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The Making of Human Concepts$
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Denis Mareschal, Paul C. Quinn, and Stephen E.G. Lea

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199549221

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199549221.001.0001

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The making of an abstract concept: Natural number

The making of an abstract concept: Natural number

Chapter:
(p.265) Chapter 13 The making of an abstract concept: Natural number
Source:
The Making of Human Concepts
Author(s):

Susan Carey

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199549221.003.013

This chapter argues for three points: First, it denies that nonhuman animals or human infants lack the capacity to represent abstract concepts. In particular, it argues that the initial state includes several systems of core cognition with long evolutionary histories. Core cognition includes abstract concepts with conceptual content. Second, nonetheless, there are discontinuities in conceptual development at two different levels of generality. At a general level, most human concepts differ from those embedded in core cognition in many ways, and, at a specific level, core cognition does not have the resources to represent most specific abstract concepts. Third, it characterizes one class of learning mechanism that underlies the discontinuities of interest: Quinian bootstrapping. With this analysis in hand, the chapter speculates on some aspects of conceptual representations unique to humans. These points are illustrated with a single case study of the making of the human capacity to represent natural number.

Keywords:   abstract concepts, core cognition, conceptual development, quinian bootstrapping, conceptual representations, natural number

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