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Balog, Katalin, , . Jerry Fodor on Non-Conceptual Content
2009, Synthese, 170, 311-320
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Simon Prosser

Abstract: Proponents of non-conceptual content have recruited it for various philosophical jobs. Some epistemologists have suggested that it may play the role of “the given” that Sellars is supposed to have exorcised from philosophy. Some philosophers of mind (e.g., Dretske) have suggested that it plays an important role in the project of naturalizing semantics as a kind of halfway between merely information bearing and possessing conceptual content. Here I will focus on a recent proposal by Jerry Fodor. In a recent paper he characterizes non-conceptual content in a particular way and argues that it is plausible that it plays an explanatory role in accounting for certain auditory and visual phenomena. So he thinks that there is reason to believe that there is non-conceptual content. On the other hand, Fodor thinks that non-conceptual content has a limited role. It occurs only in the very early stages of perceptual processing prior to conscious awareness. My paper is examines Fodor’s characterization of non-conceptual content and his claims for its explanatory importance. I also discuss if Fodor has made a case for limiting non-conceptual content to non-conscious, sub-personal mental states.

Comment: Useful discussion of Fodor’s view on non-conceptual content; I use the Fodor piece as main reading, and this as further reading.

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Carey, Susan, , . The Origin of Concepts
2009, Oxford: Oxford University Press
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Saranga Sudarshan

Publisher’s Note: Only human beings have a rich conceptual repertoire with concepts like tort, entropy, Abelian group, mannerism, icon and deconstruction. How have humans constructed these concepts? And once they have been constructed by adults, how do children acquire them? While primarily focusing on the second question, in The Origin of Concepts , Susan Carey shows that the answers to both overlap substantially.

Carey begins by characterizing the innate starting point for conceptual development, namely systems of core cognition. Representations of core cognition are the output of dedicated input analyzers, as with perceptual representations, but these core representations differ from perceptual representations in having more abstract contents and richer functional roles. Carey argues that the key to understanding cognitive development lies in recognizing conceptual discontinuities in which new representational systems emerge that have more expressive power than core cognition and are also incommensurate with core cognition and other earlier representational systems. Finally, Carey fleshes out Quinian bootstrapping, a learning mechanism that has been repeatedly sketched in the literature on the history and philosophy of science. She demonstrates that Quinian bootstrapping is a major mechanism in the construction of new representational resources over the course of childrens cognitive development.

Carey shows how developmental cognitive science resolves aspects of long-standing philosophical debates about the existence, nature, content, and format of innate knowledge. She also shows that understanding the processes of conceptual development in children illuminates the historical process by which concepts are constructed, and transforms the way we think about philosophical problems about the nature of concepts and the relations between language and thought.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Toribio, Josefa, , . Nonconceptual Content
2007, Philosophy Compass, 2 (2007), 445-460
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Simon Prosser

Abstract: Nonconceptualists maintain that there are ways of representing the world that do not reflect the concepts a creature possesses. They claim that the content of these representational states is genuine content because it is subject to correctness conditions, but it is nonconceptual because the creature to which we attribute it need not possess any of the concepts involved in the specification of that content. Appeals to nonconceptual content have seemed especially useful in attempts to capture the representational properties of perceptual experiences, the representational states of pre-linguistic children and non-human animals, the states of subpersonal visual information-processing systems, and the subdoxastic states involved in tacit knowledge of the grammar of a language. Nonconceptual content is also invoked in the explanation of concept possession, concept acquisition, sensorimotor behaviour, and in the analysis of the notion of self-consciousness. The notion of nonconceptual content plays an important role in many discussions about the relationships between perception and thought.

Comment: Survey article on nonconceptual content.
[This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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