Show Less
Restricted access

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.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

6. Conceptual atomism and its refutation


6. Conceptual atomism and its refutation

6.1 Introduction

In the previous chapter, I provided a review of historically the most influential theory of conceptual structure in linguistic, philosophical and cognitive-psychological literature on the topic of categorisation, broadly construed (as defined in 3.2.3.). The review has been accomplished from a recent historical perspective, and has been supplemented with a critical evaluation from a cognitivist standpoint represented in this work.

All of the theories – or more appropriately, theoretical approaches – considered in Chapters 5 and 7 can be grouped together as ‘decompositional’ views on concepts/categorisation. Such a name is pertinent, because the common ground between such views consists in the intuitively compelling guiding assumption about the structural complexity of simple concepts resulting from composition of more basic parts. More precisely, by this assumption simple concepts are posited to have internal structures that can – at least potentially – be analysed into sub-components, and that are the main factor deciding about their individuation.

Conceptual atomism is an alternative view, distinct from all of those characterised above in claiming that concepts display no internal structure. On this view, it is concepts themselves that are the most primitive building blocks of cognitive meaning, with no possibilities for further decomposition. Although this stance – arguably a minority view in Cognitive Science – has several contemporary adherents (e.g. Ruth Millikan, 2000), the most vocal of them is arguably Jerry A. Fodor (especially 1998), whose formulation of conceptual atomism has come to serve as its...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.