Advertisement

Erkenntnis

, Volume 79, Issue 3, pp 531–549 | Cite as

Where Concepts Come from: Learning Concepts by Description and by Demonstration

  • Dylan Sabo
Original Article

Abstract

Jerry Fodor’s arguments against the possibility of concept learning, and the responses that have been offered in defense of the coherence of concept learning, have both by and large assumed that concept learning is a descriptive process. I offer an alternative, ostensive approach to concept learning and explain how descriptive concept learning can be explained as a version of ostensive concept learning. I argue that an ostensive view of concept learning offers an empirically plausible and philosophically adequate account of concept learning that is explanatorily superior to traditional descriptive views.

Keywords

Descriptive Information Concept Learning Prototype Theory Mental Term Perceptual Attention 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Dorit Bar-On, John Dilworth, Bill Lycan, Ram Neta, Jesse Prinz, John Roberts, and audiences at Auburn University and Occidental College for discussions of prior incarnations of this material, and to Jerry Fodor for very helpful comments on a previous draft of this paper.

References

  1. Baillargeon, R. (1993). The object concept revisited: New directions in the investigation of infants’ physical knowledge. In C. Granrund (Ed.), Visual perception and cognition in infancy (pp. 265–316). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  2. Ballard, D., Hayhoe, M., Pook, P., & Rao, R. (1997). Deictic codes for the embodiment of cognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 20, 723–767.Google Scholar
  3. Donnellan, K. (1966). Reference and definite descriptions. Philosophical Review, 79(3), 281–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dretske, F. (1981). Knowledge and the flow of information. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. Dretske, F. (1986). Misrepresentation. In R. Bogdan (Ed.), Belief: Form, content, and function (pp. 17–36). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Fodor, J. A. (1975). The language of thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Fodor, J. A. (1980). Fixation of belief and concept acquisition. In M. Piattelli-Palmarini (Ed.), Language and learning: The debate between Jean Piaget and Noam Chomsky (pp. 142–149). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Fodor, J. A. (1981). The present status of the innateness controversy. In J. Fodor (Ed.), RePresentations: Philosophical essays on the foundations of cognitive science (pp. 257–333). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/Bradford.Google Scholar
  9. Fodor, J. A. (1990). A theory of content. In J. Fodor (Ed.), A theory of content and other essays (pp. 51–136). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/Bradford.Google Scholar
  10. Fodor, J. A. (1998). Concepts: Where cognitive science went wrong. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fodor, J. A. (2010). LOT 2: The language of thought revisited. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Fodor, J. A., & LePore, E. (2002). The compositionality papers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Fodor, J. A., & Pylyshyn, Z. W. (2014). Minds without meanings: An essay on the content of concepts. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  14. Gelman, S. A., & Wellman, H. M. (1991). Insides and essences: Early understandings of the nonobvious. Cognition, 38, 213–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jackendoff, R. (1989). What is a concept, that a person may grasp it? Mind and Language, 4, 68–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kaplan, D. (1978). Dthat. In P. Cole (Ed.), Syntax and semantics, 9 (pp. 221–253). New York, NY: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  17. Kaplan, D. (1989). Demonstratives: An essay on the semantics, logic, metaphysics, and epistemology of demonstratives and other indexicals. In J. Almog, J. Perry, & H. Wettstein (Eds.), Themes from Kaplan (pp. 481–563). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Kripke, S. (1972). Naming and necessity. In D. Davidson & G. Harman (Eds.), Semantics of natural language (pp. 253–355). Dordrecht: D. Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Laurence, S., & Margolis, E. (2002). Radical concept nativism. Cognition, 86, 25–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Machery, E. (2005). Concepts are not a natural kind. Philosophy of Science, 72, 444–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Margolis, E. (1998). How to acquire a concept. Mind & Language, 13(3), 347–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Margolis, E., & Laurence, S. (2007). The ontology of concepts—Abstract objects or mental representations? Noûs, 41(4), 561–593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Millikan, R. G. (1989). Biosemantics. The Journal of Philosophy, 86(6), 281–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Millikan, R. G. (2000). On clear and confused ideas: An essay about substance concepts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Milner, A., & Goodale, M. (1995). The visual brain in action. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Murphy, G. (2004). The big book of concepts. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/Bradford.Google Scholar
  27. Prinz, J. (2002). Furnishing the mind: Concepts and their perceptual basis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/Bradford.Google Scholar
  28. Pylyshyn, Z. W. (1989). The role of location indexes in spatial perception: A sketch of the FINST spatial-index model. Cognition, 32, 65–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pylyshyn, Z. W. (1994). Some primitive mechanisms of spatial attention. Cognition, 50, 363–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pylyshyn, Z. W. (2009). Perception, representation, and the world: The FINST that binds. In D. Dedrick & L. Trick (Eds.), Computation, cognition, and Pylyshyn (pp. 3–48). Cambridge: MIT Press/Bradford.Google Scholar
  31. Pylyshyn, Z. W., & Storm, R. (1988). Tracking multiple independent targets: Evidence for a parallel tracking mechanism. Spatial Vision, 3(3), 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rey, G. (1992). Semantic externalism and conceptual competence. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (New Series), 92, 315–333.Google Scholar
  33. Rosch, E., Mervis, C. B., Gray, W. D., Johnson, D. M., & Boyes-Braem, P. (1976). Basic objects in natural categories. Cognitive Psychology, 8, 382–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rupert, R. (2001). Coining terms in the language of thought: Innateness, emergence, and the lot of Cummins’s argument against the causal theory of mental content. The Journal of Philosophy, 98(10), 499–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Russell, B. (1918–1919). The philosophy of logical atomism. The Monist, 28, 495–527, 29, 32–63, 190–222, 345–380.Google Scholar
  36. Salmon, N. (2005). Reference and essence (2nd ed.). Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.Google Scholar
  37. Scholl, B., & Leslie, A. (1999). Explaining the infant’s object concept: Beyond the perception/cognition dichotomy. In E. LePore & Z. Pylyshyn (Eds.), What is cognitive science? (pp. 26–73). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  38. Soames, S. (2002). Beyond rigidity: The unfinished semantic agenda of naming and necessity. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Spelke, E. (1988). Where perceiving ends and cognition begins: The apprehension of objects in infancy. In A. Yonas (Ed.), Minnesota symposia on child psychology 20: Perceptual development in infancy (pp. 197–234). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  40. Sterelney, K. (1989). Fodor’s nativism. Philosophical Studies, 55, 119–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ungerleider, L., & Mishkin, M. (1982). Two cortical visual systems. In D. Ingle, M. Goodale, & R. Mansfield (Eds.), Analysis of visual behavior (pp. 549–586). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  42. Weiskopf, D. (2008). The origins of concepts. Philosophical Studies, 140, 359–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Weiskopf, D. (2009). The plurality of concepts. Synthese, 169, 145–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Xu, F., & Carey, S. (1996). Infants’ metaphysics: The case of numerical identity. Cognitive Psychology, 30, 111–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentOccidental CollegeLos AngelesUSA

Personalised recommendations