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Concepts are defined as abstract
ideas In common usage and in philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical reality Reality is the sum or agg ...

ideas
. They are understood to be the fundamental building blocks of the concept behind principles,
thought In their most common sense, the terms thought and thinking refer to conscious cognitive processes that can happen independently of sensory stimulation. Their most paradigmatic forms are judging, reasoning, concept formation, problem solving, an ...

thought
s and
belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconsci ...

belief
s. They play an important role in all aspects of
cognition Cognition () refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses many aspects of intellectual function Intellectual functioning refers to the "general men ...
. As such, concepts are studied by several disciplines, such as linguistics, psychology, and philosophy, and these disciplines are interested in the logical and psychological structure of concepts, and how they are put together to form thoughts and sentences. The study of concepts has served as an important flagship of an emerging interdisciplinary approach called cognitive science. In
contemporary philosophy Contemporary philosophy is the present period in the history of Western philosophy beginning at the early 20th century with the increasing professionalization of the discipline and the rise of Analytic philosophy, analytic and continental philosop ...
, there are at least three prevailing ways to understand what a concept is: * Concepts as
mental representation A mental representation (or cognitive representation), in philosophy of mind Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the ontology and nature of the mind and its relationship with the body. The mind–body problem is a paradigm ...
s, where concepts are entities that exist in the mind (mental objects) * Concepts as
abilities Ability may refer to: * Aptitude, a component of a competency to do a certain kind of work at a certain level * Intelligence, logic, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, learning, having emotional knowledge, retaining, pl ...
, where concepts are abilities peculiar to cognitive agents (mental states) * Concepts as
Fregean Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege (; ; 8 November 1848 – 26 July 1925) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those ab ...
senses (see
sense and reference In the philosophy of language In analytic philosophy, philosophy of language investigates the nature of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed lan ...
), where concepts are
abstract objects In metaphysics, the distinction between abstract and concrete refers to a divide between two types of entities. Many philosophers hold that this difference has fundamental metaphysical significance. Examples of concrete objects include Plant, plant ...
, as opposed to mental objects and mental states Concepts can be organized into a hierarchy, higher levels of which are termed "superordinate" and lower levels termed "subordinate". Additionally, there is the "basic" or "middle" level at which people will most readily categorize a concept. For example, a basic-level concept would be "chair", with its superordinate, "furniture", and its subordinate, "easy chair". Concepts may be exact, or inexact. When the mind makes a generalization such as the concept of ''tree'', it extracts similarities from numerous examples; the simplification enables higher-level thinking. A concept is instantiated (reified) by all of its actual or potential instances, whether these are things in the real world or other
idea In common usage and in philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosoph ...

idea
s. Concepts are studied as components of human cognition in the
cognitive science Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary Interdisciplinarity or interdisciplinary studies involves the combination of two or more academic discipline An academic discipline or academic field is a subdivision of knowledge that is Educ ...

cognitive science
disciplines of
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo ...

linguistics
,
psychology Psychology is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence in the real world. ...

psychology
, and
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, language. Such questio ...

philosophy
, where an ongoing debate asks whether all cognition must occur through concepts. Concepts are used as formal tools or models in
mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and their changes (cal ...
,
computer science Computer science deals with the theoretical foundations of information, algorithms and the architectures of its computation as well as practical techniques for their application. Computer science is the study of computation, automation, a ...
,
databases In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes and development of both computer hardware , hardware and sof ...
and
artificial intelligence Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence Intelligence has been defined in many ways: the capacity for abstraction Abstraction in its main sense is a conceptual process where general rules and concept Concepts are defined as abstra ...

artificial intelligence
where they are sometimes called
classes Class or The Class may refer to: Common uses not otherwise categorized * Class (biology), a taxonomic rank * Class (knowledge representation), a collection of individuals or objects * Class (philosophy), an analytical concept used differently f ...
,
schema The word schema comes from the Greek word ('), which means ''shape'', or more generally, ''plan''. The plural is ('). In English, both ''schemas'' and ''schemata'' are used as plural forms. Schema may refer to: Science and technology * SCHEMA ...
or
categories Category, plural categories, may refer to: Philosophy and general uses *Categorization Categorization is the human ability and activity of recognizing shared features or similarities between the elements of the experience of the world (such ...
. In
informal Formal, formality, informal or informality imply the complying with, or not complying with, some set theory, set of requirements (substantial form, forms, in Ancient Greek). They may refer to: Dress code and events * Formal wear, attire for forma ...
use the word ''concept'' often just means any
idea In common usage and in philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosoph ...

idea
.


Ontology of concepts

A central question in the study of concepts is the question of what they ''are''. Philosophers construe this question as one about the
ontology Ontology is the branch of philosophy that studies concepts such as existence, being, Becoming (philosophy), becoming, and reality. It includes the questions of how entities are grouped into Category of being, basic categories and which of these ...

ontology
of concepts—what kind of things they are. The ontology of concepts determines the answer to other questions, such as how to integrate concepts into a wider theory of the mind, what functions are allowed or disallowed by a concept's ontology, etc. There are two main views of the ontology of concepts: (1) Concepts are abstract objects, and (2) concepts are mental representations.


Concepts as mental representations


The psychological view of concepts

Within the framework of the
representational theory of mind A mental representation (or cognitive representation), in philosophy of mind, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and cognitive science, is a hypothetical internal cognitive symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies ...
, the structural position of concepts can be understood as follows: Concepts serve as the building blocks of what are called ''mental representations'' (colloquially understood as ''ideas in the mind''). Mental representations, in turn, are the building blocks of what are called ''
propositional attitude A propositional attitude is a mental state held by an agent toward a proposition In logic and linguistics, a proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence (linguistics), sentence. In philosophy, "Meaning (philosophy), meaning" is understood ...
s'' (colloquially understood as the stances or perspectives we take towards ideas, be it "believing", "doubting", "wondering", "accepting", etc.). And these propositional attitudes, in turn, are the building blocks of our understanding of thoughts that populate everyday life, as well as folk psychology. In this way, we have an analysis that ties our common everyday understanding of thoughts down to the scientific and philosophical understanding of concepts.


The physicalist view of concepts

In a physicalist
theory of mind In psychology Psychology is the scientific Science (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area ar ...

theory of mind
, a concept is a mental representation, which the brain uses to denote a class of things in the world. This is to say that it is literally, a symbol or group of symbols together made from the physical material of the brain. Concepts are mental representations that allow us to draw appropriate inferences about the type of entities we encounter in our everyday lives. Concepts do not encompass all mental representations, but are merely a subset of them. The use of concepts is necessary to cognitive processes such as
categorization Categorization is the human ability and activity of recognizing shared features or similarities between the elements of the experience Experience refers to conscious , an English Paracelsian physician Consciousness, at its simplest, is " se ...

categorization
,
memory Memory is the faculty of the brain A brain is an organ Organ may refer to: Biology * Organ (anatomy) An organ is a group of Tissue (biology), tissues with similar functions. Plant life and animal life rely on many organs that co-exis ...

memory
,
decision making In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense s ...

decision making
,
learning Learning is the process of acquiring new understanding Understanding is a psychological process related to an abstract or physical thing, such as a person, situation, or message whereby one is able to use concepts to model that thing. Under ...

learning
, and
inference Inferences are steps in reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic ...

inference
. Concepts are thought to be stored in long term
cortical Cortex or cortical may refer to: Science Anatomy * Cortex (anatomy), the outermost or superficial layer of an organ * Cortex (hair), the middle layer of a strand of hair * Adrenal cortex, the portion of the adrenal gland that produces cortisol and ...
memory, in contrast to
episodic memory Episodic may refer to: * The nature of television series that are divided into short programs known as episodes * Episodic memory, types of memory that result from specific incidents in a lifetime * In Geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek ...
of the particular objects and events which they abstract, which are stored in
hippocampus The hippocampus (via Latin from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its popul ...

hippocampus
. Evidence for this separation comes from hippocampal damaged patients such as patient HM. The
abstraction Abstraction in its main sense is a conceptual process where general rules Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, mak ...

abstraction
from the day's hippocampal events and objects into cortical concepts is often considered to be the computation underlying (some stages of) sleep and dreaming. Many people (beginning with Aristotle) report memories of dreams which appear to mix the day's events with analogous or related historical concepts and memories, and suggest that they were being sorted or organised into more abstract concepts. ("Sort" is itself another word for concept, and "sorting" thus means to organise into concepts.)


Concepts as abstract objects

The semantic view of concepts suggests that concepts are abstract objects. In this view, concepts are abstract objects of a category out of a human's mind rather than some mental representations. There is debate as to the relationship between concepts and
natural language In neuropsychology Neuropsychology is a branch of psychology. It is concerned with how a person's cognition and behavior are related to the brain and the rest of the nervous system. Professionals in this branch of psychology often focus on ...
. However, it is necessary at least to begin by understanding that the concept "dog" is philosophically distinct from the things in the world grouped by this concept—or the reference class or extension. Concepts that can be equated to a single word are called "lexical concepts". The study of concepts and conceptual structure falls into the disciplines of
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo ...

linguistics
,
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, language. Such questio ...

philosophy
,
psychology Psychology is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence in the real world. ...

psychology
, and
cognitive science Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary Interdisciplinarity or interdisciplinary studies involves the combination of two or more academic discipline An academic discipline or academic field is a subdivision of knowledge that is Educ ...

cognitive science
. In the simplest terms, a concept is a name or label that regards or treats an
abstraction Abstraction in its main sense is a conceptual process where general rules Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, mak ...

abstraction
as if it had concrete or material existence, such as a person, a place, or a thing. It may represent a natural object that exists in the real world like a tree, an animal, a stone, etc. It may also name an artificial (man-made) object like a chair, computer, house, etc. Abstract ideas and knowledge domains such as freedom, equality, science, happiness, etc., are also symbolized by concepts. It is important to realize that a concept is merely a symbol, a representation of the abstraction. The word is not to be mistaken for the thing. For example, the word "moon" (a concept) is not the large, bright, shape-changing object up in the sky, but only ''represents'' that celestial object. Concepts are created (named) to describe, explain and capture reality as it is known and understood.


''A priori'' concepts

Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about r ...

Kant
maintained the view that human minds possess pure or ''
a priori ''A priori'' and ''a posteriori'' ('from the earlier' and 'from the later', respectively) are Latin phrases used in philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaph ...
'' concepts. Instead of being abstracted from individual perceptions, like empirical concepts, they originate in the mind itself. He called these concepts
categories Category, plural categories, may refer to: Philosophy and general uses *Categorization Categorization is the human ability and activity of recognizing shared features or similarities between the elements of the experience of the world (such ...
, in the sense of the word that means
predicate Predicate or predication may refer to: Computer science *Syntactic predicate (in parser technology) guidelines the parser process Linguistics *Predicate (grammar), a grammatical component of a sentence Philosophy and logic * Predication (philo ...
, attribute, characteristic, or
quality Quality may refer to: Concepts *Quality (business), the ''non-inferiority'' or ''superiority'' of something *Quality (philosophy), an attribute or a property *Quality (physics), in response theory *Energy quality, used in various science disciplin ...
. But these pure categories are predicates of things ''in general'', not of a particular thing. According to Kant, there are twelve categories that constitute the understanding of phenomenal objects. Each 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 ''A priori'' and ''a posteriori'' ('from the earlier' and 'from the later', respectively) are Latin phrases used in philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaph ...
'' concept, Kant employed the technical concept of the
schema The word schema comes from the Greek word ('), which means ''shape'', or more generally, ''plan''. The plural is ('). In English, both ''schemas'' and ''schemata'' are used as plural forms. Schema may refer to: Science and technology * SCHEMA ...
. He held that the account of the concept as an abstraction of experience is only partly correct. He called those concepts that result from abstraction "a posteriori concepts" (meaning concepts that arise out of experience). An empirical or an ''a posteriori'' concept is a general representation (''Vorstellung'') or non-specific thought of that which is common to several specific perceived objects (
Logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning. Informal logic seeks to characterize Validity (logic), valid arguments informally, for instance by listing varieties of fallacies. Formal logic represents statements and ar ...

Logic
, I, 1., §1, Note 1) A concept is a common feature or characteristic. Kant investigated the way that empirical ''a posteriori'' concepts are created.


Embodied content

In
cognitive linguistics Cognitive linguistics is an interdisciplinary branch of linguistics, combining knowledge and research from cognitive science, cognitive psychology, neuropsychology, social psychology, cognitive anthropology and linguistics. Models and theoretical ...
, abstract concepts are transformations of concrete concepts derived from embodied experience. The mechanism of transformation is structural mapping, in which properties of two or more source domains are selectively mapped onto a blended space (Fauconnier & Turner, 1995; see
conceptual blendingIn Cognitive Linguistics Cognitive linguistics is an interdisciplinary branch of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studyi ...
). A common class of blends are
metaphors A metaphor is a figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that entails an intentional deviation from ordinary language use in order to produce a rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of pe ...
. This theory contrasts with the rationalist view that concepts are perceptions (or ''recollections'', in
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Classical Athens, Athenian philosopher during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Platoni ...

Plato
'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 Jamesian pragmatism, the notion of the transformation of embodied concepts through structural mapping makes a distinct contribution to the problem of concept formation.


Realist universal concepts

Platonist Platonism is the philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of ...
views of the mind construe concepts as abstract objects.
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Classical Athens, Athenian philosopher during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Platoni ...

Plato
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 objects. Needless to say, this form of realism was tied deeply with Plato's ontological projects. This remark on Plato is not of merely historical interest. For example, the view that numbers are Platonic objects was revived by
Kurt Gödel Kurt Friedrich Gödel ( , ; April 28, 1906 – January 14, 1978) was a logician Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality.Merriam-Webster's Online Dict ...
as a result of certain puzzles that he took to arise from the phenomenological accounts.


Sense and reference

Gottlob Frege Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege (; ; 8 November 1848 – 26 July 1925) was a German philosopher, logician, and mathematician. He worked as a mathematics professor at the University of Jena, and is understood by many to be the father of analy ...
, founder of the analytic tradition in philosophy, famously argued for the analysis of language in terms of sense and reference. For him, the sense of an expression in language describes a certain state of affairs in the world, namely, the way that some object is presented. Since many commentators view the notion of sense as identical to the notion of concept, and Frege 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. Accordingly, concepts (as senses) have an ontological status.


Concepts in calculus

According to
Carl Benjamin Boyer Carl Benjamin Boyer (November 3, 1906 – April 26, 1976) was an American historian of sciences, and especially mathematics. Novelist David Foster Wallace called him the " Gibbon of math Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of suc ...
, in the introduction to his ''The History of the Calculus and its Conceptual Development'', concepts in calculus do not refer to perceptions. As long as the concepts are useful and mutually compatible, they are accepted on their own. For example, the concepts of the
derivative In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities ...

derivative
and the
integral In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities a ...

integral
are not considered to refer to spatial or temporal perceptions of the external world of experience. Neither are they related in any way to mysterious
limits Limit or Limits may refer to: Arts and media * Limit (music) In music theory, limit or harmonic limit is a way of characterizing the harmony found in a piece or genre (music), genre of music, or the harmonies that can be made using a particular ...
in which quantities are on the verge of nascence or evanescence, that is, coming into or going out of existence. The abstract concepts are now considered to be totally autonomous, even though they originated from the process of abstracting or taking away qualities from perceptions until only the common, essential attributes remained.


Notable theories on the structure of concepts


Classical theory

The 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 Aristotle), and was prominently held until the 1970s. The classical theory of concepts says that concepts have a definitional structure. Adequate definitions of the kind required by this theory usually take the form of a list of features. These features must have two important qualities to provide a comprehensive definition. Features entailed by the definition of a concept must be both ''
necessary Necessary or necessity may refer to: * Need A need is something that is necessary Necessary or necessity may refer to: * Need ** An action somebody may feel they must do ** An important task or essential thing to do at a particular time or by ...
'' and '' sufficient'' for membership in the class of things covered by a particular concept. A feature is considered necessary if every member of the denoted class has that feature. A feature is considered sufficient if something has all the parts required by the definition. For example, the classic example ''
bachelor A bachelor is a man who is not and has never been married.Bachelors are, in Pitt Pitt most commonly refers to: *The University of Pittsburgh, commonly known as Pitt, a university located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States **Pitt Panthe ...

bachelor
'' is said to be defined by ''unmarried'' and ''
man A man is an adult male Male (♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete known as sperm. A male gamete can fuse with a larger female gamete, or ovum, in the process of fertilization. A male cannot sexual reproduction, reproduc ...

man
''. An entity is a bachelor (by this definition) if and only if it is both unmarried and a man. To check whether something is a member of the class, you compare its qualities to the features in the definition. Another key part of this theory is that it obeys the ''
law of the excluded middle In logic, the law of excluded middle (or the principle of excluded middle) states that for every proposition, Exclusive or, either this proposition or its negation is Truth value, true. It is one of the so called Law_of_thought#The_three_traditi ...
'', which means that there are no partial members of a class, you are either in or out. The classical theory persisted for so long unquestioned because it seemed intuitively correct and has great explanatory power. It can explain how concepts would be acquired, 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 major activities in
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, language. Such questio ...

philosophy
concept analysis. Concept analysis is the act of trying to articulate the necessary and sufficient conditions for the membership in the referent class of a concept. For example, Shoemaker's classic " Time Without Change" explored whether the concept of the flow of time can include flows where no changes take place, though change is usually taken as a definition of time.


Arguments against the classical theory

Given that most later theories of concepts were born out of the rejection 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 20th century, philosophers such as Wittgenstein and Rosch argued against the classical theory. There 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. * Quine's argument against analyticity in
Two Dogmas of Empiricism"Two Dogmas of Empiricism" is a paper by analytic philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine Willard Van Orman Quine (; known to his friends as "Van"; June 25, 1908 – December 25, 2000) was an American philosopher and logician Logic (from Greek ...
also holds as an argument against definitions. *Some concepts have fuzzy membership. There are items for which it is vague whether or not they fall into (or out of) a particular referent class. This is not possible in the classical theory as everything has equal and full membership. * found typicality effects which cannot be explained by the classical theory of concepts, these sparked the prototype theory. See below. *Psychological experiments show no evidence for our using concepts as strict definitions.


Prototype theory

Prototype theory came out of problems with the classical view of conceptual structure. Prototype theory says that concepts specify properties that members of a class tend to possess, rather than must possess.
Wittgenstein Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein ( ; ; 26 April 1889 – 29 April 1951) was an Austrian Austrian may refer to: * Austrians, someone from Austria or of Austrian descent ** Someone who is considered an Austrian citizen, see Austrian nationalit ...

Wittgenstein
, , Mervis,
Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inhabitants, as of 31 December 2019 makes it the List of cities in the European Union by ...
, Anglin, and Posner are a few of the key proponents and creators of this theory. Wittgenstein describes the relationship between members of a class as ''family resemblances''. There are not necessarily any necessary conditions for membership; a dog can still be a dog with only three legs. This view is particularly supported by psychological experimental evidence for prototypicality effects. Participants willingly and consistently rate objects in categories like 'vegetable' or 'furniture' as more or less typical of that class. It seems that our categories are fuzzy psychologically, and so this structure has explanatory power. We can judge an item's membership of 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. Rosch suggests that every category is represented by a central exemplar which embodies all or the maximum possible number of features of a given category. Lech, Gunturkun, and Suchan explain that categorization involves many areas of the brain. Some of these are: visual association areas, prefrontal cortex, basal ganglia, and temporal lobe. The Prototype perspective is proposed as an alternative view to the Classical approach. While the Classical theory requires an all-or-nothing membership in a group, prototypes allow for more fuzzy boundaries and are characterized by attributes. Lakeoff stresses that experience and cognition are critical to the function of language, and Labov's experiment found that the function that an artifact contributed to what people categorized it as. For example, a container holding mashed potatoes versus tea swayed people toward classifying them as a bowl and a cup, respectively. This experiment also illuminated the optimal dimensions of what the prototype for "cup" is. Prototypes also deal with the essence of things and to what extent they belong to a category. There have been a number of experiments dealing with questionnaires asking participants to rate something according to the extent to which it belongs to a category. This question is contradictory to the Classical Theory because something is either a member of a category or is not. This type of problem is paralleled in other areas of linguistics such as phonology, with an illogical question such as "is /i/ or /o/ a better vowel?" The Classical approach and Aristotelian categories may be a better descriptor in some cases.


Theory-theory

Theory-theory is a reaction to the previous two theories and develops them further. This theory postulates that categorization by concepts is something like scientific theorizing. Concepts 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. How this is supposed to work is a little less clear than in the previous two theories, but is still a prominent and notable theory. This 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. Theory-theory also postulates that people's theories about the world are what inform their conceptual knowledge of the world. Therefore, analysing people's theories can offer insights into their concepts. In this sense, "theory" means an individual's mental explanation rather than scientific fact. This theory criticizes classical and prototype theory as relying too much on similarities and using them as a sufficient constraint. It suggests that theories or mental understandings contribute more to what has membership to a group rather than weighted similarities, and a cohesive category is formed more by what makes sense to the perceiver. Weights assigned to features have shown to fluctuate and vary depending on context and experimental task demonstrated by Tversky. For this reason, similarities between members may be collateral rather than causal.


Ideasthesia

According to the theory of
ideasthesia Ideasthesia (alternative spelling ideaesthesia) is a neuropsychological phenomenon in which activations of concepts (inducers) evoke perception-like sensory experiences (concurrents). The name comes from the Ancient Greek Ancient Greek ...
(or "sensing concepts"), activation of a concept may be the main mechanism responsible for the creation of phenomenal experiences. Therefore, understanding how the brain processes concepts may be central to solving the mystery of how conscious experiences (or
qualia In philosophy of mind Philosophy of mind is a branch of that studies the and nature of the and its relationship with the body. The is a paradigmatic issue in philosophy of mind, although a number of other issues are addressed, such as the ...
) emerge within a physical system e.g., the sourness of the sour taste of lemon. This question is also known as the
hard problem of consciousness The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why and how we have qualia In philosophy and certain models of psychology, qualia ( or ; singular form: quale) are defined as individual instances of Subjectivity, subjective, conscio ...
. Research on ideasthesia emerged from research on
synesthesia Synesthesia (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, American En ...

synesthesia
where it was noted that a synesthetic experience requires first an activation of a concept of the inducer. Later research expanded these results into everyday perception.Gómez Milán, E., Iborra, O., de Córdoba, M.J., Juárez-Ramos V., Rodríguez Artacho, M.A., Rubio, J.L. (2013) The Kiki-Bouba effect: A case of personification and ideaesthesia. ''The Journal of Consciousness Studies.'' 20(1–2): pp. 84–102. There is a lot of discussion on the most effective theory in concepts. Another theory is semantic pointers, which use perceptual and motor representations and these representations are like symbols.


Etymology

The term "concept" is traced back to 1554–60 (Latin '' conceptum'' – "something conceived").The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition.


See also

*
Abstraction Abstraction in its main sense is a conceptual process where general rules Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, mak ...

Abstraction
*
Categorization Categorization is the human ability and activity of recognizing shared features or similarities between the elements of the experience Experience refers to conscious , an English Paracelsian physician Consciousness, at its simplest, is " se ...

Categorization
*
Class (philosophy) A class is a collection whose members either fall under a predicate or are classified by a rule. Hence, while a set can be extensionally defined only by its elements, a class has also an intensional dimension that unite its members. When the term ...
* Concept and object *
Concept map A concept map or conceptual diagram is a diagram A diagram is a symbolic Depiction, representation of information using Visualization (graphics), visualization techniques. Diagrams have been used since prehistoric times on Cave painting, walls ...
*
Conceptual blendingIn Cognitive Linguistics Cognitive linguistics is an interdisciplinary branch of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studyi ...
*
Conceptual framework A conceptual framework is an analytical tool Analytical chemistry studies and uses instruments and methods used to separate, identify, and quantify matter. In practice, separation, identification or quantification may constitute the entire ana ...
*
Conceptual history Conceptual history (also the history of concepts or, from German, ''Begriffsgeschichte'') is a branch of historical and cultural studies that deals with the historical semantics of terms. It sees the etymology and the change in meaning of terms as ...
*
Conceptual model A conceptual model is a depiction, representation of a system. It consists of concepts used to help people knowledge, know, understanding, understand, or simulation, simulate a subject the model represents. It is also a set of concepts. In contras ...

Conceptual model
*
Conversation theoryConversation theory is a cybernetic and dialectic framework that offers a scientific theory to explain how interactions lead to "construction of knowledge", or "knowing": wishing to preserve both the dynamic/kinetic quality, and the necessity for the ...
*
DefinitionismDefinitionism (also called the classical theory of concepts) is the school of thought in which it is believed that a proper explanation of a theory A theory is a reason, rational type of abstraction, abstract thinking about a phenomenon, or the res ...
*
Formal concept analysis Formal concept analysis (FCA) is a principled way of deriving a ''concept hierarchy'' or formal ontology from a collection of objects and their properties Property (''latin: Res Privata'') in the abstract is what belongs to or with something ...
*
Fuzzy conceptA fuzzy concept is a concept Concepts are defined as abstract ideas or general notions that occur in the mind, in speech, or in thought. They are understood to be the fundamental building blocks of thoughts and belief A belief is an Attitude ...
* Hypostatic abstraction *
Idea In common usage and in philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosoph ...

Idea
*
Ideasthesia Ideasthesia (alternative spelling ideaesthesia) is a neuropsychological phenomenon in which activations of concepts (inducers) evoke perception-like sensory experiences (concurrents). The name comes from the Ancient Greek Ancient Greek ...
*
Noesis Noesis is a philosophical term, referring to the activity of the intellect or nous. Noesis may also refer to: Philosophy * Noesis (phenomenology), technical term in the Brentano–Husserl "philosophy of intentionality" tradition * Noetics, a branc ...
*
Notion (philosophy) A notion in logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: grc, wikt:λογική, λογική, label=none, lit=possessed of reason, intellectual, dialectical, argumentative, translit=logikḗ)Also related to (''logos''), "word, thought, idea, arg ...
*
Object (philosophy) An object is a philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or mental reality Reality is the sum or ...
*
Process of concept formation Concept formation is a type of discovery learning involving psychological Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, as well as feel ...
*
Schema (Kant) In Kantian Kantianism is the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher born in Königsberg, Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian: ''Prūsa'' or ''Prūsija'' was a historically prominent Germans, German state that originated in 1525 wi ...
* Intuitive statistics


References


Further reading

*Armstrong, S. L., Gleitman, L. R., & Gleitman, H. (1999). what some concepts might not be. In E. Margolis, & S. Lawrence, Concepts (pp. 225–261). Massachusetts: MIT press. *Carey, S. (1999). knowledge acquisition: enrichment or conceptual change? In E. Margolis, & S. Lawrence, concepts: core readings (pp. 459–489). Massachusetts: MIT press. *Fodor, J. A., Garrett, M. F., Walker, E. C., & Parkes, C. H. (1999). against definitions. In E. Margolis, & S. Lawrence, concepts: core readings (pp. 491–513). Massachusetts: MIT press. * *Hume, D. (1739). book one part one: of the understanding of ideas, their origin, composition, connexion, abstraction etc. In D. Hume, a treatise of human nature. England. *Murphy, G. (2004). Chapter 2. In G. Murphy, a big book of concepts (pp. 11 – 41). Massachusetts: MIT press. *Murphy, G., & Medin, D. (1999). the role of theories in conceptual coherence. In E. Margolis, & S. Lawrence, concepts: core readings (pp. 425–459). Massachusetts: MIT press. * *Putnam, H. (1999). is semantics possible? In E. Margolis, & S. Lawrence, concepts: core readings (pp. 177–189). Massachusetts: MIT press. *Quine, W. (1999). two dogmas of empiricism. In E. Margolis, & S. Lawrence, concepts: core readings (pp. 153–171). Massachusetts: MIT press. *Rey, G. (1999). Concepts and Stereotypes. In E. Margolis, & S. Laurence (Eds.), Concepts: Core Readings (pp. 279–301). Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. *Rosch, E. (1977). Classification of real-world objects: Origins and representations in cognition. In P. Johnson-Laird, & P. Wason, Thinking: Readings in Cognitive Science (pp. 212–223). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. *Rosch, E. (1999). Principles of Categorization. In E. Margolis, & S. Laurence (Eds.), Concepts: Core Readings (pp. 189–206). Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. * *Wittgenstein, L. (1999). philosophical investigations: sections 65–78. In E. Margolis, & S. Lawrence, concepts: core readings (pp. 171–175). Massachusetts: MIT press. * ''The History of Calculus and its Conceptual Development'',
Carl Benjamin Boyer Carl Benjamin Boyer (November 3, 1906 – April 26, 1976) was an American historian of sciences, and especially mathematics. Novelist David Foster Wallace called him the " Gibbon of math Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of suc ...
,
Dover Publications Dover Publications, also known as Dover Books, is an American book publisher Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and other content available to the public for sale or for free. Traditionally, the term ...
, * ''The Writings of William James'',
University of Chicago Press The University of Chicago Press is the largest and one of the oldest university press A university press is an academic publishing Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and other content available to t ...
, * ''
Logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning. Informal logic seeks to characterize Validity (logic), valid arguments informally, for instance by listing varieties of fallacies. Formal logic represents statements and ar ...

Logic
'',
Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about r ...

Immanuel Kant
, Dover Publications, * ''
A System of Logic ''A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive'' is an 1843 book by English people, English philosopher John Stuart Mill. Overview In this work, he formulated the five principles of inductive reasoning that are known as Mill's Methods. This work ...
'', John Stuart Mill, University Press of the Pacific, * ''Parerga and Paralipomena'', Arthur Schopenhauer, Volume I,
Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press A university press is an academic publishing Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and other content available to the public for sale or for fre ...

Oxford University Press
, * ''Kant's Metaphysic of Experience'', H. J. Paton, London: Allen & Unwin, 1936 *
Conceptual Integration Networks
'' Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner, 1998. ''Cognitive Science.'' Volume 22, number 2 (April–June 1998), pp. 133–187. * ''The Portable Nietzsche'', Penguin Books, 1982, * Stephen Laurence and Eric Margoli
"Concepts and Cognitive Science"
In ''Concepts: Core Readings'',
MIT Press The MIT Press is a university press A university press is an academic publishing Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and other content available to the public for sale or for free. Traditionally, the ...
pp. 3–81, 1999. * * Georgij Yu. Somov (2010). Concepts and Senses in Visual Art: Through the example of analysis of some works by Bruegel the Elder. ''
Semiotica ''Semiotica'' is an academic journal An academic or scholarly journal is a periodical publication Periodical literature (also called a periodical publication or simply a periodical) is a category of serial publications that appear in a new edi ...
'' 182 (1/4), 475–506. * Daltrozzo J, Vion-Dury J, Schön D. (2010)
Music and Concepts
Horizons in Neuroscience Research 4: 157–167.


External links

* * * * * *


Concepts. A Critical Approach, by Andy Blunden



Concept Mobiles
Latest concepts * v:Conceptualize: A Wikiversity Learning Project
Concept simultaneously translated in several languages and meanings
* TED-E
Lesson
on ideasthesia (sensing concepts) {{Authority control Abstraction Cognitive science Mental content Concepts in metaphysics Ontology
Philosophy of languagePhilosophy of language In analytic philosophy, philosophy of language investigates the nature of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sig ...
Philosophy of mind Semantics Thought Main topic articles