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Edouard Machery ´ 5 Free read

Over recent years the psychology of concepts has been rejuvenated by new work on prototypes inventive ideas on causal cognition the development of neo empiricist theories of concepts and the inputs of the budding neuropsychology of concepts But our empirical knowledge about concepts has yet to be organized in a coherent frameworkIn Doing without Concepts Edouard Doing without EpubMachery argues that the dominant psychological theories of concepts fail to provide such a framework and that drastic conceptual changes are reuired to make sense of the. A meticulously constructed argument for a surprising thesis the notion of concept refers in the context of psychology philosophers mean something different by it to a multifarious collection of distinct things exemplars prototypes theories and plausibly others which are different enough that concepts as usually construed do not constitute a natural kind Psychologists working on the theory of concepts are busy arguing over whether concepts are really exemplars prototypes or theories and these efforts are wasted if all three exist and play distinct roles in cognition Machery advocates the eliminativist position ie that the term concept should be eliminated from the vocabulary of psychologists in a way that I found compelling and convincing

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Doing without Concepts

Research on concepts in psychology and neuropsychology Machery shows that the class of concepts divides into several distinct kinds that have little in common with one another and that for this very reason it is a mistake to attempt to encompass all known phenomena within a single theory of concepts In brief concepts are not a natural kind Machery concludes that the theoretical notion of concept should be eliminated from the theoretical apparatus of contemporary psychology and should be replaced with theoretical notions that are appropriate for. Psychological research on concepts assumes that concepts are a monolithic type of psychological entity dealt with by a single type of psychological process Against this Machery argues that there are at least 3 distinct types of concepts paradigms exemplars theories and heterogenous psychological processes deal with each type of concept He concludes that if psychology is to make progress the notion of concept should be eliminated altogetherIn the first two chapters Machery distinguishes the psychological and philosophical notions of concept psychological and philosophical research on concepts are incommensurable Psychologists take concepts to refer to bodies of knowledge that are accessed by higher cognitive activities eg categorization induction analogy making In contrast philosophers regard concepts as necessary conditions for forming propositional attitudes towards objects of those attitudes The difference amounts to whether the primary concern is about our capacities to carry out cognitive tasks vs our intentional relations to objects in the world Concepts as operative in the former are very different from those as operative in the latter Thus philosophers who appeal to psychological research on concepts in formulating philosophical accounts of concepts are ill guided and likely misinterpret the researchMachery then shows that this psychological notion of concept is too rough and should rather be split into three distinct kinds paradigms exemplars and theories He reviews psychological research on each kind showing that psychologists at large are mistaken in assuming that 1 one kind must be fundamental or exclusive and 2 one kind of psychological process makes concept use possible Machery then shows that major experiments in psychology are best explained by either paradigms exemplars or theories and this provides evidence that the three are distinct natural kinds and are irreducible to one another He also shows that positing multiple potentially independent psychological processes per kind of concept explains experimental findings better than positing a single process per kind of concept These two claims about the heterogeneity between kinds of concepts and processes that produce concepts amount to Machery s heterogeneity thesis Machery concludes by arguing for a special sort of concept eliminitivism Traditional forms of eliminitivism often take the argumentative strategy of showing that there are no psychological entities in the world to which a psychological term refers and so that term should be rejected Machery s eliminitivism is different There are various psychological entities that are capturable by the term concept but these entities are of different natural kinds Assuming there is one primary kind hinders psychological research Machery s arguments are rigorous and this thesis is convincing But I was very disappointed by the lack of discussion on philosophical approaches to concepts Although Machery states that he will focus on psychological approaches he nonetheless claims that his thesis will help show how philosophical research on concepts should relate to psychological research on this matter He does not touch on that subject at any point in the book If I were interested in concepts solely as researched empirically I would probably like this book a lot But as driven by philosophical interests I found most of the book irrelevant to my concerns about the nature of concepts and about the historical assumptionsparadigms that have framed how we tend to think about concepts Machery takes a critical approach to concepts but yet he stops far too short in my opinion He does not uestion a fundamental assumption in empirical psychology and philosophy at large which permeates all research on concepts namely that the mind is a isolable self standing system which contains concepts as inner entities and applies them in order to make transactions with the world beyond This assumption leads to a constellation of further assumptions rational thought perception and action are distinct processes and concept use is applicable to only the first I understand that it is not within Machery s scope to fully address these issues but at least he could ve mentioned that his thesis takes these assumptions for granted and there are psychologists and philosophers eg JJ Gibson Wittgenstein Merleau Ponty who reject these assumptionsSo I d recommend this book to people interested in empirical and experimental debates about concepts The philosophically interested could skip this book or just read a pr cis of it

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Fulfilling psychologists' goals The notion of concept has encouraged psychologists to believe that a single theory of concepts could be developed leading to useless theoretical controversies between the dominant paradigms of concepts Keeping this notion would slow down and maybe prevent the development of a adeuate classification and would overshadow the theoretical and empirical issues that are raised by this adeuate classification Anyone interested in cognitive science's emerging view of the mind will find Machery's provocative ideas of interes. In this important work Machery advances the Heterogeneity Hypothesis which states that processes that produce concepts are distinct that they share little in commonAt least three different kinds of concepts exist in your cognitive architecturePrototypes are bodies of statistical knowledge about a category a substance a type of event and so on For example a prototype of dogs could store some statistical knowledge about the properties that are typical of dogs andor the properties that are diagnostic of the class of dogs Prototype are typically assumed to be used in cognitive processes that compute similarity linearlyExemplars are bodies of knowledge about individual members of a category eg Fido Rover particular samples of a substance and particular instances of a kind of event eg my last visit to the dentist Exemplars are typically assumed to be used in cognitive processes that compute the similarity nonlinearlyTheories are bodies of causal functional generic and nomological knowledge about categories substances types of events etc A theory of dogs would consist of some such knowledge about dogs Theories are typically assumed to be used in cognitive processes that engage in causal reasoningThe rest of my review can be found here


4 thoughts on “Doing without Concepts

  1. says:

    A meticulously constructed argument for a surprising thesis the notion of concept refers in the context of psychology philosophers mean something different by it to a multifarious collection of distinct things exemplars prototypes theories and plausibly others which are different enough that concepts as usually construed do not constitute

  2. says:

    Psychological research on concepts assumes that concepts are a monolithic type of psychological entity dealt with by a single type of psychological process Against this Machery argues that there are at least 3 distinct types of concepts paradigms exemplars theories and heterogenous psychological processes deal with each type of conc

  3. says:

    In this important work Machery advances the Heterogeneity Hypothesis which states that processes that produce concepts are distinct that they share little in commonAt least three different kinds of concepts exist in your cognitive architecturePrototypes are bodies of statistical knowledge about a category a substance a type of event and so on For example a prototype of dogs could store some statistical knowle

  4. says:

    we shall constantly be giving prominence to distinctions which our ordinary forms of language easily make us overlook This may make it look as if we saw it as our task to reform languageBut We don’t want to refine or com

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