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Summary Perception-based theories of concepts hold that concepts represent categories exclusively in terms of perceivable qualities and relations. A concept such as GORILLA, then, would be made up of stored perceptual images of gorillas and their typical behavior. This view is related to classical empiricist theories of ideas insofar as it treats concepts as complex sensorimotor representations. On the most radical versions of this view, even abstract concepts such as TRUTH, ART, or PRIME NUMBER are represented in a perceptual format. These views also have affinities with embodied theories of cognition that explain higher cognitive capacities in terms of sensorimotor processes and bodily structures.
Key works Works that argue for and develop perception-based theories of concepts include Prinz 2002, Barsalou 1999, and Barsalou 2010. Works that are critical of perception-based theories of concepts include Dove 2009, Machery 2006, and Weiskopf 2007.
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  1. Toward an ecological theory of concepts.Dr Liane M. Gabora, Dr Eleanor Rosch & Dr Diederik Aerts - forthcoming - Philosophical Explorations.
    Psychology has had difficulty accounting for the creative, context-sensitive manner in which concepts are used. We believe this stems from the view of concepts as identifiers rather than bridges between mind and world that participate in the generation of meaning. This paper summarizes the history and current status of concepts research, and provides a non-technical summary of work toward an ecological approach to concepts. We outline the rationale for applying generalizations of formalisms originally developed for use in quantum mechanics to (...)
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  2. Trading on Identity and Singular Thought.Rachel Goodman - 2022 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 100 (2):296-312.
    On the traditional relationalist conception of singular thought, a thought has singular content when it is based on an ‘information relation’ to its object. Recent work rejects relationalism and suggests singular thoughts are distinguished from descriptive thoughts by their inferential role: only thoughts with singular content can be employed in ‘direct’ inferences, or inferences that ‘trade on identity’. Firstly this view is insufficiently clear, because it conflates two distinct ideas—one about a kind of inference, the other a kind of process (...)
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  3. Theological Foundations for Moral Artificial Intelligence.Mark Graves - 2022 - Journal of Moral Theology 11 (Special Issue 1):182-211.
    The expanding social role and continued development of artificial intelligence (AI) needs theological investigation of its anthropological and moral potential. A pragmatic theological anthropology adapted for AI can characterize moral AI as experiencing its natural, social, and moral world through interpretations of its external reality as well as its self-reckoning. Systems theory can further structure insights into an AI social self that conceptualizes itself within Ignacio Ellacuria’s historical reality and its moral norms through Thomistic ideogenesis. This enables a conceptualization process (...)
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  4. Atomic event concepts in perception, action and belief.Lucas Thorpe - 2022 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 8 (1):110-127.
    Event concepts are unstructured atomic concepts that apply to event types. A paradigm example of such an event type would be that of diaper changing, and so a putative example of an atomic event concept would be DADDY'S-CHANGING-MY-DIAPER.1 I will defend two claims about such concepts. First, the conceptual claim that it is in principle possible to possess a concept such as DADDY'S-CHANGING-MY-DIAPER without possessing the concept DIAPER. Second, the empirical claim that we actually possess such concepts and that they (...)
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  5. Thinking about Spacetime.David Yates - 2021 - In Christian Wüthrich, Baptiste Le Bihan & Nick Huggett (eds.), Philosophy Beyond Spacetime: Implications From Quantum Gravity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Several different quantum gravity research programmes suggest, for various reasons, that spacetime is not part of the fundamental ontology of physics. This gives rise to the problem of empirical coherence: if fundamental physical entities do not occupy spacetime or instantiate spatiotemporal properties, how can fundamental theories concerning those entities be justified by observation of spatiotemporally located things like meters, pointers and dials? I frame the problem of empirical coherence in terms of entailment: how could a non-spatiotemporal fundamental theory entail spatiotemporal (...)
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  6. The Concept of Color as a Grammar Problem in Wittgenstein's Perspective of Language.Luca Nogueira Igansi - 2019 - Revista Philia Filosofia, Literatura e Arte 1 (1):121-139.
    This essay aims to provide conceptual tools for the understanding of Wittgenstein’s theory of color as a grammar problem instead of a phenomenological or purely scientific one. From an introduction of his understanding of meaning in his early and late life, his notion of grammar will be analyzed to understand his rebuttal of scientific and phenomenological discourse as a proper means for dealing with the problem of color through his critique of Goethe. Then Wittgenstein’s take on color will become clear (...)
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  7. Using neural response properties to draw the distinction between modal and amodal representations.Abel Wajnerman Paz - 2019 - Philosophical Psychology 32 (3):301-331.
    Barsalou has recently argued against the strategy of identifying amodal neural representations by using their cross-modal responses (i.e., their responses to stimuli from different modalities). I agree that there are indeed modal structures that satisfy this “cross-modal response” criterion (CM), such as distributed and conjunctive modal representations. However, I argue that we can distinguish between modal and amodal structures by looking into differences in their cross-modal responses. A component of a distributed cell assembly can be considered unimodal because its responses (...)
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  8. Smell's puzzling discrepancy: Gifted discrimination, yet pitiful identification.Benjamin D. Young - 2019 - Mind and Language 35 (1):90-114.
  9. A Defense of an Amodal Number System.Abel Wajnerman Paz - 2018 - Philosophies 3 (2):13.
    It has been argued that the approximate number system (ANS) constitutes a problem for the grounded approach to cognition because it implies that some conceptual tasks are performed by non-perceptual systems. The ANS is considered non-perceptual mainly because it processes stimuli from different modalities. Jones (2015) has recently argued that this system has many features (such as being modular) which are characteristic of sensory systems. Additionally, he affirms that traditional sensory systems also process inputs from different modalities. This suggests that (...)
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  10. An efficient coding approach to the debate on grounded cognition.Abel Wajnerman Paz - 2018 - Synthese 195 (12):5245-5269.
    The debate between the amodal and the grounded views of cognition seems to be stuck. Their only substantial disagreement is about the vehicle or format of concepts. Amodal theorists reject the grounded claim that concepts are couched in the same modality-specific format as representations in sensory systems. The problem is that there is no clear characterization of format or its neural correlate. In order to make the disagreement empirically meaningful and move forward in the discussion we need a neurocognitive criterion (...)
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  11. James of Viterbo's Innatist Theory of Cognition.Jean-Luc Solere - 2018 - In Antoine Côté & Martin Pickavé (eds.), A Companion to James of Viterbo. Leiden: Brill. pp. 168-217.
    James of Viterbio is one of the rare medieval authors to sustain a thoroughly innatist philosophy. He borrows from Simplicius the notion of idoneitas (aptitude, predisposition) so as to ground a cognition theory in which external things are not the efficient and formal causes of mental acts. A predisposition has the characteristic of being halfway between potentiality and actuality. Therefore, the subject that has predispositions does not need to be acted upon by another thing to actualize them. External things only (...)
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  12. Brentano's Empiricism and the Philosophy of Intentionality.Mark Textor - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 98 (1):50-68.
    Brentano's Thesis that intentionality is the mark of the mental is central to analytic philosophy of mind as well as phenomenology. The contemporary discussion assumes that it is a formulation of an analytic definition of the mental. I argue that this assumption is mistaken. According to Brentano, many philosophical concepts can only be elucidated by perceiving their instances because these concepts are abstracted from perception. The concept of the mental is one of these concepts. We need to understand Brentano's Thesis (...)
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  13. Observational concepts and experience.Ivan V. Ivanov - 2016 - Dissertation, University of Warwick
    The thesis is intended to contribute to the growing understanding of the indispensable role played by phenomenal consciousness in human cognition, and specifically in making our concepts of the external world available. The focus falls on so called observational concepts, a type of rudimentary, perceptually-based objective concepts in our repertoire — picking out manifest properties such as colors and shapes. A theory of such concepts gets provided, and, consequently, the exact role that perceptual consciousness plays in making concepts of this (...)
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  14. Conceptuality of Unreflective Actions in Flow: McDowell-Dryfus Debate.Ali Far - 2015 - GSTF Journal of General Philosophy 1 (2):1-7.
    The objective of this paper is to supplement Gottlieb’s challenge to Dryfus who claims that concepts are not operative in expert’s unreflective actions. First, concepts that an agent develops over time with practice, starting from the stage of novelty, become deeply rooted and persist through his expertise stage, according to common sense. It is unlikely that such rooted concepts become inoperative just when it is time for the agent to put them to use during the time that he is in (...)
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  15. On the Nature and Composition of Abstract Concepts: The X-Ception Theory and Methods for Its Assessment.Remo Job, Claudio Mulatti, Sara Dellantonio & Luigi Pastore - 2015 - In Woosuk Park, Ping Li & Lorenzo Magnani (eds.), Philosophy and Cognitive Science Ii: Western & Eastern Studies. Cham: Springer Verlag.
    The ‘standard picture of meaning’ suggests that natural languages are composed of two different kinds of words: concrete words whose meaning rely on observable properties of external objects and abstract words which are essentially linguistic constructs. In this study, we challenge this picture and support a new view of the nature and composition of abstract concepts suggesting that they also rely to a greater or lesser degree on body-related information. Specifically, we support a version of this new view which we (...)
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  16. Seeing White and Wrong: Reid on the Role of Sensations in Perception, with a Focus on Color Perception.Lucas Thorpe - 2015 - In Thomas Reid on Mind, Knowledge, and Value (Mind Association Occasional Series). Oxford University Press. pp. 100-123.
  17. Review of Christopher Gauker, Words and Images: An Essay on the Origin of Ideas, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. [REVIEW]Robert Briscoe - 2014 - Mind 123 (491):902-096.
  18. Contenido conceptual - contenido no conceptual: una distinción de tipo.Dany Mauricio González Parra - 2014 - Escritos 22 (49):369-397.
    La distinción entre contenidos conceptuales y no-conceptuales tiene claras repercusiones en el modo en que el hombre configura su mundo, así como en la posibilidad de atribuir pensamiento, en sentido estricto, a sistemas y organismos no humanos. Con el fin de clarificar dicha distinción, en el presente trabajo se plantea una noción básica de estado mental y, especialmente, una definición clara de lo que es un concepto y las características esenciales de los estados en que estos aparecen. Lo que se (...)
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  19. Perceptual concepts: in defence of the indexical model.François Recanati - 2013 - Synthese 190 (10):1841-1855.
    Francois Recanati presents the basic features of the *indexical model* of mental files, and defends it against several interrelated objections. According to this model, mental files refer to objects in a way that is analogous to that of indexicals in language: a file refers to an object in virtue of a contextual relation between them. For instance, perception and attention provide the basis for demonstrative files. Several objections, some of them from David Papineau, concern the possibility of files to preserve (...)
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  20. Concept empiricism, content, and compositionality.Collin Rice - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 162 (3):567-583.
    Concepts are the constituents of thoughts. Therefore, concepts are vital to any theory of cognition. However, despite their widely accepted importance, there is little consensus about the nature and origin of concepts. Thanks to the work of Lawrence Barsalou, Jesse Prinz and others concept empiricism has been gaining momentum within the philosophy and psychology literature. Concept empiricism maintains that all concepts are copies, or combinations of copies, of perceptual representations—that is, all concepts are couched in the codes of perceptual representation (...)
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  21. Reply to Prinz.Susanna Siegel - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 163 (3):847-865.
    Reply to Jesse Prinz's contribution to a symposium on *The Contents of Visual Experience*.
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  22. Abstraction and the Origin of General Ideas.Stephen Laurence & Eric Margolis - 2012 - Philosophers' Imprint 12:1-22.
    Philosophers have often claimed that general ideas or representations have their origin in abstraction, but it remains unclear exactly what abstraction as a psychological process consists in. We argue that the Lockean aspiration of using abstraction to explain the origins of all general representations cannot work and that at least some general representations have to be innate. We then offer an explicit framework for understanding abstraction, one that treats abstraction as a computational process that operates over an innate quality space (...)
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  23. Why Believe in Demonstrative Concepts?David Pereplyotchik - 2012 - Consciousness and Cognition 21 (2):636-638.
    I examine two arguments for the existence of demonstrative concepts—one due to Chuard (2006) and another due to Brewer (1999). I point out some important difficulties in each. I hope to show that much more work must be done to legitimize positing demonstrative concepts.
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  24. Qualia Qua Qualitons: Mental Qualities as Abstract Particulars.Hilan Bensusan & Eros Moreira De Carvalho - 2011 - Acta Analytica 26 (2):155-163.
    In this paper we advocate the thesis that qualia are tropes (or qualitons), and not (universal) properties. The main advantage of the thesis is that we can accept both the Wittgensteinian and Sellarsian assault on the given and the claim that only subjective and private states can do justice to the qualitative character of experience. We hint that if we take qualia to be tropes, we dissolve the problem of inverted qualia. We develop an account of sensory concept acquisition that (...)
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  25. On Imagism About Phenomenal Thought.Pär Sundström - 2011 - Philosophical Review 120 (1):43-95.
    Imagism about Phenomenal Thought is (roughly) the view that there is some concept *Q* (for some sensory quality Q) that we can employ only while we experience the quality Q. I believe this view is theoretically significant, is or can be made intuitively appealing, and is explicitly or implicitly accepted by many contemporary philosophers However, there is no good reason to accept it. Or so I argue.
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  26. A little give and take: problems in the empiricism of Sellars and his followers.Michael Davis - 2010 - Discusiones Filosóficas 11 (17):53-67.
    The starting point of this paper is Sellars’s rejection of foundationalist empiricism as found in his discussion of the Myth of the Given. Sellars attacks the Myth from two main angles, corresponding to the two elements of empiricism: the idea that our beliefs are justified by the world, and the idea that our concepts are derived from experience. In correctly attacking the second, Sellars is also, incorrectly, led to attack the first. Thus, Sellars rejects the commonsensical idea that at least (...)
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  27. Reply to Barbara Malt and Jesse Prinz.Edouard Machery - 2010 - Mind and Language 25 (5):634-646.
    In this response to Malt's and Prinz's commentaries, I argue that neo-empiricist hypotheses fail to threaten the argument for the elimination of ‘concept’ because they are unlikely to be true of all concepts, if they are true at all. I also defend the hypothesis that we possess bodies of knowledge retrieved by default from long-term memory, and I argue that prototypes, exemplars, and theories form genuinely distinct concepts.
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  28. Concepts: Stored or created?Marco Mazzone & Elisabetta Lalumera - 2010 - Minds and Machines 20 (1):47-68.
    Are concepts stable entities, unchanged from context to context? Or rather are they context-dependent structures, created on the fly? We argue that this does not constitute a genuine dilemma. Our main thesis is that the more a pattern of features is general and shared, the more it qualifies as a concept. Contextualists have not shown that conceptual structures lack a stable, general core, acting as an attractor on idiosyncratic information. What they have done instead is to give a contribution to (...)
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  29. Can Concept Empiricism Forestall Eliminativism?Jesse Prinz - 2010 - Mind and Language 25 (5):612-621.
    In this commentary, I focus on Machery's criticism of Neo-Empiricism. I argue that Neo-Empiricism can survive Machery's critique, and I show that there is an empiricist strategy for forestalling eliminativism.
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  30. On Imagism about Phenomenal Thought.Pär Sundström - 2010 - Philosophical Review 119 (3):43-95.
    Imagism about Phenomenal Thought is the view that there is some concept Q that we can employ only while we experience the quality Q. I believe this view is theoretically significant, is or can be made intuitively appealing, and is explicitly or implicitly accepted by many contemporary philosophers. However, there is no good reason to accept it. Or so I argue.
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  31. Building on Sellars: Concept Formation and Scientific Realism. [REVIEW]Tanya Kelley - 2008 - Metascience 17 (2):257-259.
    Harold Brown has written an ambitious work, which traces the formation of concepts in individuals and cultures, examines case studies of concepts in calculus, mathematics, biology and related fields, summarises important philosophical works on the theory of concepts, and seeks to reconcile scientific realism with conceptual change. Brown considers himself a scientific realist but concedes that this very label is one that depends on a long history of concepts that came before, and may indeed be superseded as conceptual change continues. (...)
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  32. On the birth and growth of concepts.Jean M. Mandler - 2008 - Philosophical Psychology 21 (2):207 – 230.
    This article describes what the earliest concepts are like and presents a theory of the spatial primitives from which they are formed. The earliest concepts tend to be global, like animal and container, and it is hypothesized that they consist of simplified redescriptions of innately salient spatial information. These redescriptions become associated with sensory and other bodily experiences that are not themselves redescribed, but that enrich conceptual thought. The initial conceptual base becomes expanded through subdivision, sometimes aided by language that (...)
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  33. Seeing, doing, and knowing: A précis. [REVIEW]Mohan Matthen - 2008 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 76 (2):392–399.
  34. First thoughts.Daniel A. Weiskopf - 2008 - Philosophical Psychology 21 (2):251 – 268.
    Jean Mandler proposes an original and richly detailed theory of how concepts relate to sensory and motor capacities. I focus on her claims about conceptual representations and the processes that produce them. On her view, concepts are declarative representations of object kind information. First, I argue that since sensorimotor representations may be declarative, there is no bar to percepts being constituents of concepts. Second, I suggest that concepts track kinds and other categories not by representing kind information per se, but (...)
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  35. Embodied Cognition: Grounded Until Further Notice?Cory Wright - 2008 - British Journal of Psychology 99:157-164.
    Embodied Cognition is the kind of view that is all trees, no forest. Mounting experimental evidence gives it momentum in fleshing out the theoretical problems inherent in Cognitivists’ separation of mind and body. But the more its proponents compile such evidence, the more the fundamental concepts of Embodied Cognition remain in the dark. This conundrum is nicely exemplified by Pecher and Zwaan’s book, Grounding Cognition, which is a programmatic attempt to rally together an array of empirical results and linguistic data, (...)
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  36. Prinz, Jesse J. Furnishing the Mind: Concepts and Their Perceptual Basis. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 358 p.(2002)[2004]. [REVIEW]Felipe de Brigard - 2007 - Ideas Y Valores 56 (133):163-168.
  37. The brain's concepts: The role of the sensory-motor system in conceptual knowledge.Vittorio Gallese & George Lakoff - 2007 - Cognitive Neuropsychology 22 (3-4):455-479.
    Concepts are the elementary units of reason and linguistic meaning. They are conventional and relatively stable. As such, they must somehow be the result of neural activity in the brain. The questions are: Where? and How? A common philosophical position is that all concepts—even concepts about action and perception—are symbolic and abstract, and therefore must be implemented outside the brain’s sensory-motor system. We will argue against this position using (1) neuroscientific evidence; (2) results from neural computation; and (3) results about (...)
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  38. Concept empiricism and the vehicles of thought.Daniel A. Weiskopf - 2007 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 14 (9-10):156-183.
    Concept empiricists are committed to the claim that the vehicles of thought are re-activated perceptual representations. Evidence for empiricism comes from a range of neuroscientific studies showing that perceptual regions of the brain are employed during cognitive tasks such as categorization and inference. I examine the extant neuroscientific evidence and argue that it falls short of establishing this core empiricist claim. During conceptual tasks, the causal structure of the brain produces widespread activity in both perceptual and non-perceptual systems. I lay (...)
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  39. Furnishing the mind.Andrea Bianchi - 2006 - Philosophical Books 47 (1):52-61.
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  40. Proxytypes and linguistic nativism.John M. Collins - 2006 - Synthese 153 (1):69-104.
    Prinz (Perceptual the Mind: Concepts and Their Perceptual Basis, MIT Press, 2002) presents a new species of concept empiricism, under which concepts are off-line long-term memory networks of representations that are ‘copies’ of perceptual representations – proxytypes. An apparent obstacle to any such empiricism is the prevailing nativism of generative linguistics. The paper critically assesses Prinz’s attempt to overcome this obstacle. The paper argues that, prima facie, proxytypes are as incapable of accounting for the structure of the linguistic mind as (...)
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  41. Concept empiricism: A methodological critique.Edouard Machery - 2006 - Cognition 104 (1):19-46.
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  42. Nonconceptual Epicycles.Sonia Sedivy - 2006 - European Review of Philosophy 6:33-66.
    This paper argues that perception is a mode of engagement with individuals and their determinate properties. Perceptual content involves determinate properties in a way that relies on our conceptual capacities no less than on the properties. The “richness” of perceptual experience is explained as a distinctive individual and property involving content. This position is developed in three steps: (i) novel phenomenological description of lived experience; (ii) detailed reconstruction of Gareth Evans’ proposal that we are capable of genuinely singular thought that (...)
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  43. Prinz's problematic proxytypes.Raffaella de Rosa - 2005 - Philosophical Quarterly 55 (221):594-606.
    Jesse Prinz has argued that a proxytype theory of concepts provides what he calls the 'intentionality' and 'cognitive content' desiderata better than any current competitor, and that the hybrid nature of proxytypes allows his theory to combine the informational component of informational atomism with the view that concepts are semantically structured entities. In response, I argue that the hybrid character of proxytypes, far from delivering the advantages Prinz claims, generates a threatening dilemma: either his theory is novel but fails to (...)
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  44. Prinz's Problematic Proxytypes.Raffaella De Rosa - 2005 - Philosophical Quarterly 55 (221):594 - 606.
    Jesse Prinz has argued that a proxytype theory of concepts provides what he calls the 'intentionality' and 'cognitive content' desiderata better than any current competitor, and that the hybrid nature of proxytypes allows his theory to combine the informational component of informational atomism with the view that concepts are semantically structured entities. In response, I argue that the hybrid character of proxytypes, far from delivering the advantages Prinz claims, generates a threatening dilemma: either his theory is novel but fails to (...)
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  45. The return of concept empiricism.Jesse J. Prinz - 2005 - In H. Cohen & C. Leferbvre (eds.), Categorization and Cognitive Science. Elsevier.
    In this chapter, I outline and defend a version of concept empiricism. The theory has four central tenets: Concepts represent categories by reliable causal relations to category instances; conceptual representations of category vary from occasion to occasion; these representations are perceptually based; and these representations are all learned, not innate. The last two tenets on this list have been central to empiricism historically, and the first two have been developed in more recent years. I look at each in turn, and (...)
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  46. Putting concepts to work: Some thoughts for the twenty first century.Andy Clark & Jesse Prinz - 2004 - Mind and Language 19 (1):57-69.
    Fodor’s theory makes thinking prior to doing. It allows for an inactive agent or pure reflector, and for agents whose actions in various ways seem to float free of their own conceptual repertoires. We show that naturally evolved creatures are not like that. In the real world, thinking is always and everywhere about doing. The point of having a brain is to guide the actions of embodied beings in a complex material world. Some of those actions are, to be sure, (...)
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  47. Amodal or perceptual symbol systems: A false dichotomy?W. Martin Davies - 2004 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (1):162-163.
    Although Barsalou is right in identifying the importance of perceptual symbols as a means of carrying certain kinds of content, he is wrong in playing down the inferential resources available to amodal symbols. I argue that the case for perceptual symbol systems amounts to a false dichotomy and that it is feasible to help oneself to both kinds of content as extreme ends on a content continuum. The continuum thesis I advance argues for the inferential content at one end and (...)
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  48. Hunting fat gnu: How to identify a proxytype.David DeMoss - 2004 - Essays in Philosophy 5 (1):1-10.
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  49. Concepts a la modal: An extended review of Prinz's furnishing the mind. [REVIEW]A. Markman & H. C. Stilwell - 2004 - Philosophical Psychology 17 (3):391-401.
    In Furnishing the mind, Prinz defends a view of concept representation that assumes all representations are rooted in perception. This view is attractive, because it makes clear how concepts could be learned from experience in the world. In this paper, we discuss three limitations of the view espoused by Prinz. First, the central proposal requires more detail in order to support the claim that all representations are modal. Second, it is not clear that a theory of concepts must make a (...)
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  50. Sensible ideas: A reply to Sarnecki and Markman and Stilwell.Jesse J. Prinz - 2004 - Philosophical Psychology 17 (3):419-430.
    In Furnishing the mind, I argued that concepts are couched in representational formats that are indigenous to sensory systems. I called this thesis "concept empiricism," because I think it is was a central tenet of the philosophical program defended by classical British empiricists, such as Locke and Hume. I still think that concept empiricism is true, and more empirical evidence has accrued since the book went to press. That's the good news. The bad news is that able critics have marshaled (...)
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