Pluralistic Localism about Concepts

Dan Weiskopf, “Atomism, Pluralism, and Conceptual Content,” unpublished ms.

In this interesting paper, Weiskopf defends an original theory of concepts, which may be called pluralistic localism.  The main components of the view are as follows:

“(Localism) Concepts have constituent structure
(Dual Content) Concepts have both referential and cognitive content
(Indiv*) Concepts are individuated by their referential and cognitive content
(Pluralism) People typically have multiple concepts available for representing each possible referential content that they can conceive of”

A thesis similar to (Pluralism) has recently been defended by Edouard Machery in his paper “Concepts Are Not a Natural Kind” (Philosophy of Science, 2005) and by Sam Scott and I in “Splitting Concepts” (Philosophy of Science, forthcoming).  (For more on pluralism, see here.)

In this paper, Weiskopf defends his own version of pluralism in the context of a broader theory of concepts, and argues persuasively that his theory avoids the pitfalls of both conceptual holism and conceptual atomism while retaining their advantages.  Weiskopf’s main argument for his theory is that something along its lines appears to be the natural philosophical extension of mainstream psychological theories of concepts.  Thus, Weiskopf piggybacks on the empirical evidence that supports scientific theories of concepts.

I sure hope to see Weiskopf’s paper accepted in a major journal some time soon.