The Logic of Concepts: Case Studies in Engineering and Law
AIR FORCE INST OF TECH WRIGHT-PATTERSONAFB OH
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It has traditionally been supposed that concepts are learned from definitions or analyses however, many contemporary philosophers and psychologist think that concepts are taught by means of exemplars, particular items which the community accepts as representative exemplifications of a concept. But this view is incomplete without a theory of how the transition is made from viewing group-licensed exemplars to possessing a concept which is shared with ones linguistic community. Further, although there is general agreement that the concepts of a given society may change with time, there is not agreement on how this conceptual evolution occurs and whether or not it is a rational process. The dissertation contributes to a resolution of these issues by arguing for a particular descriptive theory of the dynamic processes of conceptual activity. According to the theory proposed, a concept is a particular type of capacity. An idealized model of the items in a given exemplar set bridges the gap between examining the exemplars and possessing the associated capacity. Such models differ from any actual exemplars and, thus, stand in need of justification.