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For other uses, see Concept (disambiguation).

When the mind makes a generalization such as the concept of tree, it extracts similarities from numerous examples; the simplification enables higher-level thinking.

In metaphysics, and especially ontology, a concept is a fundamental category of existence. In contemporary philosophy, there are at least three prevailing ways to understand what a concept is !"#

$oncepts as mental representations, where concepts are entities that exist in the brain. $oncepts as abilities, where concepts are abilities peculiar to cognitive agents. $oncepts as abstract ob%ects, where ob%ects are the constituents of propositions that mediate between thought, language, and referents.

" &ental representations

o o o o o o

' (bstract ob%ects ) *otable theories on the structure of concepts )." $lassical theory )."." (rguments against the classical theory ).' +rototype theory ).) ,heory-theory - Issues in concept theory -." ( priori concepts -.' .mbodied content -.) /ntology 0 .tymology 1 2ee also 3 4eferences 5 6urther reading 7 .xternal links

Mental representations[edit]
Main article: Mental representation In a physicalist theory of mind, a concept is a mental representation, which the brain uses to denote a class of things in the world. ,his is to say that it is literally, a symbol or group of symbols together made from the physical material of the brain. !'#!)# $oncepts are mental representations that allows us to draw appropriate inferences about the type of entities we encounter in our everyday lives.!)# $oncepts do not encompass all mental representations, but are merely a subset of them.!'# ,he use of concepts is necessary to cognitive processes such as categorization,memory, decision making, learning, and inference.!citation needed#

Abstract objects[edit]
Main article: Abstract object In a platonist theory of mind, concepts are construed as abstract ob%ects.!-# ,his debate concerns the ontological status of concepts - what they are really like. ,here is debate as to the relationship between concepts and natural language.!"# 8owever, it is necessary at least to begin by understanding that the concept 9dog9 is philosophically distinct

from the things in the world grouped by this concept - or the reference class or extension. !'# $oncepts that can be e:uated to a single word are called 9lexical concepts9.!"# 2tudy of concepts and conceptual structure falls into the disciplines of philosophy, psychology, and cognitive science.!)#

Notable theories on the structure of concepts[edit]

Classical theory[edit]
Main article: Definitionism ,he classical theory of concepts, also referred to as the empiricist theory of concepts,!'# is the oldest theory about the structure of concepts ;it can be traced back to (ristotle!)#<, and was prominently held until the "73=s.!)# ,he classical theory of concepts says that concepts have a definitional structure.!"# (de:uate definitions of the kind re:uired by this theory usually take the form of a list of features. ,hese features must have two important :ualities to provide a comprehensive definition.!)# 6eatures entailed by the definition of a concept must be both necessary andsufficient for membership in the class of things covered by a particular concept.!)# ( feature is considered necessary if every member of the denoted class has that feature. ( feature is considered sufficient if something has all the parts re:uired by the definition.!)# 6or example, the classic example bachelor is said to be defined by unmarried and man.!"# (n entity is a bachelor ;by this definition< if and only if it is both unmarried and a man. ,o check whether something is a member of the class, you compare its :ualities to the features in the definition.!'# (nother key part of this theory is that it obeys the la of the e!cluded middle, which means that there are no partial members of a class, you are either in or out.!)# ,he classical theory persisted for so long un:uestioned because it seemed intuitively correct and has great explanatory power. It can explain how concepts would be ac:uired, how we use them to categorize and how we use the structure of a concept to determine its referent class. !"# In fact, for many years it was one of the ma%or activities in philosophy - concept analysis. !"# $oncept analysis is the act of trying to articulate the necessary and sufficient conditions for the membership in the referent class of a concept.!citation needed#

Arguments against the classical theory[edit]

>iven that most later theories of concepts were born out of the re%ection of some or all of the classical theory,!-# it seems appropriate to give an account of what might be wrong with this theory. In the '=th century, philosophers such as 4osch and Wittgenstein argued against the classical theory. ,here are six primary arguments!-# summarized as follows

It seems that there simply are no definitions - especially those based in sensory primitive concepts.!-# It seems as though there can be cases where our ignorance or error about a class means that we either don?t know the definition of a concept, or have incorrect notions about what a definition of a particular concept might entail.!-#

@uine?s argument against analyticity in ,wo Aogmas of .mpiricism also holds as an argument against definitions.!-#

2ome concepts have fuzzy membership. ,here are items for which it is vague whether or not they fall into ;or out of< a particular referent class. ,his is not possible in the classical theory as everything has e:ual and full membership.!-#

4osch found typicality effects which cannot be explained by the classical theory of concepts, these sparked the prototype theory.!-# 2ee below.


+sychological experiments show no evidence for our using concepts as strict definitions.

Prototype theory[edit]
Main article: "rototype theory +rototype theory came out of problems with the classical view of conceptual structure. !"# +rototype theory says that concepts specify properties that members of a class tend to possess, rather than must possess.!-# Wittgenstein, 4osch, &ervis, Berlin, (nglin, and +osner are a few of the key proponents and creators of this theory.!-#!0# Wittgenstein describes the relationship between members of a class as family resemblances. ,here are not necessarily any necessary conditions for membership, a dog can still be a dog with only three legs.!)# ,his view is particularly supported by psychological experimental evidence for prototypicality effects.!)# +articipants willingly and consistently rate ob%ects in categories like ?vegetable? or ?furniture? as more or less typical of that class.!)#!0# It seems that our categories are fuzzy psychologically, and so this structure has explanatory power.!)# We can %udge an item?s membership to the referent class of a concept by comparing it to the typical member - the most central member of the concept. If it is similar enough in the relevant ways, it will be cognitively admitted as a member of the relevant class of entities.!)# 4osch suggests that every category is represented by a central exemplar which embodies all or the maximum possible number of features of a given category.!)#

,heory-theory is a reaction to the previous two theories and develops them further.!)# ,his theory postulates that categorization by concepts is something like scientific theorizing.!"# $oncepts are not learned in isolation, but rather are learned as a part of our experiences with the world around us.!)# In this sense, concepts? structure relies on their relationships to other concepts as mandated by a particular mental theory about the state of the world.!-# 8ow this is supposed to work is a little less clear than in the previous two theories, but is still a prominent and notable theory.!-# ,his is supposed to explain some of the issues of ignorance and error that come up in prototype and classical theories as concepts that are structured around each other seem to account for errors such as whale as a fish ;this misconception came from an incorrect theory about what a whale is like, combining with our theory of what a fish is<.!-# When we learn that a whale is not a fish, we are recognizing that whales don?t in fact fit the theory we had about what makes something a fish. In this sense, the ,heory-,heory of concepts is responding to some of the issues of prototype theory and classic theory.!-#

Issues in concept theory[edit]

A priori concepts[edit]
Main articles: A priori and a posteriori and Category (#ant) Cant declared that human minds possess pure or a priori concepts. Instead of being abstracted from individual perceptions, like empirical concepts, they originate in the mind itself. 8e called these concepts categories, in the sense of the word that means predicate, attribute, characteristic, or :uality. But these pure categories are predicates of things in general, not of a particular thing. (ccording to Cant, there are "' categories that constitute the understanding of phenomenal ob%ects. .ach category is that one predicate which is common to multiple empirical concepts. In order to explain how an a priori concept can relate to individual phenomena, in a manner analogous to an a posteriori concept, Cant employed the technical concept of the schema. Immanuel Cantheld that the account of the concept as an abstraction of experience is only partly correct. 8e called those concepts that result from abstraction 9a posteriori concepts9 ;meaning concepts that arise out of experience<. (n empirical or an a posteriori concept is a general representation ;$orstellung< or non-specific thought of that which is common to several specific perceived ob%ects ;Dogic, I, "., E", *ote "< ( concept is a common feature or characteristic. Cant investigated the way that empirical a posteriori concepts are created.
,he logical acts of the understanding by which concepts are generated as to their form are ". comparison, i.e., the likening of mental images to one another in relation to the unity of consciousness; '. reflection, i.e., the going back over different mental images, how they can be comprehended in one consciousness; and finally

3. abstraction or the segregation of everything else by which the mental images differ ...
In order to make our mental images into concepts, one must thus be able to compare, reflect, and abstract, for these three logical operations of the understanding are essential and general conditions of generating any concept whatever. 6or example, I see a fir, a willow, and a linden. In firstly comparing these ob%ects, I notice that they are different from one another in respect of trunk, branches, leaves, and the like; further, however, I reflect only on what they have in common, the trunk, the branches, the leaves themselves, and abstract from their size, shape, and so forth; thus I gain a concept of a tree. F Dogic, E1

Embodied content[edit]
Main article: %mbodied cognition In cognitive linguistics, abstract concepts are transformations of concrete concepts derived from embodied experience. ,he mechanism of transformation is structural mapping, in which properties of two or more source domains are selectively mapped onto a blended space ;6auconnier G ,urner, "770; see conceptual blending<. ( common class of blends

are metaphors. ,his theory contrasts with the rationalist view that concepts are perceptions ;or recollections, in +lato?s term< of an independently existing world of ideas, in that it denies the existence of any such realm. It also contrasts with the empiricist view that concepts are abstract generalizations of individual experiences, because the contingent and bodily experience is preserved in a concept, and not abstracted away. While the perspective is compatible with Hamesian pragmatism, the notion of the transformation of embodied concepts through structural mapping makes a distinct contribution to the problem of concept formation.!citation needed#

Main article: &ntology +lato was the starkest proponent of the realist thesis of universal concepts. By his view, concepts ;and ideas in general< are innate ideas that were instantiations of a transcendental world of pure forms that lay behind the veil of the physical world. In this way, universals were explained as transcendent ob%ects. *eedless to say this form of realism was tied deeply with +lato?s ontological pro%ects. ,his remark on +lato is not of merely historical interest. 6or example, the view that numbers are +latonic ob%ects was revived by Curt >Idel as a result of certain puzzles that he took to arise from the phenomenological accounts.!1# >ottlob 6rege, founder of the analytic tradition in philosophy, famously argued for the analysis of language in terms of sense and reference. 6or him, the sense of an expression in language describes a certain state of affairs in the world, namely, the way that some ob%ect is presented. 2ince many commentators view the notion of sense as identical to the notion of concept, and 6rege regards senses as the linguistic representations of states of affairs in the world, it seems to follow that we may understand concepts as the manner in which we grasp the world. (ccordingly, concepts ;as senses< have an ontological status ;&orgolis 3< (ccording to $arl Ben%amin Boyer, in the introduction to his 'he (istory of the Calculus and its Conceptual De)elopment, concepts in calculus do not refer to perceptions. (s long as the concepts are useful and mutually compatible, they are accepted on their own. 6or example, the concepts of the derivative and the integral are not considered to refer to spatial or temporal perceptions of the external world of experience. *either are they related in any way to mysterious limits in which :uantities are on the verge of nascence or evanescence, that is, coming into or going out of existence. ,he abstract concepts are now considered to be totally autonomous, even though they originated from the process of abstracting or taking away :ualities from perceptions until only the common, essential attributes remained.

,he term 9concept9 is traced back to "00-J1= ;Datin conceptum - 9something conceived9<,!3# but what is today termed 9the classical theory of concepts9 is the theory of (ristotle on the definition of terms.!citation needed# ,he meaning of 9concept9 is explored in mainstream information science,!5# !7# cognitive science, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind. In computer and information science contexts, especially, the term ?concept? is often used in unclear or inconsistent ways.!"=#

"ee also[edit]


$ategorization $lass ;philosophy< $oncept and ob%ect $oncept learning $oncept map $onceptual art $onceptual blending $onceptual clustering $onceptual framework $onceptual history $onceptual model $onversation ,heory $onveyed concept Aefinitionism Aoctrine 6ormal concept analysis 6uzzy concept 8ypostatic abstraction Idea Ideasthesia *otion ;philosophy< /b%ect ;philosophy< +hilosophy 4ecept 2chema ;Cant< 2ocial construction

2ymbol grounding problem

K Hump up to a b c d e f g h i .ric &argolis; 2tephen Dawrence. 9$oncepts9. *tanford %ncyclopedia of "hilosophy. &etaphysics 4esearch Dab at 2tanford Lniversity. 4etrieved 1 *ovember '="'.


K Hump up to a b c d e $arey, 2usan ;'==7<. 'he &rigin of Concepts. /xford Lniversity +ress. I2B* 735-=-"7-0)131)-5.


K Hump up to a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q &urphy, >regory ;'=='<. 'he +ig +oo, of Concepts. &assachusetts Institute of ,echnology. I2B* =-'1'-")-=7-5.


K Hump up to a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o 2tephen Dawrence; .ric &argolis ;"777<. Concepts and Cogniti)e *cience. in $oncepts $ore 4eadings &assachusetts Institute of ,echnology. pp. )J 5). I2B* 735-=-'1'-"))0)-".


K Hump up to a b Brown, 4oger ;"735<. A -e Inc. pp. "07J"11. I2B* =-"'--7330=-'.

"aradigm of .eference. (cademic +ress

6. 7.

$ump up% ?>odel?s 4ationalism?, 2tandford .ncyclopedia of +hilosophy $ump up% http MMwww.bartleby.comM1"M-7M$=0--7==.htmlN3$,he (merican 8eritage Aictionary of the .nglish Danguage 6ourth .dition.


$ump up% 2tock, W.>. ;'="=<. $oncepts and semantic relations in information science. Hournal of the (merican 2ociety for Information 2cience and ,echnology, 1";"=<, "70"-"717.


$ump up% 8%Orland, B. ;'==7<. $oncept ,heory. Hournal of the (merican 2ociety for Information 2cience and ,echnology, 1=;5<, "0"7J"0)1


$ump up% 2mith, B. ;'==-<. Beyond $oncepts, or /ntology as 4eality 4epresentation, 6ormal /ntology and Information 2ystems. +roceedings of the ,hird International $onference ;6/I2 '==-<, (msterdam I/2 +ress, '==-, 3)J5-.

&urther readin![edit]

(rmstrong, 2. D., >leitman, D. 4., G >leitman, 8. ;"777<. what some concepts might not be. In .. &argolis, G 2. Dawrence, $oncepts ;pp. ''0J'1"<. &assachusetts &I, press. $arey, 2. ;"777<. knowledge ac:uisition enrichment or conceptual changeP In .. &argolis, G 2. Dawrence, concepts core readings ;pp. -07J-57<. &assachusetts &I, press.

6odor, H. (., >arrett, &. 6., Walker, .. $., G +arkes, $. 8. ;"777<. against definitions. In .. &argolis, G 2. Dawrence, concepts core readings ;pp. -7"J0")<. &assachusetts &I, press.

6odor, H., G De+ore, .. ;"771<. the pet fish and the red 8erring why concept still can?t be prototypes. cognition, '0)-'3=.

8ume, A. ;"3)7<. book one part one of the understanding of ideas, their origin, composition, connexion, abstraction etc. In A. 8ume, a treatise of human nature. .ngland.

&urphy, >. ;'==-<. $hapter '. In >. &urphy, a big book of concepts ;pp. "" J -"<. &assachusetts &I, press.

&urphy, >., G &edin, A. ;"777<. the role of theories in conceptual coherence. In .. &argolis, G 2. Dawrence, concepts core readings ;pp. -'0J-07<. &assachusetts &I, press.

+rinz, H. H. ;'=='<. Aesiderata on a ,heory of $oncepts. In H. H. +rinz, 6urnishing the &ind $oncepts and their +erceptual Basis ;pp. "J')<. &assechusettes &I, press.

+utnam, 8. ;"777<. is semantics possibleP In .. &argolis, G 2. Dawrence, concepts core readings ;pp. "33J"57<. &assachusetts &I, press.

@uine, W. ;"777<. two dogmas of empiricism. In .. &argolis, G 2. Dawrence, concepts core readings ;pp. "0)J"3"<. &assachusetts &I, press.

4ey, >. ;"777<. $oncepts and 2tereotypes. In .. &argolis, G 2. Daurence ;.ds.<, $oncepts $ore 4eadings ;pp. '37J)="<. $ambridge, &assachusetts &I, +ress.

4osch, .. ;"733<. $lassification of real-world ob%ects /rigins and representations in cognition. In +. Hohnson-Daird, G +. Wason, ,hinking 4eadings in $ognitive 2cience ;pp. '"'J'')<. $ambridge $ambridge Lniversity +ress.

4osch, .. ;"777<. +rinciples of $ategorization. In .. &argolis, G 2. Daurence ;.ds.<, $oncepts $ore 4eadings ;pp. "57J'=1<. $ambridge, &assachusetts &I, +ress.

Wittgenstein, D. ;"777<. philosophical investigations sections 10-35. In .. &argolis, G 2. Dawrence, concepts core readings ;pp. "3"J"30<. &assachusetts &I, press.

'he (istory of Calculus and its Conceptual De)elopment, $arl Ben%amin Boyer, Aover +ublications, I2B* =--51-1=0=7--

'he /ritings of /illiam 0ames, Lniversity of $hicago +ress, I2B* =-''1-)7"55-1ogic, Immanuel Cant, Aover +ublications, I2B* =--51-'010=-' A *ystem of 1ogic, Hohn 2tuart &ill, Lniversity +ress of the +acific, I2B* "--"='-='0'-1 "arerga and "aralipomena, (rthur 2chopenhauer, Qolume I, /xford Lniversity +ress, I2B* =-"7-5'-0=5--

/hat is "hilosophy2, >illes Aeleuze and 6Rlix >uattari #ant3s Metaphysic of %!perience, 8. H. +aton, Dondon (llen G Lnwin, "7)1 Conceptual 4ntegration -et or,s. >illes 6auconnier and &ark ,urner, "775. Cogniti)e *cience. Qolume '', number ' ;(prilJHune "775<, pages "))-"53.

'he "ortable -iet5sche, +enguin Books, "75', I2B* =-"--="0=1'-0 2tephen Daurence and .ric &argolis 9$oncepts and $ognitive 2cience9. In Concepts: Core .eadings, &I, +ress pp. )J5", "777.

Birger 8%Orland. ;'==7<. $oncept ,heory. Hournal of the (merican 2ociety for Information 2cience and ,echnology, 1=;5<, "0"7J"0)1

>eorgi% Su. 2omov ;'="=<. $oncepts and 2enses in Qisual (rt ,hrough the example of analysis of some works by Bruegel the .lder. *emiotica "5' ;"M-<, -30J0=1.

Aaltrozzo H, Qion-Aury H, 2chIn A. ;'="=<. &usic and $oncepts. 8orizons in *euroscience 4esearch - "03-"13. !"#

E'ternal lin(s[edit]

$oncept at +hil+apers $oncept entry in the *tanford %ncyclopedia of "hilosophy $oncept at the Indiana +hilosophy /ntology +ro%ect $oncept entry in the 4nternet %ncyclopedia of "hilosophy ,heory-,heory of $oncepts entry in the 4nternet %ncyclopedia of "hilosophy $lassical ,heory of $oncepts entry in the 4nternet %ncyclopedia of "hilosophy
Dook up concept in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. Wikisource has the text of the"7"" %ncyclop6dia +ritannicaarticle Concept.

Blending and $onceptual Integration $onceptual 2cience and &athematical +ermutations $oncept &obiles Datest concepts v $onceptualize ( Wikiversity Dearning +ro%ect $oncept simultaneously translated in several languages and meanings