A defense of the classical view of *concepts
Issues involving concepts find their way into nearly all areas of philosophy, yet those issues are studied most directly by those working in metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language. Many of the relevant investigations involving concepts carry over into psychology as well, in the form of investigations into language learning, categorization, and mental representation. But what are concepts? First, concepts are what get expressed by lexical terms of language: For instance, in the sentence “Asparagus is green,” the predicate ‘is green’ expresses the concept of being green. Concepts are thus meanings (or intensions), in virtue of which whole propositions can be analyzed. Second, concepts are ontological categories. They are universals typically having multiple things in their possible-worlds extensions: For instance, the concept of being green is multiply instantiated by all of the actual or possible green things.
The traditional view of concepts takes a concept to have an analysis in the classical sense, where such an analysis is a specification of individually necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for its application. Furthermore, traditionally such an analysis is in principle discoverable a priori through the method of testing a candidate analysis by means of rational intuition. These are the basic theses of the classical view of concepts.
The primary thesis in this dissertation is that the classical view is correct. In defending this view, the general argument proceeds as follows. First, an account of the metaphysics of concepts is defended: Concepts are abstract ante rem universals. Next, the classical view itself is explicated in terms of a set of what I take to be the correct conditions on classical analysis. The best objections to the classical view are then considered and rejected. Neither empirical evidence from acts of categorization, the presence of vagueness in language, Quine's attack on the analytic/synthetic distinction, scientific essentialism, nor the problem of epistemic access to concepts provides good reason to think that the classical view is false. Moreover, the competing views of concepts, namely prototype theories, atomistic theories, theory-theories, and neoclassical theories are all inadequate as overall theories of concepts. Hence the classical view is correct.