Doing without Concepts, Chapter 2

I open a thread for eventual comments on Chapter 2. Comments
can of course be sent to me by e-mail. Thanks for those of you who read the
chapter and commented on it.



In Chapter 2, I distinguish
two meanings of the term “concept” in philosophy—concepts as capacities for having
propositional attitudes and concepts as components of propositions. On this basis, I argue that the term “concept” is ambiguous
between philosophy and psychology. When philosophers and psychologists are
developing theories of concepts, they are really theorizing about different
things. This conclusion undercuts many of the arguments made by philosophers
against the theories of concepts developed by psychologists. Finally, in the
last two sections, I discuss what the relation between the philosophical
theories of concepts and the psychological theories of concepts could be. In
the fourth section, I criticize at some length a proposal made by Christopher
Peacocke (1992)—the Simple Account: Philosophers should determine the necessary
and sufficient conditions for possessing a concept and psychologists should
explain how the human mind can meet these conditions. In the last section, I
focus more briefly on a proposal inspired by Jerry Fodor’s criticisms of the
psychological theories of concepts: While psychologists explain behavior and
cognition by ascribing contentful mental states, philosophers explain how
people can have contentful states.


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