Concepts, Rules and Innateness

  • Keith Lehrer
Part of the Nijhoff International Philosophy Series book series (NIPS, volume 28)


Professor Körner formulated a theory of ostensive concepts in his book, Conceptual Thinking, which remains a good summary of his views. When I was only a student of philosophy, I met Professor Körner at Brown University and questioned him about the matter of ostensive rules which he used to explicate the notion of ostensive concepts. At the time, he asked me what theory I would propose in place of his. I have thought about that now and then through the years, and I should now like to consider an answer, albeit, one that Thomas Reid published in 1764 in An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense. This answer is in terms of innate conceptual principles. I claim no originality either for the objections to the sort of theory Professor Körner defends or the solution, which is due to Reid, but I think that the objections are fundamental issues in cognitive psychology and the philosophy of language. As a result, the issue seems to me to be of importance, and I should like to use this occasion to provoke Professor Körner to reply. In fact, I think that the proposal I shall make may well be a consistent modification of his theory rather than a systematic alternative to it. Whether we agree or disagree, his reflections will, I believe, be of interest to many philosophers beside myself.


Human Mind Artificial Language Folk Psychology Original Language Conceptual Thinking 
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References and Notes

  1. J.A.Fodor, The Language of Thought, (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University-Press, 1979).Google Scholar
  2. S.Körner, Conceptual Thinking (Cambridge, University of Bristol and Cambridge University Press, 1955).Google Scholar
  3. T.Reid, Inquiry and Essays, (eds.) K.Lehrer & R.Beanblossom (Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1975). References to Reid’s Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense are abbreviated to CS and to his Essays on the Intellectual Powers to IP.Google Scholar
  4. W.Sellars, “Some Reflections on Language Games,” in Science, Perception and Reality (New York, The Humanities Press, 1963), 321–358.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keith Lehrer

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