Furnishing the Mind: Concepts and Their Perceptual Basis

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Overview

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.

The MIT Press

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Prinz's discussions...provide a clear overview of the field, both in philosophy and psychology." S.W. Horst Choice
Choice

Prinz's discussions... provide a clear overview of the field, both in philosophy and psychology.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262661850
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2004
  • Series: Representation and Mind series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

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

Acknowledgments
1 Desiderata on a Theory of Concepts 1
2 Traditional Philosophical Accounts 25
3 Similarity-Based Accounts 51
4 Maximal and Minimal Accounts 75
5 Empiricism Reconsidered 103
6 Proxytype Theory 139
7 The Perceptual Basis 165
8 Overcoming Concept Nativism 189
9 Intentional Content 237
10 Cognitive Content 263
11 Combining Concepts 283
Conclusion: Back to Our Senses 313
Notes 317
References 327
Index 347
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