacte de cette discrimination faite alors entre le conceptuel et le non-conceptuel ? Les concepts, étymologiquement, sont censés nous ménager une prise sur quelque chose. Cette chose, est-ce bien la réalité même ? Sommes-nous ainsi capables de penser « les choses telles qu'elles sont » ? Et, si c'est le cas, à quel prix ? Quelles limites faut-il accepter à l'efficacité de nos pensées ? Telles sont les questions recouvertes par leur caractérisation en termes de « concepts », et celles que ce livre, au fil des exemples et mises en situation, s'attache à résoudre. (shrink)
Combining philosophical and historical scholarship, the articles in this volume focus on scientific concepts, rather than theories, as units of analysis. They thereby contribute to a growing literature about the role of concepts in scientific research. The authors are particularly interested in exploring the dynamics of research; they investigate the ways in which scientists form and use concepts, rather than in what the concepts themselves represent. The fields treated range from mathematics to virology and genetics, from (...) nuclear physics to psychology, from technology to present-day neural engineering. The volume contains articles by Vassi Kindi, Miles MacLeod, Ingo Brigandt, Friedrich Steinle, Dirk Schlimm, Theodore Arabatzis, Uljana Feest, Corinne Bloch, Mieke Boon, Nancy Nersessian, and Hanne Andersen. (shrink)
This is a special double issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies (vol. 14, Sept/Oct) which I guest edited. It is also sold separately as a book and published by Imprint Academic. The essays are authored by both philosophers and psychologists (including Jose Bermudez, Georges Rey, Art Markman, Jesse Prinz, and Simon Baron-Cohen) and include topics such as conceptualism, phenomenal concepts, infant consciousness, and synesthesia.
The Nature of Concepts examines a central issue for all the main disciplines in cognitive science: how the human mind creates and passes on to other human minds a concept. An excellent cross-disciplinary collection with contributors including Steven Pinker, Andy Clarke and Henry Plotkin.
The aim of this paper is to analyze the relationship between phenomenal experience and our folk conceptualization of it. I will focus on the phenomenal concept strategy as an answer to Mary's puzzle. In the first part I present Mary's argument and the phenomenal concept strategy. In the second part I explain the requirements phenomenal concepts should satisfy in order to solve Mary's puzzle. In the third part I present various accounts of what a phenomenal concept is, and I (...) show the difficulties each of them have. Finally, I develop my own account of phenomenal concepts. My thesis claims that phenomenal concepts are complex concepts whose possession conditions depend upon the mastery of many other concepts, in fact, quite complex concepts such as the distinction between appearance and reality (which belongs to our theory of mind system), and color concepts (at least in the case of the phenomenal concepts needed in order to account for Mary's case). And these later concepts are concepts that have special possession conditions: they include the deployment of nonconceptual recognitional capacities. (shrink)
The Extent of the Literal develops a strikingly new approach to metaphor and polysemy in their relation to the conceptual structure. In a straightforward narrative style, the author argues for a reconsideration of standard assumptions concerning the notion of literal meaning and its relation to conceptual structure. She draws on neurophysiological and psychological experimental data in support of a view in which polysemy belongs to the level of words but not to the level of concepts, and thus challenges some (...) seminal work on metaphor and polysemy within cognitive linguistics, lexical semantics and analytical philosophy. (shrink)
Molyneux’s question, whether the newly sighted might immediately recognize tactilely familiar shapes by sight alone, has produced an array of answers over three centuries of debate and discussion. I propose the first pluralist response: many different answers, both yes and no, are individually sufficient as an answer to the question as a whole. I argue that this is possible if we take the question to be cluster concept of sub-problems. This response opposes traditional answers that isolate specific perceptual features as (...) uniquely applicable to Molyneux’s question and grant viability to only one reply. Answering Molyneux’s question as a cluster concept may also serve as a methodology for resolving other philosophical problems. (shrink)
In The Consciousness Paradox, Rocco Gennaro aims to solve an underlying paradox, namely, how it is possible to hold a number of seemingly inconsistent views, including higher-order thought (HOT) theory, conceptualism, infant and animal ...
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 (...) scientific beliefs are representations of the world, scientific standards and aims are epistemic values. The relevance of epistemic aims and values for belief change has been previously recognized. My paper makes a similar point for scientific concepts, both by studying how an individual concept changes (in its semantic properties) and by viewing epistemic aims and values tied to individual concepts. (shrink)
We propose a theory for modeling concepts that uses the state-context-property theory (SCOP), a generalization of the quantum formalism, whose basic notions are states, contexts and properties. This theory enables us to incorporate context into the mathematical structure used to describe a concept, and thereby model how context influences the typicality of a single exemplar and the applicability of a single property of a concept. We introduce the notion `state of a concept' to account for this contextual influence, and (...) show that the structure of the set of contexts and of the set of properties of a concept is a complete orthocomplemented lattice. The structural study in this article is a preparation for a numerical mathematical theory of concepts in the Hilbert space of quantum mechanics that allows the description of the combination of concepts. (shrink)
Francois Recanati presents the basic features of the *indexical model* of mental files, and defends it against several interrelated objections. According to this model, mental files refer to objects in a way that is analogous to that of indexicals in language: a file refers to an object in virtue of a contextual relation between them. For instance, perception and attention provide the basis for demonstrative files. Several objections, some of them from David Papineau, concern the possibility of files to preserve (...) and add information about objects across contexts. How is it possible to think about the same object when the subject no longer is in the original context? How is it possible to think of a perceived object as already known? Can this be done without an explicit identity judgment? Recanati answers these questions by invoking mental files of non-basic kinds and by describing the cognitive dynamics in which they take part. (shrink)
Reproduced here in facsimile, this volume was originally published in 1963 and is available individually. The collection is also available in a number of themed mini-sets of between 5 and 13 volumes, or as a complete collection.
The use of expressions like ‘concepts of consciousness’, ‘kinds of consciousness’, and ‘meanings of ‘consciousness’’ interchangeably is ubiquitous within the consciousness literature. It is argued that this practice can be made sense of in only two ways. The first involves interpreting ‘concepts of consciousness’ and ‘kinds of consciousness’ metalinguistically to mean concepts expressed by ‘consciousness’ and kinds expressed by ‘consciousness’; and the second involves certain literal, though semantically deviant, interpretations of those expressions. The trouble is that researchers (...) typically use the above expressions interchangeably without satisfying either way of doing so coherently. The result is much error and confusion, which is demonstrated in the works of philosophers currently writing on consciousness. (shrink)
This essay is a sustained attempt to bring new light to some of the perennial problems in philosophy of mind surrounding phenomenal consciousness and introspection through developing an account of sensory and phenomenal concepts. Building on the information-theoretic framework of Dretske (1981), we present an informational psychosemantics as it applies to what we call sensory concepts, concepts that apply, roughly, to so-called secondary qualities of objects. We show that these concepts have a special informational character and (...) semantic structure that closely tie them to the brain states realizing conscious qualitative experiences. We then develop an account of introspection which exploits this special nature of sensory concepts. The result is a new class of concepts, which, following recent terminology, we call phenomenal concepts: these concepts refer to phenomenal experience itself and are the vehicles used in introspection. On our account, the connection between sensory and phenomenal concepts is very tight: it consists in different semantic uses of the same cognitive structures underlying the sensory concepts, such as the concept of red. Contrary to widespread opinion, we show that information theory contains all the resources to satisfy internalist intuitions about phenomenal consciousness, while not offending externalist ones. A consequence of this account is that it explains and predicts the so-called conceivability arguments against physicalism on the basis of the special nature of sensory and phenomenal concepts. Thus we not only show why physicalism is not threatened by such arguments, but also demonstrate its strength in virtue of its ability to predict and explain away such arguments in a principled way. However, we take the main contribution of this work to be what it provides in addition to a response to those conceivability arguments, namely, a substantive account of the interface between sensory and conceptual systems and the mechanisms of introspection as based on the special nature of the information flow between them. (shrink)
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 suggests that future work on human cognition should build upon new foundations. This lively, conversational, and superbly accessible book is the first volume in the Oxford Cognitive Science Series, where the best original work in this field will be presented to a broad readership. Concepts will fascinate anyone interested in contemporary work on mind and language. Cognitive science will never be the same again. (shrink)
Many psychologists and philosophers believe that the close correlation between human language and human concepts makes the attribution of concepts to nonhuman animals highly questionable. I argue for a three-part approach to attributing concepts to animals. The approach goes beyond the usual discrimination tests by seeking evidence for self-monitoring of discrimination errors. Such evidence can be collected without relying on language and, I argue, the capacity for error-detection can only be explained by attributing a kind of internal (...) representation that is reasonably identified as a concept. Thus I hope to have shown that worries about the empirical intractability of concepts in languageless animals are misplaced. (shrink)
ABSTRACT. Fodor characterizes concepts as consisting of two dimensions: one is content, which is purely denotational/broad, the other the Mentalese vehicle bearing that content, which Fodor calls the Mode of Presentation (MOP), understood "syntactically." I argue that, so understood, concepts are not interpersonally sharable; so Fodor's own account violates what he calls the Publicity Constraint in his (1998) book. Furthermore, I argue that Fodor's non-semantic, or "syntactic," solution to Frege cases succumbs to the problem of providing interpersonally applicable (...) functional roles for MOPs. This is a serious problem because Fodor himself has argued extensively that if Fregean senses or meanings are understood as functional/conceptual roles, then they can't be public, since, according to Fodor, there are no interpersonally applicable functional roles in the relevant senses. I elaborate on these relevant senses in the paper. (shrink)
Relying on a range of now-familiar thought-experiments, it has seemed to many philosophers that phenomenal consciousness is beyond the scope of reductive explanation. (Phenomenal consciousness is a form of state-consciousness, which contrasts with creature-consciousness, or perceptual-consciousness. The different forms of state-consciousness include various kinds of access-consciousness, both first-order and higher-order--see Rosenthal, 1986; Block, 1995; Lycan, 1996; Carruthers, 2000. Phenomenal consciousness is the property that mental states have when it is like something to possess them, or when they have subjectively-accessible feels; (...) or as some would say, when they have qualia (see fn.1 below).) Others have thought that we can undermine the credibility of those thought-experiments by allowing that we possess purely recognitional concepts for the properties of our conscious mental states. This paper is concerned to explain, and then to meet, the challenge of showing how purely recognitional concepts are possible if there are no such things as qualia--in the strong sense of intrinsic (non-relational, non-intentional) properties of experience. It argues that an appeal to higher-order experiences is necessary to meet this challenge, and then deploys a novel form of higher-order thought theory to explain how such experiences are generated. (shrink)
There are three main positions on animalthought: lingualism denies that non-linguistic animalshave any thoughts; mentalism maintains that theirthoughts differ from ours only in degree, due totheir different perceptual inputs; an intermediateposition, occupied by common sense and Wittgenstein,maintains that animals can have thoughts of a simplekind. This paper argues in favor of an intermediateposition. It considers the most important arguments infavor of lingualism, namely those inspired byDavidson: the argument from the intensional nature ofthought (Section 1); the idea that thoughts involveconcepts (Sections (...) 2–3); the argument from the holisticnature of thought (Section 4); and the claim that beliefrequires the concept of belief (Sections 5–6). The lastargument (which Davidson favors) is uncompelling, butthe first three shed valuable light on the extent towhich thought requires language. However, none of themprecludes animals from having simple thoughts. Even ifone adopts the kind of third-person perspective onthought Davidson shares with Wittgenstein, the resultis a version of the intermediate position, albeit oneenriched by Davidson''s insights concerningintensionality, concepts and holism (Section 7). We canonly ascribe simple thoughts to animals, and even thatascription is incongruous in that the rich idiom weemploy has conceptual connections that go beyond thephenomena to which it is applied. (shrink)
If we are serious about concepts, we must begin by addressing two questions: What are concepts for, what is their job? And what means are available in an organism for concepts to do their job? One is a question of raison d'.
Is there any good reason for thinking that a concept is individuated by the condition for a thinker to possess it? Why is that approach superior to alternative accounts of the individuation of concepts? These are amongst the fundamental questions raised by Wayne Davis.
Conceptualist accounts of the representational content of perceptual experiences have it that a subject _S_ can experience no object, property, relation, etc., unless _S_ "i# possesses and "ii# exercises concepts for such object, property, or relation. Perceptual experiences, on such a view, represent the world in a way that is conceptual.
In this paper, the author develops a theory of concepts and shows that it captures many of the ideas about concepts that Leibniz expressed in his work. Concepts are first analyzed in terms of a precise background theory of abstract objects, and once concept summation and concept containment are defined, the axioms and theorems of Leibniz's calculus of concepts (in his logical papers) are derived. This analysis of concepts is then seamlessly connected with Leibniz's modal (...) metaphysics of complete individual concepts. The fundamental theorem of Leibniz's modal metaphysics of concepts is proved, namely, whenever an object x has F contingently, then (i) the individual concept of x contains the concept F and (ii) there is a (counterpart) complete individual concept y which doesn't contain the concept F and which `appears' at some other possible world. Finally, the author shows how the concept containment theory of truth can be made precise and made consistent with a modern conception of truth. (shrink)
The so-called ‘‘species problem’’ has plagued evolution- ary biology since before Darwin’s publication of the aptly titled Origin of Species. Many biologists think the problem is just a matter of semantics; others complain that it will not be solved until we have more empirical data. Yet, we don’t seem to be able to escape discussing it and teaching seminars about it. In this paper, I briefly examine the main themes of the biological and philosophical liter- atures on the species problem, (...) focusing on identifying common threads as well as relevant differences. I then argue two fundamental points. First, the species problem is not primarily an empirical one, but it is rather fraught with philosophical questions that require—but cannot be settled by—empirical evidence. Second, the (dis-)solution lies in explicitly adopting Wittgenstein’s idea of ‘‘family resemblance’’ or cluster concepts, and to consider spe- cies as an example of such concepts. This solution has several attractive features, including bringing together apparently diverging themes of discussion among bio- logists and philosophers. The current proposal is con- ceptually independent (though not incompatible) with the pluralist approach to the species problem advocated by Mishler, Donoghue, Kitcher and Dupre ́, which implies that distinct aspects of the species question need to be emphasized depending on the goals of the researcher. From the biological literature, the concept of species that most closely matches the philosophical discussion pre- sented here is Templeton’s cohesion idea. (shrink)
Often, the behavior of animals can be better explained and predicted, it seems, if we ascribe the capacity to have beliefs, intentions, and concepts to them. Whether we really can do so, however, is a debated issue. Particularly, Donald Davidson maintains that there is no basis in fact for ascribing propositional attitudes or concepts to animals. I will consider his and rival views, such as Colin Allen's three-part approach, for determining whether animals possess concepts. To avoid pure (...) theoretical debate, however, I will test these criteria using characteristic examples from ethology that depict a broad range of animal behavior. This will allow us to detect a series of gradations in animals' capacities, in the course of which we can think over what would count for or against an attribution of concepts and propositional attitudes to them in each single case. Self-conceit is our natural hereditary disease. Of all creatures man is the most wretched and fragile, and at once the most supercilious. ... It is by this conceit that man arrogates to himself ... divine properties, that he segregates himself from the mass of other creatures and raises himself above them .. (shrink)
Christopher Peacocke has presented an original version of the perennial philosophical thesis that we can gain substantive metaphysical and epistemological insight from an analysis of our concepts. Peacocke's innovation is to look at how concepts are individuated by their possession conditions, which he believes can be specified in terms of conditions in which certain propositions containing those concepts are accepted. The ability to provide such insight is one of Peacocke's major arguments for his theory of concepts. (...) I will critically examine this "fruitfulness" argument by looking at one philosophical problem Peacocke uses his theory to solve and treats in depth. Peacocke (1999, 2001) defines what he calls the "Integration Challenge." The challenge is to integrate our metaphysics with our epistemology by showing that they are mutually acceptable. Peacocke's key conclusion is that the Integration Challenge can be met for "epistemically individuated concepts." A good theory of content, he believes, will close the apparent gap between an account of truth for any given subject matter and an overall account of knowledge. I shall argue that there are no epistemically individuated concepts, and shall critically analyze Peacocke's arguments for their existence. I will suggest more generally that the possession conditions of concepts and their principles of individuation shed little light on the epistemology or metaphysics of things other than concepts. My broader goal is to shed light on what concepts are by showing that they are more fundamental than the sorts of cognitive and epistemic factors a leading theory uses to define them. (shrink)
This paper argues that questions concerning the nature of concepts that are central in cognitive psychology are also important to epistemology and that there is more to conceptual change than mere belief revision. Understanding of epistemic change requires appreciation of the complex ways in which concepts are structured and organized and of how this organization can affect belief revision. Following a brief summary of the psychological functions of concepts and a discussion of some recent accounts of what (...)concepts are, I propose a view of concepts as complex computational structures. This account suggests that conceptual change can come in varying degrees, with the most extreme consisting of fundamental conceptual reorganizations. These degrees of conceptual change are illustrated by the development of the concept of an acid. (shrink)
Christopher Peacocke, in A Study of Concepts, motivates his account of possession conditions for concepts by means of an alleged parallel with the conditions under which numbers are abstracted to give the numerosity of a predicate. There are, however, logical mistakes in Peacocke.
1) There is widespread agreement that consciousness must be a physical phenomenon, even if it is one that we do not yet understand and perhaps may never do so fully. There is also widespread agreement that the way to defend physicalism about consciousness against a variety of well known objections is by appeal to phenomenal concepts (Loar 1990, Lycan 1996, Papineau 1993, Sturgeon 1994, Tye 1995, 2000, Perry 2001) . There is, alas, no agreement on the nature of phenomenal (...)concepts. (shrink)
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 (...) to experience. Much contemporary debate on the nature of conceptual change is a direct outgrowth of this holistic view of concepts, and much of the inconclusiveness of that debate derives from the lack of any clear understanding of what a conceptual system is, or of how conceptual systems confer meaning on their terms. (shrink)
In [Laurence, Margolis 2003] the authors try - within their polemics against F.Jackson’s views in [Jackson 1998] - to decide the question whether concepts are a priori (in their formulation “to be defined a priori”). Their discussion suffers - as a number of similar articles - from a typical drawback: some problem whose solution requires an exact notion of concept is handled as if the latter were quite clear. The consequence of this ‘conceptual laxity’ is that a) the topic (...) of the discussion is not very clear (what does the phrase ‘concepts must be defined a priori’ mean?); b) the relevance of the Quinean criticism of the “second dogma of empiricism”, i.e., of Quine’s claim that “science sometimes overturns our most cherished beliefs” and therefore there is no sharp boundary between analytic and synthetic is uncritically accepted; c) no distinction is made between the question whether the relation between an expression and its meaning is a priori and the question whether the relation between a concept and the object identified by the concept is a priori. The present article intends to elucidate and then to answer the questions that can be asked when we say something like “concepts are a priori ”. (shrink)
According to colour irrealism, material objects do not have colour; they only appear to have colour. The appeal of this view, prominent among philosophers and scientists alike, stems in large part from the conviction that scientific explanations of colour facts do not ascribe colour to material objects. To explain why objects appear to have colour, for instance, we need only appeal to surface reflectance properties, properties of light, the neurophysiology of observers, etc. Typically attending colour irrealism is the error theory (...) of ordinary colour judgement: ordinary judgements in which colour is ascribed to a material object are, strictly speaking, false. In this paper, I claim that colour irrealists who endorse the error theory cannot explain how we acquire colour concepts (yellow, green, etc.), concepts they must acknowledge we do possess. Our basic colour concepts, I argue, could not be phenomenal concepts that we acquire by attending to the colour properties of our experience. And, I explain, all other plausible explanations render colour concepts such that our ordinary colour judgements involving them are often true. Given the explanatory considerations upon which the irrealist's position is based, this is a severe problem for colour irrealism. (shrink)
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 to replace, and to rectify the problems of, the earlier 'classical' and 'probabilistic' theories, its failure confirms Fodor's original observation. Since my critique does not rest on controversial philosophical assumptions and is readily available from within the cognitive sciences, it is a stronger argument than Fodor's. (shrink)
In his recent article, ``Self-Consciousness', George Bealer has set outa novel and interesting argument against functionalism in the philosophyof mind. I shall attempt to show, however, that Bealer's argument cannotbe sustained.In arguing for this conclusion, I shall be defending three main theses.The first is connected with the problem of defining theoreticalpredicates that occur in theories where the following two features arepresent: first, the theoretical predicate in question occurswithin both extensional and non-extensional contexts; secondly, thetheory in question asserts that the relevant (...) theoretical states enterinto causal relations. What I shall argue is that a Ramsey-styleapproach to the definition of such theoretical terms requires twodistinct quantifiers: one which ranges over concepts, and theother which ranges over properties in the world. (shrink)
In his new book, Furnishing the mind, Jesse Prinz argues that a new form of empiricism can break the logjam that currently frustrates attempts to develop a theory of concepts. I argue that Prinz's new way with empiricism is ultimately unsuccessful. In maintaining that all cognition is reducible to perceptual constructs, Prinz is unable to provide an effective model of the nature of individual concepts or their role in thought. Three major problems are addressed in reverse order. Prinz (...) does not show how abstract concepts can be reduced to perceptual states. His commitment to a modal theory of cognition requires the existence of a rich nonperceptual linking system that cannot be accounted for within his empiricism. Finally, his commitment to what he calls proxytypes is not compatible with the individuation of individual concepts. As a consequence, it is impossible to delineate the content of individual thoughts. (shrink)
I argue that thoughts and concepts are mental representations rather than abstracta. I propose that the most important difference between the two views is that the mentalist believes that there are concept and thought tokens as well as types; this reveals that the dispute is not terminological but ontological. I proceed to offer an argument for mentalism. The key step is to establish that concepts and thoughts have lexical as well as semantic properties. I then show that this (...) entails that concepts and thoughts are susceptible to the type/token distinction. I finish by considering some objections to the argument. (shrink)
In Furnishing the mind, Prinz defends a view of concept representation that assumes all representations are rooted in perception. This view is attractive, because it makes clear how concepts could be learned from experience in the world. In this paper, we discuss three limitations of the view espoused by Prinz. First, the central proposal requires more detail in order to support the claim that all representations are modal. Second, it is not clear that a theory of concepts must (...) make a realist assumption. Third, the arguments focus on object categories that can be described by features, which are only one of many types of categories. Despite the flaws in the book, however, it clearly highlights a road that can be taken by those interested in defending an empiricist view of concepts. (shrink)
The nature of complex concepts has important implications for the computational modelling of the mind, as well as for the cognitive science of concepts. This paper outlines the way in which RVC â a Relational View of Concepts â accommodates a range of complex concepts, cases which have been argued to be non-compositional. RVC attempts to integrate a number of psychological, linguistic and psycholinguistic considerations with the situation-theoretic view that information-carrying relations hold only relative to background (...) situations. The central tenet of RVC is that the content of concepts varies systematically with perspective. The analysis of complex concepts indicates that compositionality too should be considered to be sensitive to perspective. Such a view accords with concepts and mental states being situated and the implications for theories of concepts and for computational models of the mind are discussed. (shrink)
Paul Boghossian has argued that Externalism is incompatible with privileged self-knowledge because (i) the Externalist can cite no property to be the reference of an empty natural kind concept such as the ether; (ii) without reference there is no content; hence (iii) either we do know on the basis of introspection alone whether an apparent natural kind thought has content or not, in which case we can infer from self-knowledge and a priori knowledge of Externalism alone to the existence in (...) our environment of water, gold etc.; (iv) or we do not know, without empirical investigation, whether an apparent natural kind thought has content. An Externalist not wanting to accept either (iii) or (iv) can deny (i). All empty natural kind concepts refer to the necessarily uninstantiated property of being identical to nothing. Since they have different senses and self-knowledge is only held to extend to the existence and identity of sense, this is compatible with privileged self-knowledge, and Externalism is still true of the concepts. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Concepts are basic elements of thought. Piaget has a conception of the nature of concepts as informational or computational operations performed in an inner milieu and enabling the child to understand the world in which it lives and acts. Concepts are, however, not merely logico?mathematical but are also conceptually linked to the mastery of language which itself involves the appropriate use of words in social and interpersonal settings. In the light of Vygotsky's work on the social and (...) interactive nature of children's thinking and the nature of language as an essentially public currency of rule?governed signs, we are led to reconstrue conceptual mastery as the acquisition of an interactive and interpersonal repertoire of tools which introduces the child to the world of those who educate it. In this way we come to see the elements of mind as constitutively involving that activity in which the determinants of meaning constrain and direct the child's linguistic development. (shrink)
To talk about simple concepts presupposes that the notion of concept has been aptly explicated. I argue that a most adequate explication should abandon the set-theoretical paradigm and use a procedural approach. Such a procedural approach is offered by Tichý´s Transparent Intensional Logic (TIL). Some main notions and principles of TIL are briefly presented, and as a result, concepts are explicated as a kind of abstract procedure. Then it can be shown that simplicity , as applied to (...) class='Hi'>concepts, is well definable as a property relative to conceptual systems , each of which is determined by a finite set of simple (‘primitive’) concepts. Refinement as a method of replacing simple concepts by compound concepts is defined. (shrink)
Given a set of objects characterized by a number of attributes, hidden patterns can be discovered in them for the grouping of similar objects into clusters. If each of these clusters can be considered as exemplifying a certain concept, then the problem concerned can be referred to as a concept discovery problem. This concept discovery problem can be solved to some extent by existing data clustering techniques. However, they may not be applicable when the concept involved is vague in nature (...) or when the attributes characterizing the objects can be qualitative, quantitative, and fuzzy at the same time. To discover such concepts from objects with such characteristics, we propose a Genetic-Algorithm-based technique. By encoding a specific object grouping in a chromosome and a fitness measure to evaluate the cluster quality, the proposed technique is able to discover meaningful fuzzy clusters and assign membership degrees to objects that do not fully exemplify a certain concept. For evaluation, we tested the proposed technique with simulated and real data and the results are found to be very promising. (shrink)
Confronted with the apparent explanatory gap between physical processes and consciousness, there are many possible reactions. Some deny that any explanatory gap exists at all. Some hold that there is an explanatory gap for now, but that it will eventually be closed. Some hold that the explanatory gap corresponds to an ontological gap in nature.
Intuitively it has seemed to many that our concepts "conscious state" and "conscious creature" are sharp rather than vague, that they can have no borderline cases. On the other hand, many who take conscious states to be identical to, or realized by, complex physical states are committed to the vagueness of those concepts. In the paper I argue that "conscious state" and "conscious creature" are sharp by presenting four necessary conditions for conceiving borderline cases in general, and showing (...) that some of those conditions cannot be met with "conscious state." I conclude that "conscious state" is sharp, and the conclusion is then extended to "conscious creature." The paper ends with a brief discussion of some implications. (shrink)
*[[This paper is largely based on material in other papers. The first three sections and the appendix are drawn with minor modifications from Chalmers 2002c (which explores issues about phenomenal concepts and beliefs in much more depth, mostly independently of questions about materialism). The main ideas of the last three sections are drawn from Chalmers 1996, 1999, and 2002a, although with considerable revision and elaboration. ]].
Concepts are the elementary units of reason and linguistic meaning. They are conventional and relatively stable. As such, they must somehow be the result of neural activity in the brain. The questions are: Where? and How? A common philosophical position is that all concepts—even concepts about action and perception—are symbolic and abstract, and therefore must be implemented outside the brain’s sensory-motor system. We will argue against this position using (1) neuroscientific evidence; (2) results from neural computation; and (...) (3) results about the nature of concepts from cognitive linguistics. We will propose that the sensory-motor system has the right kind of structure to characterise both sensory-motor and more abstract concepts. Central to this picture are the neural theory of language and the theory of cogs, according to which, brain structures in the sensory-motor regions are exploited to characterise the so-called “abstract” concepts that constitute the meanings of grammatical constructions and general inference patterns. (shrink)
Introduction -- Phenomenal consciousness -- Phenomenal consciousness and self-representation -- The connection between phenomenal consciousness and creature consciousness -- Consciousness of things -- Real world puzzle cases -- Why consciousness cannot be physical and why it must be -- What is the thesis of physicalism? -- Why consciousness cannot be physical -- Why consciousness must be physical -- Physicalism and the appeal to phenomenal concepts -- Some terminological points -- Why physicalists appeal to phenomenal concepts -- Various accounts (...) of phenomenal concepts -- My own earlier view on phenomenal concepts -- Are there any phenomenal concepts? -- Phenomenal concepts and burgean intuitions -- Consequences for a priori physicalism -- The admissible contents of visual experience : the existential thesis -- The singular (when filled) thesis -- Kaplanianism -- The multiple contents thesis -- The existential thesis revisited -- Still more on existential contents -- Consciousness, seeing and knowing -- Knowing things and knowing facts -- Nonconceptual content -- Why the phenomenal character of an experience is not one of its nonrepresentational properties -- Phenomenal character and representational content, part I -- Phenomenal character and representational content, part II -- Phenomenal character and our knowledge of it -- Solving the puzzles -- Mary, Mary, how does your knowledge grow? -- The explanatory gap -- The hard problem -- The possibility of zombies -- Change blindness and the refrigerator light illusion -- A closer look at the change blindness hypotheses -- The no-seeum view -- Sperling and the refrigerator light -- Phenomenology and cognitive accessibility -- A further change blindness experiment -- Another brick in the wall -- Privileged access, phenomenal character, and externalism -- The threat to privileged access -- A Burgean thought experiment -- Social externalism for phenomenal character? -- A closer look at privileged access and incorrigibility -- How do I know that I am not a zombie? -- Phenomenal externalism. (shrink)
What is the nature of consciousness? How is consciousness related to brain processes? This volume collects thirteen new papers on these topics: twelve by leading and respected philosophers and one by a leading color-vision scientist. All focus on consciousness in the "phenomenal" sense: on what it's like to have an experience. Consciousness has long been regarded as the biggest stumbling block for physicalism, the view that the mind is physical. The controversy has gained focus over the last few decades, and (...) phenomenal knowledge and phenomenal concepts--knowledge of consciousness and the associated concepts--have come to play increasingly prominent roles in this debate. Consider Frank Jackson's famous case of Mary, the super-scientist who learns all the physical information while confined in a black-and-white room. According to Jackson, if physicalism is true, then Mary's physical knowledge should allow her to deduce what it's like to see in color. Yet it seems intuitively clear that she learns something when she leaves the room. But then how can consciousness be physical? Arguably, whether this sort of reasoning is sound depends on how phenomenal concepts and phenomenal knowledge are construed. For example, some argue that the Mary case reveals something about phenomenal concepts but has no implications for the nature of consciousness itself. Are responses along these lines adequate? Or does the problem arise again at the level of phenomenal concepts? The papers in this volume engage with the latest developments in this debate. The authors' perspectives range widely. For example, Daniel Dennett argues that anti-physicalist arguments such as the knowledge argument are simply confused; David Papineau grants that such arguments at least reveal important features of phenomenal concepts; and David Chalmers defends the anti-physicalist arguments, arguing that the "phenomenal concept strategy" cannot succeed. (shrink)
This paper considers the connection between concepts, conceptual schemes and grammar in Wittgenstein’s last writings. It lists eight claims about concepts that one can garner from these writings. It then focuses on one of them, namely that there is an important difference between conceptual and factual problems and investigations. That claim draws in its wake other claims, all of them revolving around the idea of a conceptual scheme, what Wittgenstein calls a ‘grammar’. I explain why Wittgenstein’s account does (...) not fall prey to Davidson’s animadversions against the idea of a conceptual scheme as a force operating on a pre-conceptual content. In the sequel I deny that the distinction between grammatical and empirical propositions disappears in the last writings: it is neither deliberately abandoned, nor willy-nilly undermined by the admission of hinge propositions in On Certainty or by the role accorded to agreement in judgement. (shrink)
A phenomenal concept is the concept of a particular type of sensory or perceptual experience, where the notion of experience is understood phenomenologically. A recent and increasingly influential idea in philosophy of mind suggests that reflection on these concepts will play a major role in the debate about conscious experience, and in particular in the defense of physicalism, the thesis that psychological truths supervene on physical truths. According to this idea.
Many theorists hold that there is, among value concepts, a fundamental distinction between thin ones and thick ones. Among thin ones are concepts like good and right. Among concepts that have been regarded as thick are discretion, caution, enterprise, industry, assiduity, frugality, economy, good sense, prudence, discernment, treachery, promise, brutality, courage, coward, lie, gratitude, lewd, perverted, rude, glorious, graceful, exploited, and, of course, many others. Roughly speaking, thick concepts are value concepts with significant descriptive content. (...) I will discuss a number of problems having to do with how best to understand the notion of a thick concept. Thick concepts have been widely discussed in the .. (shrink)
The character of computational modelling of cognition depends on an underlying theory of representation. Classical cognitive science has exploited the syntax/semantics theory of representation that derives from logic. But this has had the consequence that the kind of psychological explanation supported by classical cognitive science is
psychological phenomena are modelled in terms of relations that hold between concepts, and between the sensors/effectors and concepts. This kind of explanation is inappropriate for the Proper Treatment of Connectionism (...) (Smolensky 1988). (shrink)
In his "Two Concepts of Possible Worlds" (1986), Peter Van Inwagen explores two kinds of views about the nature of possible worlds: abstractionism and concretism. The latter is the view defended by David Lewis, who claims that possible worlds are concrete spatio-temporal universes, very much like our own, causally and spatio-temporally disconnected from each other. The former is the view of the majority, who claim that possible worlds are some kind of abstract objects – such as propositions, properties, states (...) of affairs or sets of numbers. In this paper, I will develop this view in an "extreme abstractionist" way, appealing to a "modal bundle theory", and I will try to show that it is preferable to the standard abstractionist views. Finally, I will compare this kind of abstractionism to concretism, only to find that the difference between the two is minimal. (shrink)