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. Merleau-Ponty's Theory of Preconceptual Generalities and Concept Formation.Peter Antich - forthcoming - History of Philosophy Quarterly.
    In this paper, I provide an explication and defense of Merleau-Ponty’s theory of concept formation. I argue that at the core of this theory is a distinction between concepts proper and the kinds of generalities characteristic of perceptual experience, which I call “pre-conceptual generalities.” According to Merleau-Ponty, concepts are developed through a two-stage process: first, the establishment of such pre-conceptual generalities, and second, the clarification of these generalities into concepts. I provide phenomenological evidence for the existence of pre-conceptual generalities and (...)
  2. Deflated Concepts: A Reply to Stainton.Alex Barber - 1997 - Critica 29 (86):83 - 105.
    La teoria pleonastica de los conceptos continua siendo viable a pesar de las recientes criticas que ha recibido por parte de Robert J. Stainton (Critica, diciembre 1996). En particular el dominio de un concepto puede considerarse como la comprension de un termino que expresa tal concepto. Lo cual en ningun sentido amenaza el caracter deflacionario de la teoria pleonastica, en la medida en que tal comprension sea vista de una manera apropiada. Mas aun, recurrir a la nocion de un constituyente (...)
  3. Context-Independent and Context-Dependent Information in Concepts.L. W. Barsalou - 1982 - Memory and Cognition 10:82-93.
  4. On the Concept of "The World".Justus Buchler - 1978 - Review of Metaphysics 31 (4):555 - 579.
  5. Créer des concepts dessiner l'impensé.Monique David-Ménard - 2004 - Rue Descartes 45 (3):75.
  6. Review: Du Role Des Concepts. [REVIEW]Victor Delbos - 1894 - Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 2 (2):218 - 226.
  7. A Program for the Individuation of Scientific Concepts.Jose A. Diez - 2002 - Synthese 130 (1).
  8. 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.
  9. "Displacement of Concepts": Donald A. Schon. [REVIEW]B. M. Foss - 1964 - British Journal of Aesthetics 4 (4):366.
  10. William James's Naturalistic Account of Concepts and His 'Rejection of Logic'.Henry Jackman - 2018 - In Philosophy of Mind in the Nineteenth Century: The History of the Philosophy of Mind, Volume 5. New York: Routledge. pp. 133-146.
    William James was one of the most controversial philosophers of the early part of the 20 century, and his apparent skepticism about logic and any robust conception of truth was often simply attributed to his endorsing mysticism and irrationality out of an overwhelming desire to make room for religion in his world-view. However, it will be argued here that James’s pessimism about logic and even truth (or at least ‘absolute’ truth), while most prominent in his later views, stem from the (...)
  11. William James on Conceptions and Private Language.Henry Jackman - 2017 - Belgrade Philosophical Annual 30:175-193.
    William James was one of the most frequently cited authors in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, but the attention paid to James’s Principles of Psycho- logy in that work is typically explained in terms of James having ‘committed in a clear, exemplary manner, fundamental errors in the philosophy of mind.’ (Goodman 2002, p. viii.) The most notable of these ‘errors’ was James’s purported commitment to a conception of language as ‘private’. Commentators standardly treat James as committed to a conception of language as (...)
  12. Overcoming the Disunity of Understanding.Alexander Albert Jeuk - 2017 - Meta: Research in Hermeneutics, Phenomenology, and Practical Philosophy 9 (2):630-653.
    I argue that embodied understanding and conceptual-representational understanding interact through schematic structure. I demonstrate that common conceptions of these two kinds of understanding, such as developed by Wheeler (2005, 2008) and Dreyfus (2007a, b, 2013), entail a separation between them that gives rise to significant problems. Notably, it becomes unclear how they could interact; a problem that has been pointed out by Dreyfus (2007a, b, 2013) and McDowell (2007) in particular. I propose a Kantian strategy to close the gap between (...)
  13. Innate Powers, Concepts and Knowledge: A Critique of D. W. Hamlyn's Account of Concept Possession.Malcolm Jones - 1981 - Journal of Philosophy of Education 15 (1):139–145.
  14. Thinking About Papineau's Thinking About Consciousness.Robert Kirk - 2002 - SWIF Philosophy of Mind [December 4 (1).
  15. Concepts and Reality in Quantum Mechanics.Victor F. Lenzen - 1949 - Philosophy of Science 16 (4):279-286.
    A physical theory is a construction of thought which is founded on experience so as to constitute knowledge of the natural world. Propositions in physics are constituted of concepts which express the properties and processes of the physical world. For purposes of record and communication concepts are designated by the terms of a language, such as mathematical symbols, and philosophical discussion may be based on linguistic forms. In this essay, however, the element of discussion will be the concept as a (...)
  16. Concepts and Ascriptivism.Ronald P. Loui - unknown
    Hart’s "Ascription of Responsibility and Rights" is where we find perhaps the first clear pronouncement of defeasibility and the technical introduction of the term. The paper has been criticised, disavowed, and never quite fully redeemed. Its lurid history is now being used as an excuse for dismissing the importance of defeasibility.
  17. Peacocke and Kraemer on Butler's Problem.E. J. Lowe - 1980 - Analysis 40 (3):113 - 118.
  18. Replies to My Critics. [REVIEW]Edouard Machery - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 149 (3):429 - 436.
  19. Prototypes Revisited.Robert E. MacLaur - 1991 - Annual Review of Anthropology 20:55-74.
  20. Why We Should Do Without Concepts.Barbara C. Malt - 2010 - Mind and Language 25 (5):622-633.
    Machery (2009) has proposed that the notion of ‘concept’ ought to be eliminated from the theoretical vocabulary of psychology. I raise three questions about his argument: (1) Is there a meaningful distinction between concepts and background knowledge? (2) Do we need to discard the hybrid view? (3) Are there really categories of things in the world that are the basis for concepts? Although I argue that the answer to all three is ‘no’, I agree with Machery's conclusion that seeking a (...)
  21. On the Spatial Foundations of the Conceptual System and Its Enrichment.Jean M. Mandler - 2012 - Cognitive Science 36 (3):421-451.
    A theory of how concept formation begins is presented that accounts for conceptual activity in the first year of life, shows how increasing conceptual complexity comes about, and predicts the order in which new types of information accrue to the conceptual system. In a compromise between nativist and empiricist views, it offers a single domain-general mechanism that redescribes attended spatiotemporal information into an iconic form. The outputs of this mechanism consist of types of spatial information that we know infants attend (...)
  22. Infant Concepts Revisited.Jean M. Mandler - 2008 - Philosophical Psychology 21 (2):269 – 280.
    In this paper I answer some concerns of the commentators on my article 'On the birth and growth of concepts'. I explain that my theory of concept formation in infancy emphasizes spatial information over bodily information but still allows the body to influence conceptual thought. I suggest that bodily feelings may be represented differently from spatial information. I do not claim that spatial image-schemas account for all conceptual thought, but I show why they are sufficient for the relatively limited conceptual (...)
  23. What Kind of Mechanism Can Create a Preverbal Concept?Jean M. Mandler - 2004 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 8 (11):508-513.
  24. The Foundations of Mind: Origins of Conceptual Thought.Jean Matter Mandler - 2004 - Oup Usa.
    This book offers a theory of how human conceptual life begins, and shows how perceptual information becomes transformed into concepts. Drawing on extensive research, Mandler describes the development of preverbal concept formation, inductive inference, and recall, and explains how these processes form the conceptual basis for language and adult thought.
  25. Where Do Concepts Come From?Denis Mareschal, P. Quinn & Stephen Eg Lea - 2010 - In Denis Mareschal, Paul Quinn & Stephen E. G. Lea (eds.), The Making of Human Concepts. Oxford University Press.
  26. The Making of Human Concepts.Denis Mareschal, Paul Quinn & Stephen E. G. Lea (eds.) - 2010 - Oxford University Press.
    Human adults appear different from other animals in their ability to form abstract mental representations that go beyond perceptual similarity. In short, they can conceptualize the world. This book brings together leading psychologists and neuroscientists to tackle the age-old puzzle of what might be unique about human concepts.
  27. Concepts and the Innate Mind.Eric A. Margolis - 1995 - Dissertation, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick
    The topic of this thesis is the nature of human concepts understood as mental symbols or representations. ;Many discussions in this area presuppose an inferential model of concepts taken together with what I call the standard model of concept learning. An inferential model of concepts says that a concept's identity depends upon its participating in inferential dispositions linking it to certain other concepts. For example, one might think that part of what makes a mental symbol the concept BIRD is that (...)
  28. The Conceptual Mind: New Directions in the Study of Concepts.Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (eds.) - 2015 - MIT Press.
    The Conceptual Mind’s twenty-four newly commissioned essays cover the most important recent theoretical developments in the study of concepts, identifying and exploring the big ideas that will guide further research over the next decade. Topics include concepts and animals, concepts and the brain, concepts and evolution, concepts and perception, concepts and language, concepts across cultures, concept acquisition and conceptual change, concepts and normativity, concepts in context, and conceptual individuation.
  29. A New Technique for Observing Concept Evocation.Melvin R. Marks & Charles K. Ramond - 1951 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 42 (6):424.
  30. The Significance of the Distinction Between Concept Mastery and Concept Possession.Genoveva Marti - 1998 - Philosophical Issues 9:163-167.
  31. Conceptual Analysis and Criterial Change.James August Martin - 1969 - Dissertation, University of Michigan
  32. Simple Concepts.Pavel Materna - 2013 - Acta Analytica 28 (3):295-319.
    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 concepts, is well definable (...)
  33. Concept Acquisition: Some Reflections.R. Mazumdar - 1997 - Indian Philosophical Quarterly 24 (2):127-140.
  34. Northrop's Concepts by Intuition and Concepts by Postulation.Joseph B. McAllister - 1950 - New Scholasticism 24 (2):115-135.
  35. Concepts of Mind.Christine McCarthy - 2010 - In Richard Bailey (ed.), The Sage Handbook of Philosophy of Education. Sage Publication. pp. 307.
  36. Concepts As Objects.John McCarthy - unknown
    “ seems that hardly anybody proposes to use different variables for propositions and for truth-values, or different variables for individuals and individual concepts.” (Carnap 1956, p. 113).
  37. Some Concepts of Cause.H. J. McCloskey - 1964 - Review of Metaphysics 17 (4):586 - 607.
  38. Concepts of Law.Mathew D. McCubbins & Mark Turner - unknown
  39. Mental Representation and Mental Presentation.Gregory McCulloch - 2001 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    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 (...)
  40. MOPs: The Science of Concepts.James McGilvray - 2002 - In Wolfram Hinzen & Hans Rott (eds.), Belief and Meaning: Essays at the Interface. Deutsche Bibliothek der Wissenschaften. pp. 73--103.
  41. ORMOND, A. T. - Concepts of Philosophy. [REVIEW]J. E. Mctaggar - 1907 - Mind 16:431.
  42. Review: Possessing Concepts. [REVIEW]Alan Millar - 1994 - Mind 103 (409):73 - 82.
  43. Can Concepts Ground Apriori Knowledge? Peacocke's Referential Turn and its Challenges.Nenad Miščević - 2008 - Acta Analytica 23 (3):233-256.
    The paper is a critical examination of Peacocke’s pioneering work on concepts as grounding the possibility of a priori knowledge. It focuses upon his more recent turn to reference and referential domain, and the two enlargements of the purely conceptual bases for apriority, namely appeal to conceptions and to direct referential sensitivity. I argue that the two are needed, but they produce more problem for the strategy as a whole than they solve. I conclude by suggesting that they point to (...)
  44. Concepts.Robert Mitchell & Jacques Khalip - 2011 - In Jacques Khalip & Robert Mitchell (eds.), Releasing the Image: From Literature to New Media. Stanford University Press.
  45. Abstraction of Unidimensional Concepts From Larger Conceptual Systems.Vito Modigliani - 1974 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 102 (2):341.
  46. The Concept of Multiset.G. P. Monro - 1987 - Zeitschrift fur mathematische Logik und Grundlagen der Mathematik 33 (2):171-178.
  47. Posséder Un Concept Selon Peacocke.Martin Montminy - 2001 - Dialogue 40 (2):219-.
  48. Re-Presentations and Conceptual Structures of What?K. C. Moore - 2014 - Constructivist Foundations 9 (3):371-373.
    Open peer commentary on the article “Examining the Role of Re-Presentation in Mathematical Problem Solving: An Application of Ernst von Glasersfeld’s Conceptual Analysis” by Victor V. Cifarelli & Volkan Sevim. Upshot: Education researchers often explain student activity in terms of general thinking and learning processes, including those identified by Cifarelli and Sevim. In this commentary, I refocus Cifarelli and Sevim’s discussion in order to hypothesize the organization of mental actions that comprise and support those learning processes.
  49. The Nature, Function, and Acquisition of Concepts.Clayton Clarke Morgareidge - 1965 - Dissertation, Duke University
  50. Conceptual Structure.Helen E. Moss, Lorraine K. Tyler & Taylor & I. Kirsten - 2009 - In Gareth Gaskell (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Psycholinguistics. Oxford University Press.
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