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Concepts and Conceptual Change

Paul Thagard
Synthese
Vol. 82, No. 2, Epistemology and Cognition, Part I (Feb., 1990), pp. 255-274
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20116749
Page Count: 20
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Concepts and Conceptual Change
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Abstract

This paper argues that questions concerning the nature of concepts that are central in cognitive psychology are also important to epistemology and that there is more to conceptual change than mere belief revision. Understanding of epistemic change requires appreciation of the complex ways in which concepts are structured and organized and of how this organization can affect belief revision. Following a brief summary of the psychological functions of concepts and a discussion of some recent accounts of what concepts are, I propose a view of concepts as complex computational structures. This account suggests that conceptual change can come in varying degrees, with the most extreme consisting of fundamental conceptual reorganizations. These degrees of conceptual change are illustrated by the development of the concept of an acid.

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