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. Arithmetic Judgements, First-Person Judgements and Immunity to Error Through Misidentification.Michele Palmira - 2019 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 10 (1):155-172.
    The paper explores the idea that some singular judgements about the natural numbers are immune to error through misidentification by pursuing a comparison between arithmetic judgements and first-person judgements. By doing so, the first part of the paper offers a conciliatory resolution of the Coliva-Pryor dispute about so-called “de re” and “which-object” misidentification. The second part of the paper draws some lessons about what it takes to explain immunity to error through misidentification. The lessons are: First, the so-called Simple Account (...)
  2. Metacognition and Abstract Concepts.Nicholas Shea - 2018 - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 373.
    The problem of how concepts can refer to or be about the non-mental world is particularly puzzling for abstract concepts. There is growing evidence that many characteristics beyond the perceptual are involved in grounding different kinds of abstract concept. A resource that has been suggested, but little explored, is introspection. This paper develops that suggestion by focusing specifically on metacognition—on the thoughts and feelings that thinkers have about a concept. One example of metacognition about concepts is the judgement that we (...)
  3. Water Is and Is Not H2O.Kevin P. Tobia, George Newman & Joshua Knobe - forthcoming - Mind and Language.
    The Twin Earth thought experiment invites us to consider a liquid that has all of the superficial properties associated with water (clear, potable, etc.) but has entirely different deeper causal properties (composed of “XYZ” rather than of H2O). Although this thought experiment was originally introduced to illuminate questions in the theory of reference, it has also played a crucial role in empirically informed debates within the philosophy of psychology about people’s ordinary natural kind concepts. Those debates have sought to accommodate (...)
  4. 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 (...)
  5. 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 (...)
  6. 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 (...)
  7. Secondary Belief Content, What is It Good For?Alexander Sandgren - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (6):1467-1476.
    Some use the need to explain communication, agreement, and disagreement to argue for two-dimensional conceptions of belief content. One prominent defender of an account of this sort is David Chalmers. Chalmers claims that beliefs have two kinds of content. The second dimension of belief content, which is tied to what beliefs pick out in the actual world, is supposed to help explain communication, agreement, and disagreement. I argue that it does not. Since the need to explain these phenomena is the (...)
  8. The Concept of Trying.Severin Schroeder - unknown
  9. The Concept of God.Eleonore Stump & Keith Ward - 1977 - Philosophical Review 86 (3):398.
  10. Thinking with Concepts.John Wilson - 1969 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    In his preface Mr Wilson writes 'I feel that a great many adults … would do better to spend less time in simply accepting the concepts of others uncritically, and more time in learning how to analyse concepts in general'. Mr Wilson starts by describing the techniques of conceptual analysis. He then gives examples of them in action by composing answers to specific questions and by criticism of quoted passages of argument. Chapter 3 sums up the importance of this kind (...)
  11. Modes of Presentation: Perceptual V. Deferential.François Recanati - unknown
    Through perception we gain information about the world. We also gain information about the world through communication with others. There are concepts — indexical concepts, such as the concept of the present time or of the present place or the concept of oneself — which have a special link to perception. Are there concepts which are tied to communication in the same way in which indexical concepts are tied to perception? After discussing, and criticizing, a deflationary approach to the phenomenon (...)
  12. The Big Concepts Paper: A Defence of Hybridism.Agustín Vicente & Fernando Martínez Manrique - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (1):59-88.
    The renewed interest in concepts and their role in psychological theorizing is partially motivated by Machery’s claim that concepts are so heterogeneous that they have no explanatory role. Against this, pluralism argues that there is multiplicity of different concepts for any given category, while hybridism argues that a concept is constituted by a rich common representation. This article aims to advance the understanding of the hybrid view of concepts. First, we examine the main arguments against hybrid concepts and conclude that, (...)
  13. Créer des concepts dessiner l'impensé.Monique David-Ménard - 2004 - Rue Descartes 45 (3):75.
  14. I—R. M. Sainsbury and Michael Tye: An Originalist Theory of Concepts.R. M. Sainsbury & Michael Tye - 2011 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 85 (1):101-124.
  15. The Concept of Number. Christoph J. Scriba.A. S. Saidan - 1970 - Isis 61 (1):124-124.
  16. Reality According to Language and Concepts.Ben G. Yacobi - unknown
  17. Mental Files: An Introduction.Michael Murez & François Recanati - 2016 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 7 (2):265-281.
  18. Concepts as Pluralistic Hybrids.Collin Rice - 2016 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 92 (3):597-619.
    In contrast to earlier views that argued for a particular kind of concept, several recent accounts have proposed that there are multiple distinct kinds of concepts, or that there is a plurality of concepts for each category. In this paper, I argue for a novel account of concepts as pluralistic hybrids. According to this view, concepts are pluralistic because there are several concepts for the same category whose use is heavily determined by context. In addition, concepts are hybrids because they (...)
  19. Carey Grammar School.Richard Taylor & Michael Fitzpatrick - 2015 - Acm Sigcas Computers and Society 45 (3):427-431.
  20. A Conceptual Basis for Cultural Psychology.Anna Wierzbicka - 1993 - Ethos: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology 21 (2):205-231.
  21. Files: Law and Media Technology.Geoffrey Winthrop-Young (ed.) - 2008 - Stanford University Press.
    _Quod non est in actis, non est in mundo_. Once files are reduced to the status of stylized icons on computer screens, the reign of paper files appears to be over. With the epoch of files coming to an end, we are free to examine its fundamental influence on Western institutions. From a media-theoretical point of view, subject, state, and law reveal themselves to be effects of specific record-keeping and filing practices. Files are not simply administrative tools; they mediate and (...)
  22. What Are Concepts?Christopher Peacocke - 1989 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 14 (1):1-28.
  23. Incomplete Understanding of Concepts: The Case of the Derivative.Sheldon R. Smith - 2015 - Mind 124 (496):1163-1199.
    Many philosophers have discussed the ability of thinkers to think thoughts that the thinker cannot justify because the thoughts involve concepts that the thinker incompletely understands. A standard example of this phenomenon involves the concept of the derivative in the early days of the calculus: Newton and Leibniz incompletely understood the derivative concept and, hence, as Berkeley noted, they could not justify their thoughts involving it. Later, Weierstrass justified their thoughts by giving a correct explication of the derivative concept. This (...)
  24. Religious Concepts and Absolute Conceptions of the World.Randy Ramal - 2015 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 77 (2):89-103.
    In this essay I discuss several questions related to the manner in which concepts generally, and religious concepts in particular, are formed. Are some concepts necessary in the sense that, considering the physical makeup of the natural world and our own bio-chemical, perceptual, and cognitive nature, these concepts had to emerge by necessity? If we put considerations of divine revelations aside, I ask regarding religious concepts, what would be the proper way of looking at how they came to be formed? (...)
  25. Introduction: Nomadic Concepts—Biological Concepts and Their Careers Beyond Biology.Jan Surman, Katalin Stráner & Peter Haslinger - 2014 - Contributions to the History of Concepts 9 (2):1-17.
    This article introduces a collection of studies of biological concepts crossing over to other disciplines and nonscholarly discourses. The introduction discusses the notion of nomadic concepts as introduced by Isabelle Stengers and explores its usability for conceptual history. Compared to traveling and interdisciplinary concepts, the idea of nomadism shifts the attention from concepts themselves toward the mobility of a concept and its effects. The metaphor of nomadism, as outlined in the introduction, helps also to question the relation between concepts' movement (...)
  26. Baptizing Meanings for Concepts.Iris Oved - 2009 - Dissertation, Rutgers University
    Most people find it obvious that concepts like APPLE, DOG, WATER, CACTUS, SWIM, CHIRP, FURRY, and SMOOTH are acquired from perceptual experiences along with some kind of inferential procedure. Models of how these concepts are inferentially acquired, however, force the acquired concepts to be representationally complex, built from, and composed by, the more primitive representations. Since at least the time of Plato, philosophers and psychologists have struggled to find complex sets of representations that have the same meanings, definitionally or probabilistically, (...)
  27. Theoretical Concepts of Sciences.Massoud Omid - unknown - Kheradnameh Sadra Quarterly 8.
    Theoretical concepts such as "super ego" and "intelligent" are prevalent in scientific hypotheses and theories and have been treated differently by philosophers. Those who advocate empiricism believe that such concepts should be defined explicitly or reduced to the senses. Based on this notion, empiricists hold the view that a rule can be empirical only when its entire aspects are observable.Some others, however, adhere to the belief that these concepts have an essential nature and, therefore, cannot be sensed.And yet there is (...)
  28. Between Thought and Meaning: The Embodied Concept.John Edward Sarnecki - 2002 - Dissertation, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick
    My dissertation is concerned with philosophical problems that attend to our capacity to acquire concepts. Philosophical problems with learning are not new, however, they are especially acute when applied to concept acquisition. What I hope to show is that we can offer an account of concepts which at once overcomes our concerns about first concept acquisition and is nevertheless compatible with the view that concepts are acquired through rational learning mechanisms. Towards this end I consider both cognitivist and noncognitivist theories (...)
  29. 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 (...)
  30. The Acquisition of Concepts and the Use of Language.Hubert Rudolf George Schwyzer - 1968 - Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley
  31. Conceptual Analysis and Criterial Change.James August Martin - 1969 - Dissertation, University of Michigan
  32. A Defense of Conceptual Pluralism.Daniel Aaron Weiskopf - 2003 - Dissertation, Washington University
    Philosophers have historically been concerned with concepts and their analysis, and in recent decades psychologists have also begun to speculate on what kinds of structures concepts might be. I take concepts to satisfy three core desiderata: they are mental representations, they are the constituents of thoughts, and they are centrally employed in categorization. There are four major theories of concepts currently in play: definitionism, prototype and exemplar theory, the 'theory theory', and conceptual atomism. I survey these theories and argue that (...)
  33. Eric Margolis and Stephen Laurance, Eds., Concepts: Core Readings. [REVIEW]Robert Stainton - 2000 - Philosophy in Review 20:127-129.
  34. The Nature, Function, and Acquisition of Concepts.Clayton Clarke Morgareidge - 1965 - Dissertation, Duke University
  35. The Logic of Concepts: Case Studies in Engineering and Law.James Henry Parsons - 1981 - Dissertation, The Ohio State University
    Since the publication of Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, many philosophers and psychologists have supposed that the key concepts of a linguistic community are transmitted to initiates by means of exemplars, particular items which the community accepts as representative exemplifications of the concept. Although this view has several advantages over the traditional view that concepts are learned from definitions or analyses, it is incomplete in the absence of a theory of how the transition is made from viewing group-licensed (...)
  36. Secret Files Menace Doctors.Skipp Porteous - 1996 - Free Inquiry 16.
  37. The Prospects for an Empirical Theory of Concept Acquisition: Causal Cognition in Early Childhood.Billie Carol Skrenes - 2004 - Dissertation, University of California, Irvine
    Recent work in cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience has produced some surprising results that provide the materials for an empirical theory of concept acquisition which departs in significant ways from both radical nativism and classical empiricism. In this dissertation I develop a theory of how pre-linguistic infants acquire the capacity to construct causal concepts, in the period from 7 to 24 months of age. In humans the sophisticated modular capacity of the mammalian nervous system to track conditional frequencies of biologically (...)
  38. COMBÈS, M. - "Le Concept de Concept Formel". [REVIEW]P. F. Strawson - 1970 - Mind 79:311.
  39. The Concept of Reference.Swapna Sengupta - 1975 - Indian Philosophical Quarterly 2 (2):143-152.
  40. Concept Formation and Linguistic Meaning in Science and Theology.Garey Britton Spradley - 1990 - Dissertation, Syracuse University
    The main objective of this dissertation is to give a theoretical reconstruction of concept formation in science and theology. This theoretical reconstruction is limited to an account of concept formation based upon models. Models and their constituent concepts are mental representations. The model or mental representation of one domain is used to conceptualize the domain under investigation . When new concepts are formed in the topic domain on the basis of models of another domain , these concepts are formed out (...)
  41. H. H. Price's Analysis of the Nature of Concepts.Lawrence Resnick - 1956 - Dissertation, Cornell University
  42. Concepts: Their Nature and Significance for Metaphysics and Epistemology.James F. Zartman & Lennart Norreklit - 1974 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 35 (1):130-131.
  43. SCHON, DONALD A.: Displacement of Concepts. [REVIEW]W. A. Suchting - 1964 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 42:299.
  44. David Braddon-Mitchell and Frank Jackson, Philosophy of Mind and Cognition. [REVIEW]J. Opie - 1998 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 76 (4):642.
  45. "Displacement of Concepts": Donald A. Schon. [REVIEW]B. M. Foss - 1964 - British Journal of Aesthetics 4 (4):366.
  46. Enquãete Sur le Concept de Causalit'e.Laurence Viennot & Claude Debru - 2003
  47. ORMOND, A. T. - Concepts of Philosophy. [REVIEW]J. E. Mctaggar - 1907 - Mind 16:431.
  48. Concepts, the Self, and Empiricism.Charles Ives Waldo - 1969 - Dissertation, University of Kansas
  49. Possessed by Concepts: Christopher Peacocke's "A Study of Concepts".John Skorupski - 1995 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 3 (1):143.
  50. Structure of Concepts.Maria Nowakowska - 1980 - Bulletin of the Section of Logic 9 (1):23-27.
    The purpose of this note is to analyze the structure of concepts, treated as fuzzy subsets of a certain set. The concepts are assumed to be composed out of more elementary ones. Such an approach was developed mainly to get an empirical access to the values of membership functions of concepts.
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