CONCEPTS: FISH | BANANAS

Banana_DentataPhilosophers are sometimes faced with tackling the complex issues of ‘concepts’. Over the years, as an aid towards a better grasp of ‘concepts’, various standard examples have been developed.

Take, for instance, PET FISH and MONSTER BANANAS (Note: the use of SMALL CAPS is traditional in the philosophical literature when dealing with CONCEPTS).

Although their occurrence together in the philosophical literature is fairly rare, there are examples. See for instance the PhD thesis of Dr. Jussi Jylkkä, (a postdoc researcher at the University of Turku, Finland). His thesis, entitled Concepts and Reference. Defending a Dual Theory of Natural Kind Concepts (published in Reports from the Department of Philosophy, vol. 21. Turku, Finland: Painosalama.) explains :

“…in forming the concept PET FISH, the concept PET affects feature dimensions of FISH , such as size and cuteness, but leaves the coat dimension intact.”

and :

“I suppose that it is theoretically possible that a speaker could possess a complex concept like MONSTER BANANA simply in virtue of possessing its constituent prototypes MONSTER , and BANANA (and grasping some basic logic), without forming a representation of it at all: the complex concept would refer to whatever triggers both the prototypes MONSTER and BANANA (in the actual world, of course, a speaker can easily imagine what kind of an object a monster banana might be). “

NOTES:

[1] The PET FISH example was first developed in 1981 in the paper by Osherson, D. N., & Smith, E. E. On the adequacy of prototype theory as a theory of concepts. (Cognition, 9, 35 – 58.)

[2] The origins of the MONSTER BANANA CONCEPT are less easily traced (readers’ assistance gratefully accepted.)

[3] Dr. Jylkkä not only studies CONCEPTS, he also plays THE BLUES.






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