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Sensible ideas: a reply to Sarnecki and Markman and Stilwell

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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 a variety of powerful arguments against empiricism. Sarnecki (this volume) and Markman and Stilwell (this volume) have devised a battery of challenging objections. Their commentaries are charitable and incisive. They represent my proposals accurately, and they raise serious worries. I cannot do justice to everything they say in this response, but I will try to indicate where I would make concessions and where I would dig in my heels. I will begin with a few introductory remarks to motivate empiricism, and then address objections.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2004

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