Conceptualatomism is the view according to which most lexical concepts lack ‘internal’ or constituent structure. To date, it has not received much attention from philosophers and psychologists. A centralreason is that it is thought to be an implausible theory of concepts, resulting in untenable implications. The main objective of this paper is to present conceptualatomism as a viable alternative, with a view toachieving two aims: the first, to characterize and to elucidate conceptual (...) class='Hi'>atomism; and the second, to dispel some misconceptions associated with it. My aim is to show that the prospect of conceptualatomism is a promising one. (shrink)
The most prominent recent model of how concepts can have gradient applicability—that is, apply more fully to some items than to others—is that supplied by the prototype theory. Such a model, however, assumes concepts to be internally individuated and structured, and it might thus be challenged by both concept externalism and conceptualatomism. This paper argues that neither of these challenges presents an obstacle to viewing some concepts as having gradient application, and develops a different model of the (...) conditions for such application. I call the notion of gradient applicability I discuss a feature-based one, and distinguish it from both the prototype theory’s typicality-based notion and a vagueness-based notion. On the model I develop, what determines whether a concept has gradient applicability is just the nature of the property it expresses, not facts about its stereotype. Focusing in particular on Fodor’s Informational Atomism, I argue on this basis that externalism is compatible with gradient applicability for all concepts, and that conceptualatomism is compatible with gradient applicability in the case of natural kind concepts, but not in the case of response-dependent concepts. This does not, however, present an obstacle to viewing some response-dependent concepts as having gradient applicability, for I also argue that in fact atomism cannot be true of response-dependent concepts. (shrink)
In this talk I consider two problems for conceptualatomism. Conceptualatomism can be defended against the criticism that it seems to contend that all concepts are simply innate (even technical concepts to pre-technological humanoids) by specifying the innateness thesis as one of mechanisms of hooking up mental representations (concepts as language of thought types) to properties in the world (§1). This theory faces a problem with non-referring expressions/concepts, it seems. Conceptualatomism can, however, (...) deal with non-referring expressions/concepts (§2). Hooking up concepts with properties raises, further on, broader metaphysical problems of making concepts correspond to (natural) properties. These questions are much harder to answer (§3). (shrink)
De modo, quo Leibniz et Aristotelici aporiam generis solvere possunt, doctrina de conceptibus simpliciter simplicibus non respuendaDoctrina de conceptibus simpliciter simplicibus, in quos omnes notiones ultimatim possunt resolvi, (a recentioribus “atomismus conceptualis” vocata) firmiter irradicata est in occidentali philosophica traditione. Originem suam quidem ab Aristotele trahens semper apud peripateticos adfuit, purissime tamen expressa in operibus Leibnitii invenitur. Nihilominus, ab initio haec doctrina etiam difficultate quadam patiebatur, quae “aporia generis” vulgo dicitur. Difficillime est enim explicatu, quomodo simplicitas absoluta conceptuum primitivorum (seu (...) differentiarum ultimarum) stet cum conceptuum transcendentium existentia, qui necessario in unoquoque conceptu comprehenduntur. Tractatione nostra haec difficultas examinatur et solutio praebetur. Fundamentum cuius est: datur duplex continentia unius conceptus in altero, scilicet formalis et virtualis. Conceptus transcendentales a conceptibus primitivis seu simpliciter simplicibus non formaliter, id est ut pars ipsorum definitionis, sed virtualiter tantum continentur – quod nihil aliud dicit quam illos ex his necessario sequi. Notabile est, huiusmodi sulutionis originem apud Aristotelem quoque inveniri posse.ConceptualAtomism, “Aporia Generis” and the Way Out for Leibniz and the AristoteliansConceptual atomism is a doctrine deeply rooted in the tradition of western thought. It originated with Aristotle, was present in the entire Aristotelian tradition and came to its most pure expression in the work of Leibniz. However, ab initio this doctrine suffered from certain difficulty labelled traditionally “aporia generis”, namely the problem of how it is possible to reconcile the absolute simplicity of the primitive concepts (or ultimate differentiae) with the existence of transcendental concepts, that is, concepts necessarily included in every concept. In this paper the entire problem is subject to an analysis and a solution is suggested, based on a distinction between two different kinds of conceptual containment: the primitive concepts do not contain the transcendentals formally, that is, as constituents thatcan be revealed by means of definitional analysis, but they nevertheless do contain them virtually, that is, they strictly imply them. It is noted that the germ of this solution is already present in Aristotle. (shrink)
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 which conceptual pluralism provides an advantage in satisfying the empirical and philosophical demands on a theory of conceptual structure and content. (shrink)
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 concepls 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 which conceptual pluralism provides an advantage in satisfying the empirical and philosophical demands on a theory of conceptual structure and content. (shrink)
Contemporary philosophy and theoretical psychology are dominated by an acceptance of content-externalism: the view that the contents of one's mental states are constitutively, as opposed to causally, dependent on facts about the external world. In the present work, it is shown that content-externalism involves a failure to distinguish between semantics and pre-semantics---between, on the one hand, the literal meanings of expressions and, on the other hand, the information that one must exploit in order to ascertain their literal meanings. It is (...) further shown that, given the falsity of content-externalism, the falsity of the Computational Theory of Mind (CTM) follows. It is also shown that CTM involves a misunderstanding of terms such as "computation," "syntax," "algorithm," and "formal truth." Novel analyses of the concepts expressed by these terms are put forth. These analyses yield clear, intuition-friendly, and extensionally correct answers to the questions "what are propositions?, "what is it for a proposition to be true?", and "what are the logical and psychological differences between conceptual (propositional) and non-conceptual (non-propositional) content?" Naively taking literal meaning to be in lockstep with cognitive content, Burge, Salmon, Falvey, and other semantic externalists have wrongly taken Kripke's correct semantic views to justify drastic and otherwise contraindicated revisions of commonsense. (Salmon: What is non-existent exists; at a given time, one can rationally accept a proposition and its negation. Burge: Somebody who is having a thought may be psychologically indistinguishable from somebody who is thinking nothing. Falvey: somebody who rightly believes himself to be thinking about water is psychologically indistinguishable from somebody who wrongly thinks himself to be doing so and who, indeed, isn't thinking about anything.) Given a few truisms concerning the differences between thought-borne and sentence-borne information, the data is easily modeled without conceding any legitimacy to any one of these rationality-dismantling atrocities. (It thus turns out, ironically, that no one has done more to undermine Kripke's correct semantic points than Kripke's own followers!). (shrink)
Humphreys and Forde fail to account for the ontology of the “features” that they claim are constitutive of concepts. This failure is common to decompositional theories of conceptual representation. Category-specific deficits can be better explained by a theory that takes inferential relations among atomic concepts to be the key characteristic of conceptual representation and processing.
Fodor’s theory of concepts holds that the psychological capacities, beliefs or intentions which determine how we use concepts do not determine reference. Instead, causal relations of a specific kind between properties and our dispositions to token a concept are claimed to do so. Fodor does admit that there needs to be some psychological mechanisms mediating the property–concept tokening relations, but argues that they are purely accidental for reference. In contrast, I argue that the actual mechanisms that sustain the reference determining (...) concept tokening relations are necessary for reference. Fodor’s atomism is thus undermined, since in order to refer with a concept it is necessary to possess some specific psychological capacities. (shrink)
Recognitional concepts have the following characteristic property: thinkers are disposed to apply them to objects merely on the basis of undergoing certain perceptual experiences. I argue that a prominent strategy for defending the existence of constitutive connections among concepts, which appeals to thinkersâ semantic-cum-conceptual intuitions, cannot be used to defend the existence of recognitional concepts. I then outline and defend an alternative argument for the existence of recognitional concepts, which appeals to certain psychological laws.
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)
The late 19th century debate among German-speaking physicists about theoretical entities is often regarded as foreshadowing the scientific realism debate. This paper brings out differences between them by concentrating on the part of the earlier debate that was concerned with the conceptual consistency of the competing conceptions of matter—mainly, but not exclusively, of atomism. Philosophical antinomies of atomism were taken up by Emil Du Bois-Reymond in an influential lecture in 1872. Such challenges to the consistency of (...) class='Hi'>atomism had repercussions within the physics community, as can be shown for the examples of Heinrich Hertz and Ludwig Boltzmann. The latter developed a series of counter-arguments, culminating in an ingenious attempt to turn the tables on the critics of atomism and prove the inconsistency of non-atomistic conceptions of nature. Underlying this controversy is a disagreement over specific goals of physical research which was considered crucially relevant to the further course of physical inquiry. It thereby exemplifies an attitude towards the realism issue that can be contrasted with a different, more neutral attitude of construing the realism issue as merely philosophical and indifferent with respect to concrete research programs in physics, which one also occasionally finds expressed in the 19th century controversy and which may be seen as the prevailing attitude of the 20th century debate. (shrink)
Biological atomism postulates that all life is composed of elementary and indivisible vital units. The activity of a living organism is thus conceived as the result of the activities and interactions of its elementary constituents, each of which individually already exhibits all the attributes proper to life. This paper surveys some of the key episodes in the history of biological atomism, and situates cell theory within this tradition. The atomistic foundations of cell theory are subsequently dissected and discussed, (...) together with the theory’s conceptual development and eventual consolidation. This paper then examines the major criticisms that have been waged against cell theory, and argues that these too can be interpreted through the prism of biological atomism as attempts to relocate the true biological atom away from the cell to a level of organization above or below it. Overall, biological atomism provides a useful perspective through which to examine the history and philosophy of cell theory, and it also opens up a new way of thinking about the epistemic decomposition of living organisms that significantly departs from the physicochemical reductionism of mechanistic biology. (shrink)
Fodor and LePore's reconstruction of the semantic holism debate in terms of "atomism" and "anatomism" is inadequate: it fails to highlight the important issue of how intentional contents are individuated, and excludes or obscures several possible positions on the metaphysics of content. One such position, "weak sociabilism" is important because it addresses concerns of Fodor and LePore's molecularist critics about conditions for possession of concepts, without abandoning atomism about content individuation. Properties like DEMOCRACY may be "theoretical" in the (...) following sense: only devices capable of inference can come to be selectively sensitive to such properties. Thus, such concepts cannot be punctate, although their contents are individuated, as atomism requires, independently of their conceptual connections. (shrink)
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 is crucial for the successful study of conceptual development and change. (shrink)
In this paper, I develop a novel account of concept acquisition for an atomistic theory of concepts. Conceptualatomism is rarely explored in cognitive science because of the feeling that atomistic treatments of concepts are inherently nativistic. My model illustrates, on the contrary, that atomism does not preclude the learning of a concept.
The homogeneity of time (i.e. the fact that there are no privileged moments) underlies a fundamental symmetry relating to the energy conservation law. On the other hand the obvious asymmetry between past and future, expressed by the metaphor of the arrow of time or flow of time accounts for the irreversibility of what happens. One takes this for granted but the conceptual tension it creates against the background of time''s presumed homogeneity calls for an explanation of temporal becoming. Here, (...) it is approached with the help of a claim to the effect that the instant (moment) itself has a structure isomorphic to that of time as a whole. Then the asymmetry of past and future in regard to temporal becoming is associated with the internal structure of the very moment, and not with external relations between different moments of time. In this paper ideas of ancient atomism and contemporary dialectics are brought together. It is for the sake of a contrast to what is known as logical atomism that I choose to call this view dialectical atomism. The latter admits dialectical contradictions and, so far as the logical status of contradictions is concerned, bears reference to paraconsistent logics. In the paper there is an outline of a method of converting any consistent axiomatic formal system into a paraconsistent theory. (shrink)
Proponents of non-conceptual content have recruited it for various philosophical jobs. Some epistemologists have suggested that it may play the role of “the given” that Sellars is supposed to have exorcised from philosophy. Some philosophers of mind (e.g., Dretske) have suggested that it plays an important role in the project of naturalizing semantics as a kind of halfway between merely information bearing and possessing conceptual content. Here I will focus on a recent proposal by Jerry Fodor. In a (...) recent paper he characterizes non-conceptual content in a particular way and argues that it is plausible that it plays an explanatory role in accounting for certain auditory and visual phenomena. So he thinks that there is reason to believe that there is non-conceptual content. On the other hand, Fodor thinks that non-conceptual content has a limited role. It occurs only in the very early stages of perceptual processing prior to conscious awareness. My paper is examines Fodor’s characterization of non-conceptual content and his claims for its explanatory importance. I also discuss if Fodor has made a case for limiting non-conceptual content to non-conscious, sub-personal mental states. (shrink)
Conceptual analysis is undergoing a revival in philosophy, and much of the credit goes to Frank Jackson. Jackson argues that conceptual analysis is needed as an integral component of so-called serious metaphysics and that it also does explanatory work in accounting for such phenomena as categorization, meaning change, communication, and linguistic understanding. He even goes so far as to argue that opponents of concep- tual analysis are implicitly committed to it in practice. We show that he is wrong (...) on all of these points and that his case for conceptual analysis doesn. (shrink)
Mereological nihilism is the philosophical position that there are no items that have parts. If there are no items with parts then the only items that exist are partless fundamental particles, such as the true atoms (also called philosophical atoms) theorized to exist by some ancient philosophers, some contemporary physicists, and some contemporary philosophers. With several novel arguments I show that mereological nihilism is the correct theory of reality. I will also discuss strong similarities that mereological nihilism has with empirical (...) results in quantum physics. And I will discuss how mereological nihilism vindicates a few other theories, such as a very specific theory of philosophical atomism, which I will call quantum abstract atomism. I will show that mereological nihilism also is an interpretation of quantum mechanics that avoids the problems of other interpretations, such as the widely known, metaphysically generated, quantum paradoxes of quantum physics, which ironically are typically accepted as facts about reality. I will also show why it is very surprising that mereological nihilism is not a widely held theory, and not the premier theory in philosophy. (shrink)
It would be nice if good old a priori conceptual analysis were possible. For many years conceptual analysis was out of fashion, in large part because of the excessive ambitions of verificationist theories of meaning._ _However, those days are over._ _A priori conceptual analysis is once again part of the philosophical mainstream._ _This renewed popularity, moreover, is well-founded. Modern philosophical analysts have exploited developments in philosophical semantics to formulate analyses which avoid the counterintuitive consequences of verificationism, while (...) vindicating our ability to know a priori precisely what it is our words and thoughts represent._ _Despite its apparent promise, however, I. (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)
My aim here is threefold: (a) to show that conceptual facts play a more significant role in justifying explanatory reductions than most of the contributors to the current debate realize; (b) to furnish an account of that role, and (c) to trace the consequences of this account for conceivability arguments about the mind.
We present a cognitive-physicalist account of phenomenal consciousness. We argue that phenomenal concepts do not differ from other types of concepts. When explaining the peculiarities of conscious experience, the right place to look at is sensory/ perceptual representations and their interaction with general conceptual structures. We utilize Jerry Fodor’s psycho- semantic theory to formulate our view. We compare and contrast our view with that of Murat Aydede and Güven Güzeldere, who, using Dretskean psychosemantic theory, arrived at a solution different (...) from ours in some ways. We have suggested that the representational atomism of certain sensory experiences plays a central role in reconstructing the epistemic gap associated with conscious experience, still, atomism is not the whole story. It needs to be supple- mented by some additional principles. We also add an account of introspection, and suggest some cognitive features that might distinguish representational atoms with phenomenal character from those without it. (shrink)
It is easy to become battle-weary in metaphysics. In the face of seemingly unresolvable disputes and unanswerable questions, it is tempting to cast aside one’s sword, proclaiming: “there is no fact of the matter who is right!” Sometimes that is the right thing to do. As a case study, consider the search for the criterion of personal identity over time. I say there is no fact of the matter whether the correct criterion is bodily or psychological continuity.1 There exist two (...) candidate meanings for talk of persisting persons, one corresponding to each criterion, and there is simply no fact of the matter which candidate we mean. An argument schema for this sort of “no fact of the matter” thesis will be constructed. An instance of the schema will be defended in the case of personal identity. But scrutiny of this instance will reveal limits of the schema. Questions not settled by conceptual analysis—in particular, some very difficult questions of fundamental ontology—have answers. So do certain questions that can be settled by conceptual analysis, namely those that would be answered definitively by ideal philosophical inquiry. Whether there is a fact of the matter is not easily ascertained merely by looking to see whether disputes seem unresolvable or questions unanswerable: sometimes the truth is out there, however hard (or even impossible) it may be to discover. (shrink)
In this paper, I explore the implications of recent empirical research on concept representation for the philosophical enterprise of conceptual analysis. I argue that conceptual analysis, as it is commonly practiced, is committed to certain assumptions about the nature of our intuitive categorization judgments. I then try to show how these assumptions clash with contemporary accounts of concept representation in cognitive psychology. After entertaining an objection to my argument, I close by considering ways in which conceptual analysis (...) might be altered to accord better with the empirical work. (shrink)
The paper examines how Brandom can respond to two objections raised against another sort of inferentialism, conceptual role semantics. After a brief explanation of the difference between the motivations and the nature of the two accounts (I), I argue that externalism can be accommodated within Brandomian inferentialism (II). Then I offer a reconstruction of how Brandom tries to explain mutual understanding (III-IV). Finally I point out a problem in Brandom’s account, which is this. Brandom’s inferential roles are social and (...) normative, but he also seeks to explain cases of understanding which involve novelty and individual ingenuity which cannot be reduced to social norms (V). (shrink)
John McDowell rejects the idea that non-conceptual content can rationally justify empirical claims—a task for which it is ill-fitted by its non-conceptual nature. This paper considers three possible objections to his views: he cannot distinguish empty conception from the perceptual experience of an object; perceptual discrimination outstrips the capacity of concepts to keep pace; and experience of the empirical world is more extensive than the conceptual focusing within it. While endorsing McDowell’s rejection of what he means by (...) non-conceptual content, and appreciating his insight into the experiential synthesis of intuition and conception (in particular, its role in grasping objects), I will argue that Edmund Husserl presents an even more comprehensive account of perceptual experience that explains how we experience the contribution of receptivity and sensibility and how they cooperate in perceptual discrimination. Further, it reveals “horizons”—a unique kind of contents, surplus content (rather than independent non-conceptual content)—beyond the synthesis of intuitive and conceptual contents through which objects are grasped. Such horizons play a constitutive role, making experience with its conceptual dimensions and justificatory potential possible; they in no way function like a bare given that is to fulfill some independent justificatory role. Whereas McDowell focuses on how experience does not take place in isolation from the exercise of conceptual capacities, Husserl complements his view by situating experience in a more encompassing whole and by elucidating the surplus-horizons that exceed the conceptual content of experience; play an inseparable, constitutive role within it; and indicate the limits of conceptual comprehension. (shrink)
Semantic externalism about a class of expressions is often thought to make conceptual analysis about members of that class impossible. In particular, since externalism about natural kind terms makes the essences of natural kinds empirically discoverable, it seems that mere reflection on one's natural kind concept will not be able to tell one anything substantial about what it is for something to fall under one's natural kind concepts. Many hold the further view that one cannot even know anything substantial (...) about the reference-fixers of one's natural kind concepts by armchair reflection. In this paper I want to question this latter view and claim that, because of the way our standard methodology of doing theories of reference relies on semantic intuitions, typical externalists in fact presuppose that one can know the reference-fixers of one's natural kind concepts by mere armchair reflection. The more interesting question is how substantial such knowledge can be. I also take some steps toward answering this question. (shrink)
In this paper I will do three things. One, to explain why conceptual role semantics seems an attractive theory of meaning (I). Two, to sketch a version of it which has a good chance of withstanding some of the standard objections (II-III). Three, to see what follows from this version with respect to the naturalization of meaning (IV).
Starting with a discussion of what I call Koyré’s paradox of conceptual novelty, I introduce the ideas of Damerow et al. on the establishment of classical mechanics in Galileo’s work. I then argue that although the view of Damerow et al. on the nature of Galileo’s conceptual innovation is convincing, it misses an essential element: Galileo’s use of the experiments described in the first day of the Two New Sciences. I describe these experiments and analyze their function. Central (...) to my analysis is the idea that Galileo’s pendulum experiments serve to secure the reference of his theoretical models in actually occurring cases of free fall. In this way Galileo’s experiments constitute an essential part of the meaning of the new concepts of classical mechanics. (shrink)
This paper outlines a new approach to the task of giving an account of the meaning of moral statements: a sort of "conceptual role semantics", according to which the meaning of moral terms is given by their role in practical reasoning. This role is sufficient both to distinguish the meaning of any moral term from that of other terms, and to determine the property or relation (if any) that the term stands for. The paper ends by suggesting reasons for (...) regarding this "conceptual role semantics" approach as preferable to noncognitivism, the causal theory of reference, and noncircular conceptual analysis. (shrink)
In recent times, Evans’ idea that mental states could have non-conceptual contents has been attacked. McDowell (Mind and World, 1994) and Brewer (Perception and reason, 1999) have both argued that that notion does not have any epistemological role because notions such as justification or evidential support, that might relate mental contents to each other, must be framed in conceptual terms. On his side, Brewer has argued that instead of non-conceptual content we should consider demonstrative concepts that have (...) the same fine grainess of non-conceptual contents while having conceptual structure. In what follows I will argue that, first, that the notion of demonstrative concept is not viable and, second, that there is an epistemological role for non-conceptual content. (shrink)
This paper surveys and evaluates the answers that philosophers and animal researchers have given to two questions. Do animals have thoughts? If so, are their thoughts conceptual? Along the way, special attention is paid to distinguish debates of substance from mere battles over terminology, and to isolate fruitful areas for future research.
We put forward a possible new interpretation and explanatory framework for quantum theory. The basic hypothesis underlying this new framework is that quantum particles are conceptual entities. More concretely, we propose that quantum particles interact with ordinary matter, nuclei, atoms, molecules, macroscopic material entities, measuring apparatuses, in a similar way to how human concepts interact with memory structures, human minds or artificial memories. We analyze the most characteristic aspects of quantum theory, i.e. entanglement and non-locality, interference and superposition, identity (...) and individuality in the light of this new interpretation, and we put forward a specific explanation and understanding of these aspects. The basic hypothesis of our framework gives rise in a natural way to a Heisenberg uncertainty principle which introduces an understanding of the general situation of ‘the one and the many’ in quantum physics. A specific view on macro and micro different from the common one follows from the basic hypothesis and leads to an analysis of Schrödinger’s Cat paradox and the measurement problem different from the existing ones. We reflect about the influence of this new quantum interpretation and explanatory framework on the global nature and evolutionary aspects of the world and human worldviews, and point out potential explanations for specific situations, such as the generation problem in particle physics, the confinement of quarks and the existence of dark matter. (shrink)
Philosophers often hold that the aim of conceptual analysis is to discover the representational content of a given concept such as free will , belief , or law . In From Metaphysics to Ethics and other recent work, Frank Jackson has developed a theory of conceptual analysis that is one of the most advanced systematizations of this widespread idea. I argue that this influential way of characterizing conceptual analysis is too narrow. I argue that it is possible (...) that an expressivist account could turn out to be correct as a genuine conceptual analysis of a genuine concept . I claim that since an expressivist analysis does not aim to discover the representational content of a given conceptâ€”and, indeed, might itself be based on the idea that the concept in question is not even representational in natureâ€”the possibility of expressivist conceptual analysis shows that Jacksonâ€™s theory of conceptual analysis is incomplete as it currently stands. I conclude that Jackson needs to either shift his basic understanding of the nature of conceptual analysis or commit to a particular normative reinterpretation of his project. (shrink)
This paper offers a novel way of reconstructing conceptual change in empirical theories. Changes occur in terms of the structure of the dimensions—that is to say, the conceptual spaces—underlying the conceptual framework within which a given theory is formulated. Five types of changes are identified: (1) addition or deletion of special laws, (2) change in scale or metric, (3) change in the importance of dimensions, (4) change in the separability of dimensions, and (5) addition or deletion of (...) dimensions. Given this classification, the conceptual development of empirical theories becomes more gradual and rationalizable. Only the most extreme type—replacement of dimensions—comes close to a revolution. The five types are exemplified and applied in a case study on the development within physics from the original Newtonian mechanics to special relativity theory. (shrink)
The main purpose of this article is to undertake a conceptual investigation of the Berlin Wisdom Paradigm: a psychological project initiated by Paul Baltes and intended to study the complex phenomenon of wisdom. Firstly, in order to provide a wider perspective for the subsequent analyses, a short historical sketch is given. Secondly, a meta-theoretical issue of the degree to which the subject matter of the Baltesian study can be identified with the traditional philosophical wisdom is addressed. The main result (...) yielded by a careful conceptual analysis is that the philosophical and psychological concepts of wisdom, though not entirely the same, are at least parallel. Finally, one of the revealed aspects of the Berlin Wisdom Paradigm, i.e. its relative neglect of the non-cognitive and personal aspects of wisdom is brought to the fore. This deficiency, it is suggested, can be remedied by the application of the virtue ethics' conceptual framework. (shrink)
This essay concerns the question of how we make genuine epistemic progress through conceptual analysis. Our way into this issue will be through consideration of the paradox of analysis. The paradox challenges us to explain how a given statement can make a substantive contribution to our knowledge, even while it purports merely to make explicit what one’s grasp of the concept under scrutiny consists in. The paradox is often treated primarily as a semantic puzzle. However, in “Sect. 1” I (...) argue that the paradox raises a more fundamental epistemic problem, and in “Sects.1 and 2” I argue that semantic proposals—even ones designed to capture the Fregean link between meaning and epistemic significance—fail to resolve that problem. Seeing our way towards a real solution to the paradox requires more than semantics; we also need to understand how the process of analysis can yield justification for accepting a candidate conceptual analysis. I present an account of this process, and explain how it resolves the paradox, in “Sect. 3”. I conclude in “Sect. 4” by considering the implications for the present account concerning the goal of conceptual analysis, and by arguing that the apparent scarcity of short and finite illuminating analyses in philosophically interesting cases provides no grounds for pessimism concerning the possibility of philosophical progress through conceptual analysis. (shrink)
The philosophical method of conceptual analysis has been criticised on the grounds that empirical psychological research has cast severe doubt on whether concepts exist in the form traditionally assumed, and that conceptual analysis therefore is doomed. This objection may be termed the Charge from Psychology. After a brief characterisation of conceptual analysis, I discuss the Charge from Psychology and argue that it is misdirected.
In this paper I discuss the claim (advanced in various ways by Joseph Levine, Frank Jackson and David Chalmers) that the successful reduction of qualitative to physical states requires some sort of intelligible connection between our qualitative and physical concepts, which in turn requires a conceptual analysis of our qualitative concepts in causal-functional terms. While I defend this claim against some of its recent critics, I ultimately dispute it, and propose a different way to get the requisite intelligible connection (...) between qualitative and physical concepts. (shrink)
According to Jerry Fodor’s atomistic theory of content, subjects’ dispositions to token mentalese terms in counterfactual circumstances fix the contents of those terms. I argue that the pattern of counterfactual tokenings alone does not satisfactorily fix content; if Fodor’s appeal to patterns of counterfactual tokenings has any chance of assigning correct extensions, Fodor must take into account the contents of subjects’ various mental states at the times of those tokenings. However, to do so, Fodor must abandon his semantic atomism. (...) And while Fodor has recently qualified his atomism, the cognitively holistic nature of dispositions continues to undermine his view. (shrink)
Conceptual analysis, like any exclusively theoretical activity, is far from overrated in current psychology. Such a situation can be related both to the contingent influences of contextual and historical character and to the more essential metatheoretical reasons. After a short discussion of the latter it is argued that even within a strictly empirical psychology there are non-trivial tasks that can be attached to well-defined and methodologically reliable, conceptual work. This kind of method, inspired by the ideas of Ludwig (...) Wittgenstein, Peter Strawson (conceptual grammar), and Gilbert Ryle (conceptual geography), is proposed and formally depicted as being holistic, descriptive, and connective. Finally, the newly presented framework of connective conceptual analysis is defended against the “Charge from Psychology,” in a version developed by William Ramsey, claiming that conceptual analysis is based on psychological assumptions that have already been refuted by empirical psychology. (shrink)
Despite Donald Davidson's influential criticism of the very notion of conceptual schemes, the notion continues enjoying its popularity in contemporary philosophy and, accordingly, conceptual relativism is still very much alive. There is one major reason responsible for Davidson's failure which has not been widely recognized: What Davidson attacks fiercely is not the very notion, but a notion of conceptual schemes, namely, the Quinean notion of conceptual schemes and its underlying Kantian scheme-content dualism. However, such a notion (...) simply cannot carry the weight of conceptual relativism for it does not catch the essences of conceptual relativism. Consequently, I argue that the very notion of conceptual schemes and conceptual relativism have survived Davidson's attack. Therefore, the failure of the Quinean notion of conceptual schemes and Kantian scheme-content dualism, even if Davidson can claim victory, does not mark the end of the very notion of conceptual schemes.[ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]. (shrink)
The historical problem about the origins of the language of rights derives its importance from the conceptual problem: of "two fundamentally different ways of thinking about justice," which is basic? Is justice unitary or plural? This in turn opens up a problem about the moral status of human nature. A narrative of the origins of "rights" is an account of how and when a plural concept of justice comes to the fore, and will be based on the occurrence of (...) definite speech-forms—the occurrence of the plural noun in the sense of "legal properties." The history of this development is currently held to begin with the twelfth-century canonists. Later significant thresholds may be found in the fourteenth, sixteenth, and eighteenth centuries. Wolterstorff's attempt to find the implicit recognition of rights in the Scriptures depends very heavily on what he takes to be implied rather than on what is stated, and at best can establish a pre-history of rights-language. (shrink)