Prototypes, Exemplars, and Theoretical & Applied Ethics

Neuroethics 6 (2):237-247 (2013)
Concepts are mental representations that are the constituents of thought. EdouardMachery claims that psychologists generally understand concepts to be bodies of knowledge or information carrying mental states stored in long term memory that are used in the higher cognitive competences such as in categorization judgments, induction, planning, and analogical reasoning. While most research in the concepts field generally have been on concrete concepts such as LION, APPLE, and CHAIR, this paper will examine abstract moral concepts and whether such concepts may have prototype and exemplar structure. After discussing the philosophical importance of this project and explaining the prototype and exemplar theories, criticisms will be made against philosophers, who without experimental support from the sciences of the mind, contend that moral concepts have prototype and/or exemplar structure. Next, I will scrutinize Mark Johnson’s experimentally-based argument that moral concepts have prototype structure. Finally, I will show how our moral concepts may indeed have prototype and exemplar structure as well as explore the further ethical implications that may be reached by this particular moral concepts conclusion
Keywords Concepts  Cognitive science  Moral psychology  Mental representations  Ethics  Thin/thick concepts
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DOI 10.1007/s12152-011-9106-8
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Stephen Laurence & Eric Margolis (1999). Concepts and Cognitive Science. In Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (eds.), Concepts: Core Readings. MIT Press. pp. 3-81.
Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (2011). Concepts. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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