A Study of Concepts

A Study of Concepts

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Philosophers from Hume, Kant, and Wittgenstein to the recent realists and antirealists have sought to answer the question, What are concepts? This book provides a detailed, systematic, and accessible introduction to an original philosophical theory of concepts that Christopher Peacocke has developed in recent years to explain facts about the nature of thought, including its systematic character, its relations to truth and reference, and its normative dimension.

Particular concepts are also treated within the general framework: perceptual concepts, logical concepts, and the concept of belief are discussed in detail. The general theory is further applied in answering the question of how the ontology of concepts can be of use in classifying mental states, and in discussing the proper relation between philosophical and psychological theories of concepts. Finally, the theory of concepts is used to motivate a nonverificationist theory of the limits of intelligible thought.

Peacocke treats content as broad rather than narrow, and his account is nonreductive and non-Quinean. Yet Peacocke also argues for an interactive relationship between philosophical and psychological theories of concepts, and he plots many connections with work in cognitive psychology.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 286 pages
  • 165.1 x 241.3 x 25.4mm
  • Bradford Books
  • Massachusetts, United States
  • English
  • 0262161338
  • 9780262161336

Table of contents

Part 1 Individual concepts: the aims of a philosophical theory of concepts; possession and individuation; concepts and reference; possession conditions and attribution conditions; the A(C) form - modesty, interpretation, and intelligibility; conclusion and challenges. Part 2 Structure and system: generality, productivity, and their explanations; neither stipulative nor empirical; links with the "Tractatus"; knowing-what-it-is-for and the explanations; summary and a further application. Part 3 Perceptual concepts: scenarios introduced; consequences and comparisons of scenarios; a further level of content and its applications; spatial reasoning and action; summary and open questions. Part 4 The metaphysics of concepts: the problem; a ready-made solution?; a proposal; aspects and consequences of the proposal; ontology and legitimation by application; summary and the role of legitimation by application. Part 5 Concepts and norms in a natural world: the challenge; a teleological solution?; norms and the world; Kripkean requirements; summary and disclaimer. Part 6 The concept of belief - self-knowledge and referential coherence: the issues; the first-person clause; the third-person clause; the possession condition and simulation accounts; referential coherence; summary and the need for more. Part 7 Concepts, psychology, and explanation: insularity rejected - the simple account; explanation, rule rollowing, and objectivity; summary. Part 8 Illusions of content - thought: the dilemma - examples; the discrimination principle and strategies of application; executing the switching tactic; executing the deflationary tactic; indeterminacy and internal collapse; links and consequences; summary and prospect. Appendices: conceptual role and aiming at the truth; Evans's derivation of the generality constraint - a comparison.
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About Christopher Peacocke

Christopher Peacocke is Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy in the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford.
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