Polysemy and thought: Toward a generative theory of concepts

Mind and Language 36 (1):158-185 (2021)
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Most theories of concepts take concepts to be structured bodies of information used in categorization and inference. This paper argues for a version of atomism, on which concepts are unstructured symbols. However, traditional Fodorian atomism is falsified by polysemy and fails to provide an account of how concepts figure in cognition. This paper argues that concepts are generative pointers, that is, unstructured symbols that point to memory locations where cognitively useful bodies of information are stored and can be deployed to resolve polysemy. The notion of generative pointers allows for unresolved ambiguity in thought and provides a basis for conceptual engineering.



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Jake Quilty-Dunn
Washington University in St. Louis

Citations of this work

Polysemy: Pragmatics and sense conventions.Robyn Carston - 2021 - Mind and Language 36 (1):108-133.
The modularity of the motor system.Myrto Mylopoulos - 2021 - Philosophical Explorations 24 (3):376-393.
The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction.Georges Rey - 2003 - In Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University.

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