Concept empiricism: vehicle, meaning and intentionality
- In the following Magisterarbeit I am going to develop a Concept Empiricist model of conceptual thought, which is in its technical core primarily inspired and motivated by Larry Barsalou‘ s Perceptual Symbol Systems Theory (PSST) (1999, 2008a). But it is not a theory of concepts in the genuine sense only, but it also expands naturally on related topics like the ontology of mind and the problem of intentionality. This is not arbitrarily chosen, but a natural consequence of any contemporary Concept Empiricist theory, for those theories are in kind direct outgrowths of an embodied approach to cognition which yields these consequences – the natural extension to related topics – as will be shown. The roadmap for the Magisterarbeit is going to look like this: First I will delineate the embodied cognition framework. Within embodied cognition there is a plethora of differing attempts at explaining the diverse phenomena of higher and lower cognition which differ in the meanwhile tremendously from each other. Therefore it will be very useful to set clear boundaries between the differing approaches, which range from strong neural embodiment on the one side to a very promiscuous extended mind hypothesis on the other side, in order to make a clear case for Concept Empiricism. It will be also very helpful to set my favoured version of grounded cognition off against classical attempts at the phenomena which are to be explained. Following that I am going to present Larry Barsalou‘s Perceptual Symbol Systems Theory in more detail. I will do that to an extent which allows for an appropriate discussion of concept related phenomena, but which is not too lengthy. I will spare the reader with unnecessary psychological or neurobiological details as long as it is not really necessary for explaining or clarifying the phenomena with which I deal here. Having done this I will discuss at great length conceptual meaning. In doing so I will present a presentational theory of meaning which is anti-realist, internalist and imaginistic. In advertising for this theory I will recur to conceptual methods, intuition as well as to the empirical record. Next and related to this I will develop a resemblance based theory of intentionality which differs also widely from the already established theories of intentionality so far given. Indeed it possess a feature which makes it very distinct and this is, besides its reliance on pattern mapping, the statistical grounding of resemblance which allows a cognitive theory of resemblance which is definite and therefore not open to the counterarguments generally mashalled against related theories, which stress the importance of resemblance. A very distinctive feature of this theory of intentionality is additionally that intentionality is seen as a capacity which emerges naturally form the mental mechanism involved. As we will see, this is a distinctive advantage of it in comparison to other proposal in the field. A discussion of the ontology of mental states follows which is however primarily a discussion of mechanistic explanations and Bechtel‘s and McCauley‘s Heuristic Identity Theory (HIT). Those theories from philosophy of science and philosophy of cognitive science do not only deliver models for the ontology of mental states, but also epistemic criteria for evaluating a theory as superior or inferior. Especially the idea of productive continuity plays a role of pivotal importance in my Magisterarbeit. It might be a bit unfortunate that that an important consideration is discussed nearly at the end of the Magisterarbeit, since I refer to it very often, however, I considered it as equally unfortunate to delay the discussion of meaning and intentionality, which is already protruded by the overview chapter and the more technical parts, even more. Therefore I plead the reader to refer to later parts of the Magisterarbeit when it is necessary in order to understand earlier parts. In the course of writing I have gotten second thoughts regarding the adequacy of an ontology of mental states altogether, especially from the background of the theory of meaning and intentionality delivered here. Therefore I tried to accommodate for ontological concepts by means of a tentative phenomenological interpretation of them. Similar ideas influenced my deliberations regarding meaning too. I hope that this transition towards Phenomenology runs smoothly and that the high level of coherence which is my primary concern and something which I always strive for first is preserved. Further, I have dedicated a main chapter of the Magisterarbeit for possible and actual critics of the ideas brought forth by me. Besides the more classic standard objections there you can find a recent critique of the authors on which I refer most often. Naturally I try to refute any single criticism brought forth and I hope that the reader will approve my objection to the objections. I will round off the Magisterarbeit with some concluding remarks and prospects for future research.