Furnishing the Mind: Concepts and Their Perceptual Basis

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MIT Press, Aug 20, 2004 - Philosophy - 368 pages

Western philosophy has long been divided between empiricists, who argue that human understanding has its basis in experience, and rationalists, who argue that reason is the source of knowledge. A central issue in the debate is the nature of concepts, the internal representations we use to think about the world. The traditional empiricist thesis that concepts are built up from sensory input has fallen out of favor. Mainstream cognitive science tends to echo the rationalist tradition, with its emphasis on innateness. In Furnishing the Mind, Jesse Prinz attempts to swing the pendulum back toward empiricism.

Prinz provides a critical survey of leading theories of concepts, including imagism, definitionism, prototype theory, exemplar theory, the theory theory, and informational atomism. He sets forth a new defense of concept empiricism that draws on philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology and introduces a new version of concept empiricism called proxytype theory. He also provides accounts of abstract concepts, intentionality, narrow content, and concept combination. In an extended discussion of innateness, he covers Noam Chomsky's arguments for the innateness of grammar, developmental psychologists' arguments for innate cognitive domains, and Jerry Fodor's argument for radical concept nativism.

 

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Contents

Desiderata on a Theory of Concepts
1
12 Desiderata
3
13 Do We Need Language Desiderata?
16
14 Preview
22
Traditional Philosophical Accounts
25
22 Definitionism
32
23 Conclusions
48
SimilarityBased Accounts
51
73 Conclusion
187
Overcoming Concept Nativism
189
81 Stances on Nativism
190
82 Arguments for Innateness
198
83 Conclusion
235
Intentional Content
237
92 Informational Semantics
241
93 A Hybrid Theory
249

32 Exemplar Theory
63
33 Conclusions
72
Maximal and Minimal Accounts
75
42 Informational Atomism
89
43 Conclusions
100
Empiricism Reconsidered
103
52 What Is Concept Empiricism?
106
53 Why Empiricism?
122
54 Conclusion
137
Proxytype Theory
139
62 Publicity
152
63 Categorization
161
64 Conclusion
164
The Perceptual Basis
165
72 Countering Counterexamples
169
94 Conclusion
260
Cognitive Content
263
102 Proxytypes and Cognitive Content
270
103 Nominal Content and Real Content
276
104 Conclusion
282
Combining Concepts
283
How Much Is Enough?
286
113 A ThreeStage Model of Concept Combination
301
114 Conclusion
312
Back to Our Senses
313
Notes
317
References
327
Index
347
Copyright

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Page 1 - Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas; how comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store, which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety? Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this I answer, in one word, from EXPERIENCE; in that all our knowledge is founded, and from that it ultimately derives itself.
Page 329 - Rolls, ET (1998). View-invariant representations of familiar objects by neurons in the inferior temporal visual cortex.

About the author (2004)

Jesse J. Prinz is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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