MACHERY DOING WITHOUT CONCEPTS PDF

Content Summary: words, 26 minute read. But first, a quote which serves to motivate what follows: Why do cognitive scientists want a theory of concepts? Theories of concepts are meant to explain the properties of our cognitive competences. People categorize the way they do, they draw the inductions they do, and so on, because of the properties of the concepts they have. Thus, providing a good theory of concepts could go a long way towards explaining some important higher cognitive competences.

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Content Summary: words, 26 minute read. But first, a quote which serves to motivate what follows: Why do cognitive scientists want a theory of concepts? Theories of concepts are meant to explain the properties of our cognitive competences. People categorize the way they do, they draw the inductions they do, and so on, because of the properties of the concepts they have. Thus, providing a good theory of concepts could go a long way towards explaining some important higher cognitive competences.

Summarization text is grayscale, my commentary is in orange. Regimenting the use of concept in cognitive science We start with definitions! The world is not an undifferentiated sea of chaos. Let us call these delightful patterns in nature a category or a natural kind. But categories are things in the world, and your mind must somehow learn these categories for itself. This analogy — to carve nature at its joints — is what concept processes do.

Concepts represent categories in your brain. Machery defines concept as something that: Can be about a class, event, substance, or individual.

Nonproprietary, not constrained by the underlying type of represented information. Constitutive elements can vary over time and across individuals.

Section 2. Individuating concepts Is it possible for an individual to possess different concepts of the same category? Can Kevin possess two concepts of the category of chair? How do we individuate two related pieces of information, that would otherwise fall under the same concept? Coordination Criterion: If A and B yield conflicting judgments e.

Section 3. Machery makes three counterpoints: Only a pronounced amount of recall variability e. Empirical investigations only reveal moderate levels of recall variability. A substantial amount of evidence supports Default. Section 4. Developing a psychological theory of concepts A psychological theory of concepts must treat the following concerns: The nature of the information constitutive of concepts The nature of the processes that use concepts The nature of the vehicle of concepts The brain areas that are involved in possessing concepts The processes of concept acquisition Section 5.

Concept in cognitive science and in philosophy The gist of the section: Although both philosophers and cognitive scientists use the term concept, they are not talking about the same things. Cognitive scientists are talking about a certain kind of bodies of knowledge, they attempt to explain the properties of our categorization, inductions etc; whereas philosophers are talking about that which allows people to have propositional attitudes.

Many controversies between philosophers and psychologists about the nature of concepts are thus vacuous. Anyways, my tentative attempt to restate the above: Philosophers concern themselves with category-concept fidelity, whereas cognitive scientists concern themselves with the lifecycle of the concept within the mental ecosystem.

Section 6. The heterogeneity hypothesis versus the received view Machery defines the received view as the assumption that, beyond differences within concept subject-matter, concepts share many properties that are scientifically interesting. Machery suggests that this a mistake, and that the evidence suggests the existence of several distinct types of concept.

Concept, in other words, is itself not a category natural kind. Section 7. What kind of evidence could support the heterogeneity hypothesis?

Section 8. The fundamental kinds of concepts Three different kinds of concepts exist in your cognitive architecture: Prototypes are bodies of statistical knowledge about a category, a substance, a type of event, and so on.

Exemplars are bodies of knowledge about individual members of a category e. Exemplars are typically assumed to be used in cognitive processes that compute the similarity nonlinearly. Theories are bodies of causal, functional, generic, and nomological knowledge about categories, substances, types of events, etc. A theory of dogs would consist of some such knowledge about dogs. Theories are typically assumed to be used in cognitive processes that engage in causal reasoning.

Some phenomena are well explained if the concepts elicited by some experimental tasks are prototypes; some phenomena are well explained if the concepts elicited by other experimental tasks are exemplar; and yet other phenomena are well explained if the concepts elicited by yet other experimental tasks are theories.

As already noted, if one assumes that experimental conditions prime the reliance on one type of concept e. Strikingly, this conclusion is consistent with the emerging consensus among psychologists that people rely on several distinct induction processes. These arguments seems quite powerful at first glance. Pending my own research into the forest of citations embedded within this section, I will proceed with my theorizing as though the Heterogeneity Hypothesis is true.

Section 9. Neo-empiricism In contrast, neo-empiricism can be summarized with the following two theses: The knowledge that is stored in a concept is encoded in several perceptual and motor representational formats.

Conceptual processing involves essentially re-enacting some perceptual and motor states and manipulating those states. Imagery problem: it is hard to affirm that imagery is the only type of processes people have; people seem to have amodal concepts that are used in non-perceptual processes. Generality problem: some concepts magnitude of classes, tonal sequences have been empirically shown to be amodal, but neo-empiricists are bound to assume that all concepts are perceptual.

In which case a fourth, a perceptual process would be added to the hypothesis. Section Hybrid theories of concepts. Hybrid theories of concepts grant the existence of several types of bodies of knowledge, but deny that these form distinct concepts; rather, these bodies of knowledge are the parts of concepts. Multi-process theories While Machery is quick to cede that the evidence for many cognitive processes is incontrovertible, he retorts that dual-process theories traditionally fail to answer the following two issues: In what conditions are the cognitive processes underlying a given [module] triggered?

If the cognitive processes are [simultaneously] triggered, how does the mind [coordinate] their outputs? A legitimate criticism of dual-process theories.

What is known [regarding concepts and dual-process theories] can be presented briefly. It appears that the categorization processes can be triggered simultaneously, but that some circumstances prime reliance on one of the categorization processes.

Reasoning out loud seems to prime people to rely on a theory-based process of categorization. Categorizing objects into a class with which one has little acquaintance seems to prime people to rely on exemplars.

The same is true of these classes whose members appear to share few properties in common. Very little is known about the induction processes except for the fact that expertise seems to prime people to rely on theoretical knowledge about the classes involved. The above quote is instead an unrelated albeit interesting glimpse at how the different conceptualization modules may interact.

Open questions Machery identifies three directions for future inquiry: There are several prototype theories, several exemplar theories, and several theory theories. It remains unclear which theory [of each type] is correct. Too little attention has been given to investigating the nature of prototypes, exemplars, and theories. The factors that determine whether an element of knowledge about x is part of the concept of x rather than being part of the background knowledge about x.

How conceptualization may cohere with dual-process theories. Dual-process theory is actually more expansive than Machery allows. The concept of Default, defined in section 3, is a System1 behavior. Thus, the questions of Default vs. Manual Override, Concept vs. Background Knowledge… these swiftly become absorbed into the need for dual-process theorizing… Section Concept eliminativism Machery finally advances tentative philosophical and sociological reasons one might banish concept from our professional vocabulary.

Theoretical terms are often rejected when it is found that they fail to pick out natural kinds. To illustrate, some philosophers have proposed to eliminate the term emotion from the theoretical vocabulary of psychology on these grounds. The proposal here is that concept should be eliminated from the vocabulary of cognitive science for the same reason. The continued use of concept in cognitive science might invite cognitive scientists to look for commonalities… if the heterogeneity hypothesis is correct, these efforts would be wasted.

By contrast, replacing concept with prototype, exemplar, and theory would bring to the fore urgent open questions. Interesting suggestions. Novel prediction: damage to any one of these modules must inhibit only one of kind of conceptualization. I will close with a quote made by Couchman et.

It is true, it is profoundly important to know, and it is all right for the progress of science that the knife is Swiss-Army issue with multiple blades. Share this:.

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Machery: Précis of Doing without Concepts

Certainly, much of the psychological work he reviews explicitly addresses the nature of "concepts". The work Machery reviews consists of abundant experiments from the last forty years on various topics, including: the procedures people seem to employ in such processes as categorization and concept learning saying whether, e. Results in these areas have led many psychologists to reject what they regard as "the Classical View" that was inherited from traditional philosophy, according to which concepts have necessary and sufficient defining conditions known to competent users of them p. On the face of it, concepts are the stuff of which psychological claims and explanations are made. Generalizations and explanations of, e. Concepts seem to be natural kinds at least to the extent that they are the kinds of entity over which psychology generalizes.

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