The benefits of prototypes: The case of medical concepts

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Abstract
In the present paper, we shall discuss the notion of prototype and show its benefits. First, we shall argue that the prototypes of common-sense concepts are necessary for making prompt and reliable categorisations and inferences. However, the features constituting the prototype of a particular concept are neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for determining category membership; in this sense, the prototype might lead to conclusions regarded as wrong from a theoretical perspective. That being said, the prototype remains essential to handling most ordinary situations and helps us to perform important cognitive tasks. To exemplify this point, we shall focus on disease concepts. Our analysis concludes that the prototypical conception of disease is needed to make important inferences from a practical and clinical point of view. Moreover, it can still be compatible with a classical definition of disease, given in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions. In the first section, we shall compare the notion of stereotype, as it has been introduced in philosophy of language by Hilary Putnam, with the notion of prototype, as it has been developed in the cognitive sciences. In the second section, we shall discuss the general role of prototypical information in cognition and stress its centrality. In the third section, we shall apply our previous discussion to the specific case of medical concepts, before briefly summarising our conclusions in section four.
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Archival date: 2017-03-03
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2017-03-03

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