Concepts : a critical approach by Blunden, Andy

By Blunden, Andy

This booklet bargains an outline of theories of the concept that, drawing at the thinker Hegel and the Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky. suggestions are proven to be either devices of the brain and devices of a cultural formation.

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Sample text

Here the same universal term is associated with diffferent ‘defijinitions’ and correspondingly diffferent expected bundles of attributes as exemplars. This is not dissimilar to an interesting phenomenon which turned up in work on prototypes and exemplars: that subjects often had an ideal of the concept which did not pass as a typical instance of the concept, but rather one which was ideal in terms of the person’s professional or otherwise practical relation to the concept (Medin et al, 2007). Objects would then be judged better or worse instances of a concept according to how many of the features of the ideal they exhibit.

For example, people in our culture believe that the categories male and female are genetically determined, but to pick someone out as male or female we rely on characteristics such as hair length, height, facial hair, and clothing that represent a 28 chapter one mixture of secondary sexual characteristics and cultural conventions (Medin et al 2007: 8). This problem is a rock on which many theories of society and psychology have broken. Even if there is no fijinal or unambiguous essence, even if we have to take essence as a process rather than an entity, the distinction between essence and appearance is indispensable for a theory of concepts.

But what does the study of narrative tell us, not just about conceptual knowledge, but about concepts? It is neither necessary nor possible to enter here into the vast territory of narratology, which in any case has little to say about concepts as such, but I think that the following observations by Paul Ricoeur (1981) on the concept of plot are very suggestive. At this point, it is necessary to introduce the decisive concept of plot. To be historical, I shall say, an event must be more than a singular occurrence: it must be defijined in terms of its contribution to the development of a plot.

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