MACHERY DOING WITHOUT CONCEPTS PDF

Content Summary: words, 26 minute read. But first, a quote which serves to motivate what follows: Why do cognitive scientists want a theory of concepts? Theories of concepts are meant to explain the properties of our cognitive competences. People categorize the way they do, they draw the inductions they do, and so on, because of the properties of the concepts they have. Thus, providing a good theory of concepts could go a long way towards explaining some important higher cognitive competences.

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Certainly, much of the psychological work he reviews explicitly addresses the nature of "concepts". The work Machery reviews consists of abundant experiments from the last forty years on various topics, including: the procedures people seem to employ in such processes as categorization and concept learning saying whether, e. Results in these areas have led many psychologists to reject what they regard as "the Classical View" that was inherited from traditional philosophy, according to which concepts have necessary and sufficient defining conditions known to competent users of them p.

On the face of it, concepts are the stuff of which psychological claims and explanations are made. Generalizations and explanations of, e. Concepts seem to be natural kinds at least to the extent that they are the kinds of entity over which psychology generalizes.

This is a piece of the hard problem of "intentionality" that Brentano brought to modern attention, a problem that, as these things go, has standardly fallen to philosophy to discuss.

A solution to it should, of course, be informed by empirical data. A significant number of recent philosophers, however, have rejected it as well, offering interesting proposals in its place.

According to these views, the identity conditions for a concept are to a first approximation provided not by some condition internal to a thinker, but by relations the thinker bears to phenomena in the external world. I venture to say that it is this variability that Machery is noticing in his emphasis upon heterogeneity. Rather than inviting us to abandon the notion of concept, perhaps this variability is simply a reason to abandon an epistemic conception of it. Indeed, when the two tasks are properly distinguished, "most philosophical attacks against the psychological theories of concepts are decisively undermined" p.

There are a number of important reasons to think not. Fodor argues that this is where not only the whole of cognitive science, but the entire twentieth century went wrong [Fodor , ].

Pace Machery, this seems as apt a topic as any for psychological research p. This stability is surely of interest both to philosophy and psychology, framing the questions of what people could learn, and what might be the limits of reason and thought. Why --misleadingly? What makes them all dog concepts?

Something like the externalist strategies may be just the sort of thing for the purpose. Machery worries about how the philosophical and psychological interests in concepts could be connected pp.

In this way, Machery is quite right to claim that the psychological and philosophical work differ in at least their local concerns. Even their most ardent proponents would agree that at best they suggest a strategy for allowing for conceptual stability across people.

References Burge, T. Rey, G. Kompa, C. Nimtz, and C. Suhm; Paderborn: Mentis Segal, G. Nevertheless much of it is neither presented nor understood in this way, especially by, say, Burge, Fodor or Devitt. Machery uses "knowledge" as psychologists do, without commitment to truth or justification p. Mere similarity and overlap, however, are not identity, and it is identity in concepts that is needed to sustain serious explanations, such as ones about cognitive development, vision or language.

See my for discussion.

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Certainly, much of the psychological work he reviews explicitly addresses the nature of "concepts". The work Machery reviews consists of abundant experiments from the last forty years on various topics, including: the procedures people seem to employ in such processes as categorization and concept learning saying whether, e. Results in these areas have led many psychologists to reject what they regard as "the Classical View" that was inherited from traditional philosophy, according to which concepts have necessary and sufficient defining conditions known to competent users of them p. On the face of it, concepts are the stuff of which psychological claims and explanations are made. Generalizations and explanations of, e. Concepts seem to be natural kinds at least to the extent that they are the kinds of entity over which psychology generalizes.

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Doing without Concepts

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