On the advantage (if any) and disadvantage of the conceptual/nonconceptual distinction for cognitive science

Minds and Machines 20 (1):29-45 (2010)
In this article we question the utility of the distinction between conceptual and nonconceptual content in cognitive science, and in particular, in the empirical study of visual perception. First, we individuate some difficulties in characterizing the notion of “concept” itself both in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Then we stress the heterogeneous nature of the notion of nonconceptual content and outline the complex and ambiguous relations that exist between the conceptual/nonconceptual duality and other pairs of notions, such as top–down/bottom-up and modular/nonmodular. Finally we look in greater detail at the proposal developed by Jacob and Jeannerod (Ways of seeing. The scopes and limits of visual cognition. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2003 ), who apply the notion of nonconceptual content to empirical research on visual perception. After reconstructing their point of view on concepts, we try to reject their major arguments in support of the conceptual/nonconceptual distinction, i.e. the compositionality of thought and the fineness of grain of percepts.
Keywords Concepts   Conceptual content   Nonconceptual content   Visual perception
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DOI 10.1007/s11023-010-9182-2
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