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Interrelations: Concepts, Knowledge, Reference and Structure

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This paper has five theses, which are intended to address the claims in Jerry Fodor's paper. (1) The question arises of the relation between the philosophical theory of concepts and epistemology. Neither is explanatorily prior to the other. Rather, each relies implicitly on distinctions drawn from the other. To explain what makes something knowledge, we need distinctions drawn from the theory of concepts. To explain the attitudes mentioned in a theory of concepts, we need to use the notion of knowledge. (2) Concepts can have a normative dimension without their nature being interpretation‐dependent, and without their nature being mind‐dependent. The normative dimension traces back instead to the role of truth as a constitutive aim of judgement. (3) Conceptual combination is to be explained at the level of reference and semantic value. When we respect this fact, there is no difficulty in explaining compositionality for epistemically‐constrained concepts. (4) Epistemically‐constrained theories of concepts are committed to the applicability of the notion of the a priori. They are not committed to the applicability of the notion of analyticity, where this is construed as truth purely in virtue of meaning or the identity of concepts. (5) Possession of a concept has causal‐explanatory powers, whether given by a possession condition in the form presented in A Study of Concepts, or by possession of an implicit conception. A possession‐condition theory of concepts need not be a form of dispositionalism.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, NYU, USA

Publication date: 2004-02-01

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