Edited by Daniel Weiskopf (Georgia State University)
About this topic
Summary Concepts are the basic elements of thought. One of their primary functions is to connect the mind to the world; thus, to have a concept is to have available a way of thinking about something. There are concepts of particular individuals, general categories, natural kinds and artifacts, properties and relations, actions and events, and so forth. Concepts are also used in formulating beliefs, desires, plans, and other complex thoughts and judgments. They therefore play an important role in explaining cognitive processes such as categorization, inductive inference, causal reasoning, and decision making.
Key works A collection of influential readings that makes a good starting point in getting acquainted with how theories of concepts have been handled in modern cognitive science is Margolis & Laurence 1999. An overview of the key phenomena that theories of concepts aim to cover, as well as the major theories themselves, can be found in the opening chapters of Prinz 2002. Fodor 1998 presents a critique of the major assumptions lying behind these theories.
Introductions General reviews of the subject may be found in Laurence & Margolis 1999 and Weiskopf 2013.
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  1. The Concept of Manipulativeness.Felicia Ackerman - 1995 - Philosophical Perspectives 9:335-340.
  2. Animal Concepts.Colin Allen - 1998 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (1):66-66.
    Millikan's account of concepts is applicable to questions about concepts in nonhuman animals. I raise three questions in this context: (1) Does classical conditioning entail the possession of simple concepts? (2) Are movement property concepts more basic than substance concepts? (3) What is the empirical content of claiming that concept meanings do not necessarily change as dispositions change?
  3. Fodor and the Impossibility of Learning.Majid Amini - 2011 - In Michael Bruce & Steven Barbone (eds.), Just the Arguments: 100 of the Most Important Arguments in Western Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell.
  4. Mental Concepts: Casual Analysis.David M. Armstrong - 2004 - In R. L. Gregory (ed.), The Oxford Companion to the Mind. Oxford University Press. pp. 572--574.
  5. Discovering the Conceptual Primitives.Lisa Aziz-Zadeh, Daniel Casasanto, Jerome Feldman, Rebecca Saxe & Leonard Talmy - 2008 - In B. C. Love, K. McRae & V. M. Sloutsky (eds.), Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Cognitive Science Society.
  6. Concepts: Where Cognitive Science Went Wrong.Kent Bach & Jerry A. Fodor - 2000 - Philosophical Review 109 (4):627.
  7. Who Is Afraid of Disjunctive Concepts? A Case Study in the Genesis of Pseudo-Problems.Yehoshua Bar-Hillel & Rivka R. Eifermann - 1970 - Foundations of Language 6 (4):463-472.
    The problem of the difficulties created by disjunctive concepts is shown to be a spurious one. It is due in part to a confusion between concept formation and concept identification, in part to unfortunate terminological moves, in part to confusions between logical and methodological matters. Behind this pseudo-problem there are a number of real problems: how to work efficiently with partially interpreted concepts? are there differences in comprehension of various logical connectives? how does this comprehension change with age and linguistic (...)
  8. Concepts and Meaning.Lawerence Barsalou - 1993 - In L. Barsalou, W. Yeh, B. Luka, K. Olseth, K. Mix & L. Wu (eds.), Chicago Linguistic Society 29: Papers From the Parasession on Conceptual Representations. University of Chicago. pp. 23-61.
  9. A Dynamic Account of the Structure of Concepts.Peter Blouw - unknown
    Concepts are widely agreed to be the basic constituents of thought. Amongst philosophers and psychologists, however, the question of how concepts are structured has been a longstanding problem and a locus of disagreement. I draw on recent work describing how representational content is ascribed to populations of neurons to develop a novel solution to this problem. Because disputes over the structure of concepts often reflect divergent explanatory goals, I begin by arguing for a set of six criteria that a good (...)
  10. Meaning, Prototypes and the Future of Cognitive Science.J. Brakel - 1991 - Minds and Machines 1 (3):233-257.
    In this paper I evaluate the soundness of the prototype paradigm, in particular its basic assumption that there are pan-human psychological essences or core meanings that refer to basic-level natural kinds, explaining why, on the whole, human communication and learning are successful. Instead I argue that there are no particular pan-human basic elements for thought, meaning and cognition, neither prototypes, nor otherwise. To illuminate my view I draw on examples from anthropology. More generally I argue that the prototype paradigm exemplifies (...)
  11. Platforms, Patchworks, and Parking Garages: Wilson's Account of Conceptual Fine-Structure in Wandering Significance.Robert Brandom - 2011 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (1):183-201.
  12. VII—Concepts of Action and Concepts of Approval.Karl Britton - 1973 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 73 (1):105-118.
  13. Conceptual Systems.Harold I. Brown - 2016 - Routledge.
    New concepts are constantly being introduced into our thinking. _Conceptual Systems_ explores how these new concepts are entered into our systems along with sufficient continuity with older ideas to ensure understanding. The encyclopedic breadth of this text highlights the many different aspects and disciplines that together present an insightful view into the various theories of concepts. Harold Brown, a reputable author in the philosophy of science examines several historically influential theories of concepts as well as presenting a clear view on (...)
  14. Conceptual Systems.Harold I. Brown - 2007 - Routledge.
    New concepts are constantly being introduced into our thinking. _Conceptual Systems_ explores how these new concepts are entered into our systems along with sufficient continuity with older ideas to ensure understanding. The encyclopedic breadth of this text highlights the many different aspects and disciplines that together present an insightful view into the various theories of concepts. Harold Brown, a reputable author in the philosophy of science examines several historically influential theories of concepts as well as presenting a clear view on (...)
  15. The Concept of Law.Stuart M. Brown & H. L. A. Hart - 1963 - Philosophical Review 72 (2):250.
  16. On Tû-Tû.Bartosz Brożek - 2015 - Revus 27:15-23.
    The goal in this short paper is to argue that so-called intermediary concepts play an essential role in organizing and generating legal knowledge. The point of departure is a reconstruction and a critique of Alf Ross’s analysis of such concepts. His goal was to argue that there exist concepts in the law which have no semantic reference, yet it is reasonable to use them as they perform some useful function regarding the presentation of legal rules. The author believes that Ross (...)
  17. On the Concept of "The World".Justus Buchler - 1978 - Review of Metaphysics 31 (4):555 - 579.
  18. The Concept of the Positron. [REVIEW]V. C. - 1963 - Review of Metaphysics 17 (2):303-304.
  19. Conceptual Structure.John Campbell - 1986 - In C. Travis (ed.), Meaning and Interpretation. Blackwell.
    in Charles Travis (ed.), Meaning and Interpretation (Oxford and New York: Blackwell 1986), 159-174.
  20. On Fodor on Cognitive Development.Robin N. Campbell - 1982 - In B. De Gelder (ed.), Knowledge and Representation. Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp. 14.
  21. A Priori Concepts.Quassim Cassam - 2003 - In Hans-Johann Glock (ed.), Strawson and Kant. Clarendon Press.
  22. The Concepts Ofjnana, Prama and Aprama.Arindam Chakrabarti - 2006 - In Pranab Kumar Sen & Prabal Kumar Sen (eds.), Philosophical Concepts Relevant to Sciences in Indian Tradition. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 1--145.
  23. Verbal Concept Learning as a Function of Instructions and Dominance Level.E. B. Coleman - 1964 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 68 (2):213.
  24. Le Concept de Concept Formel.Michel Combès - 1969 - Association des Publications de la Faculté des Lettres Et Sciences Humaines de Toulouse.
  25. Grammar and the Possession of Concepts.David E. Cooper - 1973 - Journal of Philosophy of Education 7 (2):204–222.
  26. Comments on Fisher's.Joe Cruz - unknown
    My first plea has to do with the adequacy of this approach for the diverse purposes that philosophers set out for conceptual analysis. It is unclear what to make of concepts that do not lend themselves to obvious analysis in terms of the sorts of benefits that motivate Fisher’s intuitive cases. Some of the central concepts of philosophy — just the ones that where conceptual analysis ought to be most at home — like Knowledge or Person or Just State are (...)
  27. The Natural History Files.Palmira Fontes da Costa - 2001 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 32 (3):583-587.
  28. Concepts: Foundational Issues.Malte Dahlgrün - unknown
    This dissertation has three parts. Part I, comprising chapters 1 and 2, addresses some basic commitments which must be presupposed in theorizing about concepts. Concepts, to a first approximation, are mental representations that are constituents of thoughts. Chapter 1 attempts to clarify the notion of representing. Chapter 2 reconstructs arguments in the work of Frege against the mental nature of thoughts and (by the same token) of concepts, arguing that they are confused and leave the notion of concepts as mental (...)
  29. Prabhacandra's Concept of Smrti.S. C. Dash - 1997 - In V. N. Jha (ed.), Jaina Logic and Epistemology. Sri Sadguru Publications. pp. 209--164.
  30. The Concept of Abhava.Srilekha Datta - 2006 - In Pranab Kumar Sen & Prabal Kumar Sen (eds.), Philosophical Concepts Relevant to Sciences in Indian Tradition. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 1--85.
  31. Créer des concepts dessiner l'impensé.Monique David-Ménard - 2004 - Rue Descartes 45 (3):75.
  32. On the Concept of Concept in the Context of Autonomous Agents.Paul Davidsson - unknown
    This paper deals with some fundamental questions regarding the concept of concept in the context of autonomous agents. The most basic of these is defining what it actually means for someone to have a concept. Rather than trying to state a number of conditions that should be satisfied in order to have the concept, it is concluded that having a concept is a matter of degree, which can be defined in terms of the functions the concept can serve. The more (...)
  33. Some Considerations on F. S. C. Northrop's Theory of Concepts. Daya - 1952 - Philosophical Review 61 (3):392.
  34. Some Considerations on F. S. C. Northrop's Theory of Concepts.Daya Daya - 1952 - Philosophical Review 61 (3):392-399.
  35. Review: Du Role Des Concepts. [REVIEW]Victor Delbos - 1894 - Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 2 (2):218 - 226.
  36. What Darwin Got Wrong by Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini (UK: Profile; US: Farrar, Straus and Giroux)£ 20/$26 (Hb). [REVIEW]John Dupre - 2011 - The Philosophers' Magazine 50:118-120.
  37. Concepts.Dennis Earl - 2007 - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  38. A Defense of the Classical View of Concepts.Dennis Edward Earl - 2002 - Dissertation, University of Colorado at Boulder
    Issues involving concepts find their way into nearly all areas of philosophy, yet those issues are studied most directly by those working in metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language. Many of the relevant investigations involving concepts carry over into psychology as well, in the form of investigations into language learning, categorization, and mental representation. But what are concepts? First, concepts are what get expressed by lexical terms of language: For instance, in the sentence "Asparagus is green," the predicate (...)
  39. Doing Without Concepts.Brian Ellis - 2011 - Review of Metaphysics 64 (3):644-645.
  40. Les concepts neufs de l'empereur.Pascal Engel - 2011 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 201 (2):231 - 245.
    Cette revue critique marque un contraste entre deux ouvrages récents sur les concepts : une approche psychologique cohérente qui met l'accent sur le développement des concepts et une approche philosophique superficielle qui se veut « contextualiste » et débouche sur l'affirmation que tous les concepts sont vagues et indéterminés. A critical review of two recent books on concepts. A contrast is made between a powerful psychological approach, which emphasises the developmental profile of concepts, and a shallow philosophical approach which calls (...)
  41. Concepts and Inference.Jonathan ST B. T. Evans - 1989 - Mind and Language 4 (1-2):29-34.
  42. Concepts of Space.M. F. - 1956 - Review of Metaphysics 9 (4):705-705.
  43. ``Are Epistemic Concepts Reducible to Ethical Concepts?&Quot.Roderick Firth - 1978 - In Alvin Goldman & Jaegwon Kim (eds.), Values and Morals: Essays in Honor of William Frankena, Charles Stevenson, and Richard Brandt. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 215-229.
  44. Piagetian Theory, Development of Conceptual Structure.Kurt Fischer & Ulas Kaplan - 2003 - In L. Nadel (ed.), Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science. Nature Publishing Group.
  45. The Concept of Law.P. J. Fitzgerald - 1961 - Philosophical Books 2 (4):14-16.
  46. "Displacement of Concepts": Donald A. Schon. [REVIEW]B. M. Foss - 1964 - British Journal of Aesthetics 4 (4):366.
  47. On a Class of Concepts.Paul Franceschi - unknown
    Classically, in the discussion relating to polar opposites1, one primarily directs his interest to the common and lexicalized concepts, i.e. for which there exists a corresponding word in the vocabulary inherent to a given language. This way of proceeding tends to generate several disadvantages. One of them resides in the fact (i) that such concepts are likely to vary from one language to another, from one culture to another. Another (ii) of the resulting problems is that certain lexicalized concepts reveal (...)
  48. 6 Skill Learning and Conceptual Thought.Ellen Fridland - 2013 - In Bana Bashour Hans Muller (ed.), Contemporary Philosophical Naturalism and its Implications. Routledge. pp. 13--77.
  49. Concepts and Language.B. O. G. - 1976 - Review of Metaphysics 29 (3):556-557.
  50. Gustav Teichmüller and the Systematic Significance of Studying the History of Concepts.Gottfried Gabriel - 2013 - Studia Philosophica Estonica 8 (2):1-12.
    The history of concepts is relevant in philosophy because conceptual distinctions fundamentally shape cognition. Because these conceptual distinctions are deeply entrenched in our way of thinking, we are not usually aware of this influence. How we view the world depends crucially on the concepts we have. These concepts, however, are the products of their history. Following Herbart, Gustav Teichmüller viewed philosophy as the systematic analysis and refinement of concepts. Refining concepts in such a way allows us to make new distinctions, (...)
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