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Précis of The Origin of Concepts

  • Susan Carey (a1)

A theory of conceptual development must specify the innate representational primitives, must characterize the ways in which the initial state differs from the adult state, and must characterize the processes through which one is transformed into the other. The Origin of Concepts (henceforth TOOC) defends three theses. With respect to the initial state, the innate stock of primitives is not limited to sensory, perceptual, or sensorimotor representations; rather, there are also innate conceptual representations. With respect to developmental change, conceptual development consists of episodes of qualitative change, resulting in systems of representation that are more powerful than, and sometimes incommensurable with, those from which they are built. With respect to a learning mechanism that achieves conceptual discontinuity, I offer Quinian bootstrapping. TOOC concludes with a discussion of how an understanding of conceptual development constrains a theory of concepts.

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S. Carey (2009) The origin of concepts. Oxford University Press.

J. A. Fodor (1998) Concepts: Where cognitive science went wrong. Oxford University Press.

D. Gentner (2002) Analogy in scientific discovery: The case of Jonannes Kepler. In: Model-based reasoning: Science, technology, values, ed. L. Magnani & N. J. Nersessian , pp. 2139. Kluwer Academic/Plenum.

S. Kripke (1972/1980) Naming and necessity. Harvard University Press.

J. Locke (1690/1975) An essay concerning human understanding. Oxford University Press.

J. Piaget (1954). The construction of reality in the child. Routledge and Kegan Paul.

S. Pinker (1994) The language instinct. William Morrow.

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Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
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