Percepts and Concepts,

Fall 2005



Michael Strevens

Ned Block


The ‘@’ has been replaced by ‘AT’ in these addresses to foil spam-bots


Wednesdays 4:30-6:30, Philosophy Seminar Room






Many of the links below require NYU library privileges.  If you are logging in from an NYU campus account, you will have no difficulty.  If you are logging in from off campus, first go to and put in your ID and password.  Or else use a proxy account.  If you have privileges at another university library, you can use the information given below to get to these items via your library web site. 



September 7: Organizational Meeting




September 14 (NB)

Phenomenal Concepts, Physicalism and the Explanatory Gap


The first few sessions of the course will assume a background of recent debates about the metaphysics of mind, most importantly, Kripke’s and Chalmers’ arguments to the effect that the conceivability of zombies and disembodied minds shows that physicalism is false.  Some of these ideas are explained in chapters 2,3 and 4 of Papineau’s book, which is linked to below. If you are unfamiliar with these debates, read that right away.  Everyone should have read Kripke’s Naming and Necessity, Harvard University Press, 1980.  An excerpt which pertains to the argument for dualism is reprinted in N. Block, O. Flanagan and G. Güzeldere, The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates (MIT Press, 1997).  It would also be useful to be familiar with the first 3 chapters of David Chalmers’ The Conscious Mind, Oxford 1997.  They are available on the web with a password which will be mentioned in class and can also be obtained by emailing Anupum Mehrotra ( if you are a student in the class.

Another option would be to read the first three chapters of Joe Levine, Purple Haze, Oxford 2001


September 21 (NB)

Phenomenal Concepts and Recognitional Concepts


September 28 (NB)

Quotational-Indexical Model of Phenomenal Concepts


Background reading for this class: Papineau, Thinking about Consciousness, Chapters 2 and 3.  The material in these chapters has mostly been covered in previous classes, but if you aren’t sure you understand that material, it would be best to read Chapters 2 and 3.


October 5 (NB)

Phenomenal Concepts: Epistemology and Metaphysics





Warning: the EZProxy links have a habit of going bad without warning. If they are not functioning, you will need to take the long route through the online library catalog (e.g. BobCat at NYU).




October 12 (MS)


Š   Prinz, J. J., Furnishing the Mind: Concepts and Their Perceptual Basis, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2002, chapters 5 and 6 (pp. 103–164), except 111–121, i.e. everything except §5.22, 5.23 (For those who do not have an NYU account, this book is available on-line via Cognet (here is the NYU link) which you should be able to get from your university library.)  Warning: you have to read this on the screen


October 19 (MS)

Causalism and Essentialism 

Š   Gelman, S. A., J. Coley, and G. Gottfried, Essentialist beliefs in children: The acquisition of concepts and theories, in L. Hirschfeld and S. A. Gelman (eds.), Mapping the Mind, pp. 341–365, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1994 

Š   Strevens, M., The essentialist aspect of naive theories, Cognition 74:149–175, 2000 


October 26 (MS)

Fodor and Millikan

Š   Fodor, J. A., Concepts: Where Cognitive Science Went Wrong, Chapter 7 (on natural kind concepts), Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998  The full text of this book is available at Oxford Scholarship On-Line. Go to the ‘O’ section of the Bobst on-line databases, choose Oxford Scholarship On-Line, put in your web ID, and then choose Fodor’s book

Š   Millikan, R. G., A common structure for concepts of individuals, stuffs, and real kinds: More Mama, more milk, and more mouse, Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21:55–65, 1998 


November 2 (MS)

Artifact Concepts 

Š   Malt, B. C. and E. C. Johnson, Do artifact concepts have cores?, Journal of Memory and Language 31:195–217, 1992 

Š   Bloom, P., Intention, history, and artifact concepts, Cognition 60:1–29, 1996




November 9 (NB)

Non-conceptual Content


November 16 (NB)

More Non-conceptual Content


November 30 (MS)


Š   Dretske, F., Knowledge and the Flow of Information, Blackwell, Oxford, 1981, first half of chapter 6 (pp. 135–153). In Y.H. Gunther (ed) Essays on Non-Conceptual Content, MIT (2003) which is available on Cognet.

Š   Martin, M., Perception, concepts, and memory, Philosophical Review 101:745–764, 1992. In Y.H. Gunther (ed) Essays on Non-Conceptual Content, MIT (2003) which is available on Cognet.


December 7 (MS)


Š   Peacocke, C., A Study of Concepts, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1992, chapter 3 The whole book is available from Cognet.  In addition, Chapter 3 is in Y.H. Gunther (ed) Essays on Non-Conceptual Content, MIT (2003) which is available on Cognet.

Š   Peacocke, C., Nonconceptual content: Kinds, rationales, and relations, Mind and Language 9:419–429, 1994. In Y.H. Gunther (ed) Essays on Non-Conceptual Content, MIT (2003) which is available on Cognet.


December 14 (NB &MS)

Dretskean Account of Non-Conceptual Content



Requirements for course 2 10 page papers, due October 26th and December 14th