Categorizing Imaginary Objects

Philosophers often invite their readers to categorize imaginary objects. These objects are not only hypothetical: many of them cannot exist because of physical or technological reasons. They are unprecedented or unheard-of objects. By categorizing imaginary objects, philosophers expect to gain knowledge about our concepts. In this paper, I challenge this general assumption: not every conceivable object can be described in terms of our existing categories. Although prominent philosophers held similar views in the past, they made no effort to provide a satisfactory explanation for such impossibility. The argument that I will develop in the following pages rests mainly on three philosophical assumptions: a) that concepts whose content philosophers attempt to describe denote “monothetic classes”; b) that concept formation depends largely on “ecological salience” (a notion developed in the field of ethnobiology); c) that in any monothetic class, we can draw a proper distinction between definitional and correlated properties.
Keywords imaginary objects  thought experiments  counterexamples  ecological salience
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A Plea for Excuses.John Austin - 1956 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 57:1--30.
Other Minds.J. Wisdom, J. L. Austen, J. L. Austin & A. J. Ayer - 1946 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 20:122-197.
Other Minds.J. L. Austin - 2000 - In Sven Bernecker & Fred I. Dretske (eds.), Knowledge: Readings in Contemporary Epistemology. Oxford University Press.

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