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Concepts at the Interface

Shea, Nicholas (Professor of Philosophy, Professor of Philosophy, Institute of Philosophy, University of London)

Concepts at the Interface

Concepts at the Interface

Concepts at the Interface


Concepts are how we classify things in the world and organize our knowledge about them. But concepts also lead us astray, driving lazy overgeneralizations and housing unpleasant prejudices. This book draws on the latest scientific research to construct a philosophical theory of how concepts do the job of structuring the way we see the world.

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Beschrijving Concepts at the Interface

This is an open access title available under the terms of a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence. It is free to read on the Oxford Academic platform and offered as a free PDF download from OUP and selected open access locations.

Research on concepts has concentrated on how people apply concepts when presented with a stimulus. Equally important, however, is the use of concepts offline, while planning what to do or thinking about what is the case. There is strong evidence that inferences driven by conceptual thought draw heavily on special-purpose resources--sensory, motoric, affective, and evaluative. At the same time, concepts afford general-purpose recombination and support content-general reasoning processes, which have long been the focus of philosophers. There is a growing consensus that a theory of concepts must encompass both kinds of processes.

Nicholas Shea shows how concepts can act as an interface between content-general reasoning and special-purpose systems. Concept-driven thinking can take advantage of the complementary costs and benefits of each. This book sets out an empirically-based account of the different ways in which thinking with concepts leads us to new conclusions and underpins planning and decision-making. It also outlines three useful implications of this account. First, it allows us to reconstruct the commonplace idea that thinking draws on the meaning of a concept. Second, it offers insight into how human cognition avoids the frame problem and the complementary, less discussed, 'if-then problem' for dispositions acquired from experience. Third, it shows that metacognition can apply to concepts and concept-driven thinking in various ways. The framework developed in the book elucidates what makes concept-driven thinking an especially powerful cognitive resource.

OUP Oxford