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Concepts

Edited by Daniel Weiskopf (Georgia State University)
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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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Subcategories:See also:History/traditions: Concepts
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  1. Felicia Ackerman (1995). The Concept of Manipulativeness. Philosophical Perspectives 9:335-340.
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  2. Colin Allen (1998). Animal Concepts. 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?
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  3. Kent Bach & Jerry A. Fodor (2000). Concepts: Where Cognitive Science Went Wrong. Philosophical Review 109 (4):627.
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  4. Lawerence Barsalou (1993). Concepts and Meaning. 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.
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  5. Peter Blouw, A Dynamic Account of the Structure of Concepts.
    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 (...)
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  6. Robert Brandom (2011). Platforms, Patchworks, and Parking Garages: Wilson's Account of Conceptual Fine-Structure in Wandering Significance. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (1):183-201.
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  7. Karl Britton (1973). VII—Concepts of Action and Concepts of Approval. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 73 (1):105-118.
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  8. Harold I. Brown (2016). Conceptual Systems. 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 (...)
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  9. Harold I. Brown (2007). Conceptual Systems. 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 (...)
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  10. Stuart M. Brown & H. L. A. Hart (1963). The Concept of Law. Philosophical Review 72 (2):250.
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  11. Bartosz Brożek (2015). On Tû-Tû. 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 (...)
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  12. Justus Buchler (1978). On the Concept of "The World". Review of Metaphysics 31 (4):555 - 579.
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  13. V. C. (1963). The Concept of the Positron. [REVIEW] Review of Metaphysics 17 (2):303-304.
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  14. John Campbell (1986). Conceptual Structure. In C. Travis (ed.), Meaning and Interpretation. Blackwell.
    in Charles Travis (ed.), Meaning and Interpretation (Oxford and New York: Blackwell 1986), 159-174.
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  15. Quassim Cassam (2003). A Priori Concepts. In Hans-Johann Glock (ed.), Strawson and Kant. Clarendon Press.
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  16. Arindam Chakrabarti (2006). The Concepts Ofjnana, Prama and Aprama. In Pranab Kumar Sen & Prabal Kumar Sen (eds.), Philosophical Concepts Relevant to Sciences in Indian Tradition. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 1--145.
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  17. E. B. Coleman (1964). Verbal Concept Learning as a Function of Instructions and Dominance Level. Journal of Experimental Psychology 68 (2):213.
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  18. Michel Combès (1969). Le Concept de Concept Formel. Association des Publications de la Faculté des Lettres Et Sciences Humaines de Toulouse.
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  19. David E. Cooper (1973). Grammar and the Possession of Concepts. Journal of Philosophy of Education 7 (2):204–222.
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  20. Joe Cruz, Comments on Fisher's.
    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 (...)
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  21. Palmira Fontes da Costa (2001). The Natural History Files. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 32 (3):583-587.
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  22. Malte Dahlgrün, Concepts: Foundational Issues.
    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 (...)
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  23. S. C. Dash (1997). Prabhacandra's Concept of Smrti. In V. N. Jha (ed.), Jaina Logic and Epistemology. Sri Sadguru Publications. pp. 209--164.
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  24. Srilekha Datta (2006). The Concept of Abhava. In Pranab Kumar Sen & Prabal Kumar Sen (eds.), Philosophical Concepts Relevant to Sciences in Indian Tradition. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 1--85.
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  25. Monique David-Ménard (2004). Créer des concepts dessiner l'impensé. Rue Descartes 45 (3):75.
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  26. Daya (1952). Some Considerations on F. S. C. Northrop's Theory of Concepts. Philosophical Review 61 (3):392.
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  27. Daya Daya (1952). Some Considerations on F. S. C. Northrop's Theory of Concepts. Philosophical Review 61 (3):392-399.
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  28. Victor Delbos (1894). Review: Du Role Des Concepts. [REVIEW] Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 2 (2):218 - 226.
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  29. John Dupre (2011). What Darwin Got Wrong by Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini (UK: Profile; US: Farrar, Straus and Giroux)£ 20/$26 (Hb). [REVIEW] The Philosophers' Magazine 50:118-120.
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  30. Dennis Earl (2007). Concepts. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  31. Dennis Edward Earl (2002). A Defense of the Classical View of Concepts. 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 (...)
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  32. Brian Ellis (2011). Doing Without Concepts. Review of Metaphysics 64 (3):644-645.
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  33. Pascal Engel (2011). Les concepts neufs de l'empereur. 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 (...)
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  34. Jonathan ST B. T. Evans (1989). Concepts and Inference. Mind and Language 4 (1-2):29-34.
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  35. M. F. (1956). Concepts of Space. Review of Metaphysics 9 (4):705-705.
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  36. Roderick Firth (1978). ``Are Epistemic Concepts Reducible to Ethical Concepts?&Quot. 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.
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  37. Kurt Fischer & Ulas Kaplan (2003). Piagetian Theory, Development of Conceptual Structure. In L. Nadel (ed.), Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science. Nature Publishing Group.
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  38. P. J. Fitzgerald (1961). The Concept of Law. Philosophical Books 2 (4):14-16.
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  39. B. M. Foss (1964). "Displacement of Concepts": Donald A. Schon. [REVIEW] British Journal of Aesthetics 4 (4):366.
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  40. Paul Franceschi, On a Class of Concepts.
    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 (...)
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  41. B. O. G. (1976). Concepts and Language. Review of Metaphysics 29 (3):556-557.
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  42. Luca Gasparri (2016). Mental Files and the Lexicon. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 7 (2):463-472.
    This paper presents the hypothesis that the representational repertoire underpinning our ability to process the lexical items of a natural language can be modeled as a system of mental files. To start, I clarify the basic phenomena that an account of lexical knowledge should be able to elucidate. Then, I propose to evaluate whether the mental files theory can be brought to bear on an account of the representational format of lexical knowledge by modeling mental words as recognitional files.
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  43. Dirk Geeraerts (2006). Chapter 1. Prospects and Problems of Prototype Theory. In Words and Other Wonders: Papers on Lexical and Semantic Topics. Mouton de Gruyter.
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  44. Eugene T. Gendlin (2000). Three Types of Concepts. In Ralph D. Ellis (ed.), The Caldron of Consciousness: Motivation, Affect and Self-Organization. John Benjamins. pp. 16--109.
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  45. Rocco J. Gennaro (2013). Defending HOT Theory and The Wide Intrinsicality View: A Reply to Weisberg, Van Gulick, and Seager. Journal of Consciousness Studies 20 (11-12):82-100.
    This is my reply to Josh Weisberg, Robert Van Gulick, and William Seager, published in JCS vol 20, 2013. This symposium grew out of an author-meets-critics session at the Central APA conference in 2013 on my 2012 book THE CONSCIOUSNESS PARADOX (MIT Press). Topics covered include higher-order thought (HOT) theory, my own "wide intrinsicality view," the problem of misrepresentation, targetless HOTs, conceptualism, introspection, and the transitivity principle.
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  46. Rocco J. Gennaro (2012). The Consciousness Paradox: Consciousness, Concepts, and Higher-Order Thoughts. MIT Press.
    Consciousness is arguably the most important area within contemporary philosophy of mind and perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the world. Despite an explosion of research from philosophers, psychologists, and scientists, attempts to explain consciousness in neurophysiological, or even cognitive, terms are often met with great resistance. In The Consciousness Paradox, Rocco Gennaro aims to solve an underlying paradox, namely, how it is possible to hold a number of seemingly inconsistent views, including higher-order thought (HOT) theory, conceptualism, infant and animal (...)
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  47. Allan Gibbard (2002). Normative and Recognitional Concepts. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 64 (1):151-167.
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  48. Lila R. Gleitman, Henry Gleitman, Carol Miller & Ruth Ostrin (1996). Similar, and Similar Concepts. Cognition 58 (3):321-376.
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  49. Nada Gligorov (2010). The Revisability of Moral Concepts. AJOB Neuroscience 1 (4):32-34.
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  50. Hans Johann Glock, A Cognitivist Approach to Concepts.
    Th is article explores a cognitivist approach to concepts. Such an approach steers a middle course between the Scylla of subjectivism and the Charybdis of objectivism. While concepts are not mental particulars, they have an ineliminable cognitive dimension. Th e article explores several versions of cognitivism, focusing in particular on Künne’s Neo-Fregean proposal that concepts are modes of presentation. It also tackles a challenge facing all cognitivist accounts, namely the ‘proposition problem’: how can the cognitive dimension of concepts be reconciled (...)
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