Cognition 145:89-103 (2015)

Nick Leonard
Northwestern University
Sortal terms, such as table or horse, are count nouns (akin to a basic-level terms). According to some theories, the meaning of sortals provides conditions for telling objects apart (individuating objects, e.g., telling one table from a second) and for identifying objects over time (e.g., determining that a particular horse at one time is the same horse at another). A number of psychologists have proposed that sortal concepts likewise provide psychologically real conditions for individuating and identifying things. However, this paper reports five experiments that cast doubt on these psychological claims. Experiments 1-3 suggest that sortal concepts do not determine when an object ceases to exist and therefore do not decide when the object can no longer be identical to a later one. Experiments 4-5 similarly suggest that sortal concepts do not provide determinate conditions for individuating objects. For example, they do not always decide whether a room contains one table or two. All five experiments feature ordinary objects undergoing ordinary changes.
Keywords object identity  sortal concepts  individual concepts  object individuation
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DOI 10.1016/j.cognition.2015.08.003
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References found in this work BETA

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