A theory of concepts and concepts possession

Philosophical Issues 9:261-301 (1998)
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Abstract

The paper begins with an argument against eliminativism with respect to the propositional attitudes. There follows an argument that concepts are sui generis ante rem entities. A nonreductionist view of concepts and propositions is then sketched. This provides the background for a theory of concept possession, which forms the bulk of the paper. The central idea is that concept possession is to be analyzed in terms of a certain kind of pattern of reliability in one’s intuitions regarding the behavior of the concept. The challenge is to find an analysis that is at once noncircular and fully general. Environmentalism, anti-individualism, holism, analyticity, etc. provide additional hurdles. The paper closes with a discussion of the theory’s implications for the Wittgenstein-Kripke puzzle about rule-following and the Benacerraf problem concerning mathematical knowledge.

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George Bealer
Yale University

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