So, then, here are my five not-negotiable conditions on a theory of concepts.
1. Concepts are mental particulars; specifically, they satisfy whatever ontological conditions have to be met bythings that function as mental causes and effects.
Since this is entailed by RTM (see Chapter 1), and hence is common to all the theories of concepts I’ll consider, I won’t go on about it here. If, however, you think that intentional causation explains behaviour only in the way that thesolubility of sugar explains its dissolving (see Ryle 1949), or if you think that intentional explanations aren’t causal at all(see e.g. Collins 1987), then nothing in the following discussion will be of much use to you, and I fear we’ve reached aparting of the ways. At least one of us is wasting his time; I do hope it’s you.
2. Concepts are categories and are routinely employed as such.
To say that concepts are categories is to say that they apply to things in the world; things in the world ‘fall under them’. So, for example, Greycat the cat, but not Dumbo the elephant, falls under the concept CAT. Which, for presentpurposes, is equivalent to saying that Greycat is in the extension of CAT, that ‘Greycat is a cat’ is true, and that ‘is a cat’is true of Greycat. I shall sometimes refer to this galaxy of considerations by saying that applications of concepts aresusceptible of ‘semantic evaluation-, claims, or thoughts, that a certain concept applies to a certain thing are alwayssusceptible of evaluation in such semantical terms as satisfied/unsatisfied, true/false, correct/incorrect, and the like.There are, to be sure, issues about these various aspects of semantic evaluability, and about the relations among them,that a scrupulous philosopher might well wish to attend to. But in this chapter, I propose to keep the philosophy to abare minimum.18
Much of the life of the mind consists in applying concepts to things. If I think Greycat is a cat (de dicto, as it were), I thereby apply the concept CAT to Greycat (correctly, as it happens). If, looking at Greycat, I take him to be a cat, thentoo I apply the concept CAT to Greycat. (If looking at Greycat I take him to be a meatloaf, I thereby apply the conceptMEATLOAF to Greycat; incorrectly, as it happens.) Or if, in reasoning about Greycat, I infer that since he’s a cat hemust be an animal, I thereby proceed from applying one concept to Greycat to the licensed application of anotherconcept; the license consisting, I suppose, in things I know about how the extensions of the concepts CAT andANIMAL are related.
In fact, RTM being once assumed, most of cognitive psychology, including the psychology of memory, perception, and reasoning, is about how we apply concepts. And most of the rest is about how we acquire the concepts that we thusapply. Correspondingly, the empirical data to which cognitive psychologists are responsible consist largely of measuresof subject performance in concept application tasks. The long and short is: whatever else a theory of concepts saysabout them, it had better exhibitconcepts as the sorts of things that get applied in the course of mental processes. I take it that consensus about this ispretty general in the cognitive sciences, so I won’t labour it further here.
Caveat: it’s simply untendentious that concepts have their satisfaction conditions essentially. Nothing in any mental life could be the concept CAT unless it is satisfied by cats. It couldn’t be that there are some mental lives in which theconcept CAT applies to CATS and others in which it doesn’t. If you haven’t got a concept that applies to cats, thatentails that you haven’t got the CAT concept. But though the satisfaction conditions of a concept are patently among itsessential properties, it does not follow that the confirmation conditions of a concept are among its essential properties.Confirmation is an epistemic relation, not a semantic relation, and it is generally theory mediated, hence holistic. Onthe one hand, given the right background theory, the merest ripple in cat infested waters might serve to confirm anascription of cathood; and, on the other hand, no cat-containing layout is so well lit, or so utterly uncluttered, or soself-certifying that your failure to ascribe cathood therein would entail that you lack the concept.Jean-marc pizano