Background Reading


An excellent resource for emprically-oriented work on concepts is Margolis and Laurence, Concepts, an anthology of papers with a detailed, helpful introduction.


The session on empiricism will assume some familiarity with classical empiricist theories of concepts, of which I take Locke’s theory to be the paradigm. Read An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book II chapters 2, 3, 12, 23:1–19, 24; Book III chapter 3:12–20.


I also assume some familiarity with the arguments that Kripke and Putnam level against classical empiricism. Kripke’s Naming and Necessity is already on the background reading list. Putnam’s arguments are in “Is Semantics Possible?” (in Margolis & Laurence) and “The Meaning of ‘Meaning’”. For a succinct overview of this literature, you might try Devitt and Sterelny’s philosophy of language textbook Language and Reality.


Some further background that is not necessary but that may be helpful, especially if you are attracted to empiricism, is the prototype theory of concepts (loosely based on Wittgenstein’s ideas about “family resemblance”). Prototype theory will be discussed in class, but only briefly. Read Rosch, “Principles of Categorization” or other articles in the same section of the Margolis & Laurence collection.


The earlier chapters of Prinz’s book also discuss both classical empiricism and the prototype view.