A Study of Concepts


Philosophers from Hume, Kant, and Wittgenstein to the recent realists and antirealists have sought to answer the question, What are concepts? This book provides a detailed, systematic, and accessible introduction to an original philosophical theory of concepts that Christopher Peacocke has developed in recent years to explain facts about the nature of thought, including its systematic character, its relations to truth and reference, and its normative dimension.

Particular concepts are also treated within the general framework: perceptual concepts, logical concepts, and the concept of belief are discussed in detail. The general theory is further applied in answering the question of how the ontology of concepts can be of use in classifying mental states, and in discussing the proper relation between philosophical and psychological theories of concepts. Finally, the theory of concepts is used to motivate a nonverificationist theory of the limits of intelligible thought.

Peacocke treats content as broad rather than narrow, and his account is nonreductive and non-Quinean. Yet Peacocke also argues for an interactive relationship between philosophical and psychological theories of concepts, and he plots many connections with work in cognitive psychology.

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. Introduction
  3. Conventions
  4. 1. Individuating Concepts
  5. 2. Structure and System
  6. 3. Perceptual Concepts
  7. 4. The Metaphysics of Concepts
  8. 5. Concepts and Norms in a Natural World
  9. 6. The Concept of Belief: Self Knowledge and Referential Coherence
  10. 7. Concepts, Psychology, and Explanation
  11. 8. Illusions of Content: Thought
  12. Appendix A: Conceptual Role and AIming at the Truth
  13. Appendix B: Evan's Derivation of the Generality Constraint: A Comparison
  14. Notes
  15. References
  16. Index