BBS article on Doing without Concepts: Call for Commentary

BBS will publish a precis on Doing without Concepts, and is now accepting proposals for commentaries (see below). If you are not on the list of commentators, but would like to propose a comment, e-mail me, and I’ll suggest your name (


Book: “Doing Without Concepts” (published by Oxford University Press 2009)

Authors: Edouard Machery

Deadline for proposals: December 7, 2009

Abstract:  The study of concepts is in an odd state of disarray. Cognitive scientists working on categorization, induction, and reasoning have discovered a dazzling amount of phenomena. New work on prototypes in the 1990s and early 2000s, innovative ideas on causal cognition in the first decade of the twenty-first century, the development of the neo-empiricist approach that assimilates the tokening of a concept to a multi-modal perceptual simulation, and the promising growth of the neuropsychology of concepts have rejuvenated the field. At the same time, this extraordinary amount of findings has yet to be organized in a coherent theoretical framework. The current theories of concepts-prototype theories,exemplar theories, theory theories, and neo-empiricist theories-fail to explainall the known phenomena, and there is very little agreement about what concepts are. Doing without Concepts attempts to provide such a theoretical framework.In this article, I review the main points and arguments developed at greater length in Doing without Concepts, and I conclude that abandoning the very notion of concept is probably required to remedy the state of disarray of the current psychology of concepts.

Keywords: concept, category, categorization, induction,concept combination, dissociation, empiricism, eliminative argument, natural kind.

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