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A concept is a referencer to a thing that is a member of a conceptual framework (of beliefs).




  • (Carey, 2009) ⇒ Susan Carey. (2009). “The Origin of Concepts." Oxford University Press, ISBN:0199887918
    • QUOTE: Concepts are units of thought, the constituents of beliefs and theories, and those that interest me here are roughly the grain of single lexical items. Indeed, the meanings of words are paradigm examples of concepts. I am concerned with the mental representation of concepts; I use phrases such as “the infant’s concept animal” to mean the infant’s representation of animals. I assume representations are states of the nervous system that have content, that refer to concrete or abstract entities, to properties, to events. I do not attempt a philosophical analysis of mental representations; I will not try to say how it is that some states of the nervous system have symbolic content. Such a theory would explain how the extension of a given representation is determined, as well as providing a computational account of how that representation fulfills its particular inferential role, how it functions in thought.1 Here I merely assume that such a theory will be forthcoming. In the pages to come, I work backwards from behavioral evidence for some concept’s extension and inferential role to characterize that concept’s content and to specify something of its nature and format of representation.

      There are many different types of mental representations and one challenge to cognitive science is to find the principled distinctions among them. Different types of representations may well have theoretically important differences in origins, developmental trajectories, types of conceptual roles, and relations to their extensions. Also, some theories of conceptual development posit shifts in kinds of mental representations available to children of different ages — from a perceptual similarity space to natural kind concepts (Quine, 1977), from sensori-motor to symbolic representations (Piaget, 1954), from implicit to explicit representations (Karmiloff-Smith, 1990), for examples. Such theories depend, of course, on defensible distinctions among types of mental representations.

      I will join forces with the many writers who draw a distinction between perceptual representations, on the one hand, and conceptual representations, on the other. Chapter 2 examines thesis that infants begin with perceptual representations and only construct conceptual representations later in development. Differentiating the perceptual from the conceptual is difficult. There are probably many different distinctions at work here, and most are probably ends of continua rather than categorical. An intuitive characterization of perceptual representations as what things in the world look like, sound like, feel like, taste like, contrasts these with conceptual representations as what things is the world are.. Distinctive properties of perceptual representations include, first of all, that their extensions are fixed by virtue of innate, modular, sensory input analyzers. There are innate shape analyzers, phoneme detectors, color detectors, motion detectors, and so forth. That representations of red have the content red is ensured by evolution, by how color vision works. Second, perceptual representations have very little in the way of inferential role. Almost nothing else follows from the fact that something is red. Third, and related to the above two points, perceptual representations are inferentially close the output of sensori-analyzers. Consider the difference between the representation of red or loud, on the one hand, and the representation of electron or life, on the other. Although we certainly can sometimes identify electrons or living things perceptual evidence, there is a long inferential chain between a path in a cloud chamber to the presence of an electron, or from what a bacteria colony on a petri dish looks like to the fact that it contains living things.

  • (WordNet, 2009) ⇒
    • S: (n) concept, conception, construct (an abstract or general idea inferred or derived from specific instances)
  • Wiktionary
    • < Latin conceptus (“‘a thought, purpose, also a conceiving, etc.’”) < concipere, pp. conceptus (“‘to take in, conceive’”); see conceive.
    • Noun
      • 1. Something understood, and retained in the mind, from experience, reasoning and/or imagination; a generalization (generic, basic form), or abstraction (mental impression), of a particular set of instances or occurrences (specific, though different, recorded manifestations of the concept).
      • 2. (programming) In generic programming, a description of supported operations on a type, including their syntax and semantics.
    • Synonyms: conception, notion
    • Derived terms: concept map
    • Related terms: conceive, conceptionary, conceptual, misconceive, misconception



  1. Eric Margolis; Stephen Lawrence. "Concepts". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab at Stanford University. Retrieved 6 November 2012. 
  2. The Ontology of Concepts — Abstract Objects or Mental Representations?, Eric Margolis and Stephen Laurence
  3. Cambribdge Dictionary of Philosophy, ed. Audi