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Concepts as Correlates of Lexical Labels

A Cognitivist Perspective


Slawomir Wacewicz

The study of language becomes particularly attractive when it is not practised as an isolated descriptive enterprise, but when it has wide-ranging implications for the study of the human mind. Such is the spirit of this book. While categorisation may be the single most basic cognitive process in organisms, and as an area of inquiry, it is fundamental to Cognitive Science as a whole, at the other end of the spectrum, high-level cognition is organised and permeated by language, giving rise to categories that count and function as concepts. Working from considering the philosophical assumptions of the cognitivist perspective, this study offers an argument for a very productive understanding of the relation between concepts, categories, and their theoretical models.
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4. Concepts in Cognitive Science


4.  Concepts in Cognitive Science135

In the third chapter, I provided a possibly general, if not fully theory-free, introductory characterisation of concepts and categorisation. But it has already been remarked that it is impossible to investigate either concepts or categories in any depth while remaining neutral on a number of philosophical issues, particularly in philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. The goal of this chapter is to clarify these basic commitments.

In this chapter, I stipulate and briefly discuss the minimal requirements for a theory of concepts in Cognitive Science: understanding concepts as mental (internal) representations that are capable of serving a number of cognitive functions. I also take two important definitional decisions that are not likewise uncontested. I propose that categories are most fruitfully approached when regarded as mental representations and that concepts are a subset of so understood categories: namely, concepts are categories with lexical correlates. These two issues are accordingly offered a more detailed treatment, with the latter claim being given a sound footing in a broad range of empirical work.

4.1  Scope of study

The scope of this work is delimited to concepts that underlie everyday words, that is, roughly, to categorematic concepts. Categorematic concepts can be defined as each having a meaning of its own and corresponding to words that can function as subjects or predicates of propositions136.

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