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A Defence of the Theoretical Relevance of the Term ‘Concept’

Pino, B (2016) A Defence of the Theoretical Relevance of the Term ‘Concept’. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

The notion of a concept has been widely viewed to be fundamental to understanding the mind. However, some have recently questioned the explanatory role of this notion, asserting that we should eliminate it from our considered theory of the mind. In doing so, these critics are said to endorse a form of concept eliminativism. In this thesis, I challenge concept eliminativism and advance a defence of the theoretical relevance of the term ‘concept’. Firstly, I develop a new general taxonomy of eliminativist arguments and claims through examining a range of different eliminativist projects in different domains. Particularly relevant for this thesis, the proposed taxonomy allows for the characterisation of a type of eliminativism that appeals to the theoretical inadequacy of concepts that do not clearly designate a single class of things. Secondly, I challenge what is currently the most prominent eliminativist proposal regarding concepts, namely, Machery’s concept eliminativism. I begin by providing an overview of contemporary theories of concepts and their main problems. Then I go on to show that Machery’s eliminativist proposal fails because it inherits many of the same problems facing the theories of concepts that Machery criticizes. Moreover, I contend that Machery’s alternative to concepts is ill-equipped to solve the problem of intentional content. I conclude that these are good reasons to reject the claim that the benefits of eliminating the notion of a concept overweigh the cost of keeping it. Finally, I defend the theoretical term ‘concept’ by sketching an approach to natural kinds suitable for an immature science, such as the contemporary science of the mind. I examine several apparently incompatible attitudes towards natural kinds within philosophy of science and argue that this apparent incompatibility demands revision. I address this challenge and develop a positive view that vindicates the scientific relevance of the term ‘concept’.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Philosophy (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.694474
Depositing User: Dr B Pino
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2016 10:43
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2018 09:27
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/14271

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