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Profile: Eric Margolis (University of British Columbia)
  1. Stephen Laurence & Eric Margolis (forthcoming). Concepts, Content, and the Innateness Controversy. Cognition.
     
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  2. Eric Margolis (forthcoming). Stephen. Laurence (Sa)“Concepts”. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  3. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (2013). In Defense of Nativism. Philosophical Studies 165 (2):693-718.
    This paper takes a fresh look at the nativism–empiricism debate, presenting and defending a nativist perspective on the mind. Empiricism is often taken to be the default view both in philosophy and in cognitive science. This paper argues, on the contrary, that there should be no presumption in favor of empiricism (or nativism), but that the existing evidence suggests that nativism is the most promising framework for the scientific study of the mind. Our case on behalf of nativism has four (...)
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  4. Stephen Laurence & Eric Margolis (2012). Abstraction and the Origin of General Ideas. Philosophers' Imprint 12 (19):1-22.
    Philosophers have often claimed that general ideas or representations have their origin in abstraction, but it remains unclear exactly what abstraction as a psychological process consists in. We argue that the Lockean aspiration of using abstraction to explain the origins of all general representations cannot work and that at least some general representations have to be innate. We then offer an explicit framework for understanding abstraction, one that treats abstraction as a computational process that operates over an innate quality space (...)
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  5. E. Margolis, R. Samuels & S. Stich (eds.) (2012). The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Cognitive Science. Oxford University Press.
    The philosophy of cognitive science is concerned with fundamental philosophical and theoretical questions connected to the sciences of the mind. How does the brain give rise to conscious experience? Does speaking a language change how we think? Is a genuinely intelligent computer possible? What features of the mind are innate? Advances in cognitive science have given philosophers important tools for addressing these sorts of questions; and cognitive scientists have, in turn, found themselves drawing upon insights from philosophy--insights that have often (...)
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  6. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (2012). The Scope of the Conceptual. In Eric Margolis, Richard Samuels & Stephen Stich (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Cognitive Science. Oxford University Press.
    This chapter provides a critical overview of ten central arguments that philosophers have given in support of a distinction between the conceptual and the nonconceptual. We use these arguments to examine the question of whether (and in what sense) perceptual states might be deemed nonconceptual and also whether (and in what sense) animals and infants might be deemed to lack concepts. We argue that philosophers have implicitly relied on a wide variety of different ways to draw the conceptual/nonconceptual distinction and (...)
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  7. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (2011). Beyond the Building Blocks Model. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 34 (3):139-140.
    This article is a commentary on Carey (2009) The Origin of Concepts. Carey rightly rejects the building blocks model of concept acquisition on the grounds that new primitive concepts can be learned via the process of bootstrapping. But new primitives can be learned by other acquisition processes that do not involve bootstrapping, and bootstrapping itself is not a unitary process. Nonetheless, the processes associated with bootstrapping provide important insights into conceptual change.
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  8. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence, Concepts. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    This entry provides an overview of theories of concepts that is organized around five philosophical issues: (1) the ontology of concepts, (2) the structure of concepts, (3) empiricism and nativism about concepts, (4) concepts and natural language, and (5) concepts and conceptual analysis.
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  9. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (2011). Learning Matters: The Role of Learning in Concept Acquisition. Mind and Language 26 (5):507-539.
    In LOT 2: The Language of Thought Revisited, Jerry Fodor argues that concept learning of any kind—even for complex concepts—is simply impossible. In order to avoid the conclusion that all concepts, primitive and complex, are innate, he argues that concept acquisition depends on purely noncognitive biological processes. In this paper, we show (1) that Fodor fails to establish that concept learning is impossible, (2) that his own biological account of concept acquisition is unworkable, and (3) that there are in fact (...)
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  10. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (2010). Concepts and Theoretical Unification. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (2-3):219-220.
    This article is a commentary on Machery (2009) Doing without Concepts. Concepts are mental symbols that have semantic structure and processing structure. This approach (1) allows for different disciplines to converge on a common subject matter; (2) it promotes theoretical unification; and (3) it accommodates the varied processes that preoccupy Machery. It also avoids problems that go with his eliminativism, including the explanation of how fundamentally different types of concepts can be co-referential.
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  11. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (2008). How to Learn the Natural Numbers: Inductive Inference and the Acquisition of Number Concepts. Cognition 106 (2):924-939.
    Theories of number concepts often suppose that the natural numbers are acquired as children learn to count and as they draw an induction based on their interpretation of the first few count words. In a bold critique of this general approach, Rips, Asmuth, Bloomfield [Rips, L., Asmuth, J. & Bloomfield, A. (2006). Giving the boot to the bootstrap: How not to learn the natural numbers. Cognition, 101, B51–B60.] argue that such an inductive inference is consistent with a representational system that (...)
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  12. Stephen Laurence & Eric Margolis (2007). Linguistic Determinism and the Innate Basis of Number. In Peter Carruthers (ed.), The Innate Mind: Foundations and the Future.
    Strong nativist views about numerical concepts claim that human beings have at least some innate precise numerical representations. Weak nativist views claim only that humans, like other animals, possess an innate system for representing approximate numerical quantity. We present a new strong nativist model of the origins of numerical concepts and defend the strong nativist approach against recent cross-cultural studies that have been interpreted to show that precise numerical concepts are dependent on language and that they are restricted to speakers (...)
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  13. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (eds.) (2007). Creations of the Mind: Theories of Artifacts and Their Representation. Oxford University Press.
    This volume will be a fascinating resource for philosophers, cognitive scientists, and psychologists, and the starting point for future research in the study of ...
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  14. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (2007). The Ontology of Concepts: Abstract Objects or Mental Representations? Noûs 41 (4):561-593.
    What is a concept? Philosophers have given many different answers to this question, reflecting a wide variety of approaches to the study of mind and language. Nonetheless, at the most general level, there are two dominant frameworks in contemporary philosophy. One proposes that concepts are mental representations, while the other proposes that they are abstract objects. This paper looks at the differences between these two approaches, the prospects for combining them, and the issues that are involved in the dispute. We (...)
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  15. Stephen Laurence & Eric Margolis (2005). Number and Natural Language. In Peter Carruthers, Stephen Laurence & Stephen P. Stich (eds.), The Innate Mind: Structure and Content. New York: Oxford University Press New York. 1--216.
    One of the most important abilities we have as humans is the ability to think about number. In this chapter, we examine the question of whether there is an essential connection between language and number. We provide a careful examination of two prominent theories according to which concepts of the positive integers are dependent on language. The first of these claims that language creates the positive integers on the basis of an innate capacity to represent real numbers. The second claims (...)
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  16. H. Barth, M. H. Bornstein, J. I. D. Campbell, B. Geurts, P. C. Gordon, R. Gunter, R. Hendrick, C. W. Hue, S. Laurence & E. Margolis (2003). Anderson, JR, 123 Arterberry, ME, 1 Aslin, RN, B33 Au, TK-F., B53. Cognition 86:317.
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  17. Stephen Laurence & Eric Margolis (2003). Concepts and Conceptual Analysis. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67 (2):253-282.
    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 (...)
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  18. Stephen Laurence & Eric Margolis (2003). Radical Concept Nativism. Cognition 86 (1):25-55.
    Radical concept nativism is the thesis that virtually all lexical concepts are innate. Notoriously endorsed by Jerry Fodor (1975, 1981), radical concept nativism has had few supporters. However, it has proven difficult to say exactly what’s wrong with Fodor’s argument. We show that previous responses are inadequate on a number of grounds. Chief among these is that they typically do not achieve sufficient distance from Fodor’s dialectic, and, as a result, they do not illuminate the central question of how new (...)
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  19. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (2003). Concepts. In Stephen P. Stich & Ted A. Warfield (eds.), Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Mind. Blackwell.
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  20. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (2003). Should We Trust Our Intuitions? Deflationary Accounts of the Analytic Data. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (3):299-323.
    At least since W. V. O. Quine's famous critique of the analytic/synthetic distinction, philosophers have been deeply divided over whether there are any analytic truths. One line of thought suggests that the simple fact that people have 'intuitions of analyticity' might provide an independent argument for analyticities. If defenders of analyticity can explain these intuitions and opponents cannot, then perhaps there are analyticities after all. We argue that opponents of analyticity have some unexpected resources for explaining these intuitions and that, (...)
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  21. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (2002). Lewis' Strawman. Philosophical Quarterly 52 (206):55-65.
    In a survey of his views in the philosophy of mind, David Lewis criticizes much recent work in the field by attacking an imaginary opponent, Strawman. His case against Strawman focuses on four central theses which Lewis takes to be widely accepted among contemporary philosophers of mind. These theses concerns (1) the language of thought hypothesis and its relation to folk psychology, (2) narrow content, (3) de se content, and (4) rationality. We respond to Lewis, arguing (among other things) that (...)
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  22. Stephen Laurence & Eric Margolis (2001). The Poverty of the Stimulus Argument. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 52 (2):217-276.
    Noam Chomsky's Poverty of the Stimulus Argument is one of the most famous and controversial arguments in the study of language and the mind. Though widely endorsed by linguists, the argument has met with much resistance in philosophy. Unfortunately, philosophical critics have often failed to fully appreciate the power of the argument. In this paper, we provide a systematic presentation of the Poverty of the Stimulus Argument, clarifying its structure, content, and evidential base. We defend the argument against a variety (...)
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  23. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (2001). Boghossian on Analyticity. Analysis 61 (4):293–302.
    In an important recent discussion of analyticity, Paul Boghossian (1997)1 argues for the following three claims: (i) While Quine’s well-known arguments against analyticity do undermine one type of analyticity (what Boghossian calls metaphysical analyticity), they fail to undermine another type (what he calls epistemic analyticity). (ii) Epistemic analyticity explains the a prioricity of logic and perhaps even the a prioricity of conceptual truths.
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  24. S. Laurence & E. Margolis (1999). Review. Concepts: Where Cognitive Science Went Wrong (Jerry Fodor). British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 50 (3):487-491.
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  25. Stephen Laurence & Eric Margolis (1999). Concepts and Cognitive Science. In Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (eds.), Concepts: Core Readings. MIT. 3--81.
    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 (...)
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  26. Stephen Laurence & Eric Margolis (1999). Where the Regress Argument Still Goes Wrong: Reply to Knowles. Analysis 59 (264):321-327.
    The Language of Thought Hypothesis (LOT) is at the centre of a number of the most fundamental debates about the mind. Yet many philosophers want to reject LOT out of hand on the grounds that it is essentially a recid- ivistic doctrine, one that has long since been refuted. According to these philosophers, LOT is subject to a devastating regress argument. There are several versions of the argument, but the basic idea is as follows. (1) Natu- ral language has some (...)
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  27. Stephen Laurence, Eric Margolis & Angus Dawson (1999). Moral Realism and Twin Earth. Facta Philosophica 1:135-165.
    Hilary Putnam's Twin Earth thought experiment has come to have an enormous impact on contemporary philosophical thought. But while most of the discussion has taken place within the context of the philosophy of mind and language, Terence Horgan and Mark Timmons (H8cT) have defended the intriguing suggestion that a variation on the original thought experiment has important consequences for ethics.' In a series of papers, they' ve developed the idea of a Moral Twin Earth and have argued that its significance (...)
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  28. Eric Margolis (1999). What is Conceptual Glue? Minds and Machines 9 (2):241-255.
    Conceptual structures are commonly likened to scientific theories, yet the content and motivation of the theory analogy are rarely discussed. Gregory Murphy and Douglas Medin's The Role of Theories in Conceptual Coherence is a notable exception and has become an authoritative exposition of the utility of the theory analogy. For Murphy and Medin, the theory analogy solves what they call the problem of conceptual coherence or the problem of conceptual glue. I argue that they conflate a number of issues under (...)
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  29. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (eds.) (1999). Concepts: Core Readings. MIT Press.
    The first part of the book centers around the fall of the Classical Theory of Concepts in the face of attacks by W. V. O. Quine, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Eleanor ...
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  30. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (1999). Where the Regress Argument Still Goes Wrong: Reply to Knowles. Analysis 59 (4):321-327.
    The Regress Argument is supposed to show that the language of thought hypothesis results in an infinite regress in its explanation of such things as learning, meaning, and understanding. Earlier (in Laurence & Margolis 1997) we argued that the Regress Argument doesn’t work and that even the language of thought’s supporters have given the Regress Argument far too much credit. In this paper, we respond to a critique of our earlier discussion.
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  31. Eric Margolis (1998). How to Acquire a Concept. Mind and Language 13 (3):347-369.
    In this paper, I develop a novel account of concept acquisition for an atomistic theory of concepts. Conceptual atomism 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.
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  32. Eric Margolis (1998). Implicit Conceptions and the Phenomenon of Abandoned Principles. Philosophical Issues 9:105-114.
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  33. Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (1998). Multiple Meanings and Stability of Content. Journal of Philosophy 95 (5):255-63.
    We examine a proposal of Eric Lormand's for dealing with perhaps the chief difficulty facing holistic theories of meaning—meaning instability. The problem is that, given a robust holism, small changes in a representational system are likely to lead to meaning changes throughout the system. Consequently, different individuals are likely never to mean the same thing. Lormand suggests that holists can avoid this problem—and even secure more stability than non-holists—by positing that symbols have multiple meanings. We argue that the proposal doesn't (...)
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  34. Stephen Laurence & Eric Margolis (1997). Regress Arguments Against the Language of Thought. Analysis 57 (1):60-66.
    The Language of Thought Hypothesis is often taken to have the fatal flaw that it generates an explanatory regress. The language of thought is invoked to explain certain features of natural language (e.g., that it is learned, understood, and is meaningful), but, according to the regress argument, the language of thought itself has these same features and hence no explanatory progress has been made. We argue that such arguments rely on the tacit assumption that the entire motivation for the language (...)
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  35. Eric Margolis (1995). The Significance of the Theory Analogy in the Psychological Study of Concepts. Mind and Language 10 (1-2):45-71.
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  36. R. Baillargeon, D. Bavelier, P. Bloom, K. Breinlinger, K. N. Kirby, L. Kotovsky, D. R. Mandel & E. Margolis (1994). Corballis, MC, 191 Purcell, SE, 131 Ehrlich, SM, 131. Cognition 51:287.
     
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  37. Kris N. Kirby, Eric Margolis, Heinz Wimmer, Laura Kotovsky & Renbe Baillargeon (1994). Elizabeth S. Spelke, Gary Katz, Susan E. Purcell, Sheryl M. Ehrlich and Karen Breinlinger (Cornell University) Early Knowledge of Object Motion: Continuity and Inertia, 131-L 76. [REVIEW] Cognition 51:285-286.
     
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  38. Eric Margolis (1994). A Reassessment of the Shift From the Classical Theory of Concepts to Prototype Theory. Cognition 51 (1):73-89.
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