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Inference and the structure of concepts
Inference and the structure of concepts
This thesis studies the role of conceptual content in inference and reasoning. The first two chapters offer a theoretical and historical overview of the relation between inference and meaning in philosophy and psychology. In particular, a critical analysis of the formality thesis, i.e., the idea that rational inference is a rule-based and topic-neutral mechanism, is advanced. The origins of this idea in logic and its influence in philosophy and cognitive psychology are discussed. Chapter 3 consists of an analysis of the relationship between inference and representation. It is argued that inference has to be studied from a pluralistic per- spective due to its dependence on different formats of representing information. The following four chapters apply conceptual spaces, a formal theory of concepts within cognitive semantics, to three concept-based inference-types. First, an explication of Sellars notion of material inference is advanced. Later, the model is extended to account for nonmonotonic inference by studying the role expectations in reasoning. Finally, a conceptual space-model of category-based induction is presented. This model predicts most of the empirical properties of this psychological phenomenon and subsumes some of the previous theories in psychology. It is stated that the explanatory fruitfulness of this new approach is evidence for the failure of the formality thesis and calls for a unified model of rational inference that puts semantics at center stage. The last chapter of the thesis discusses how inference and concepts interact in scientific reasoning, which makes constant use of hybrid symbolic structures for representing conceptual information. Stephen Toulmin’s notions of method of representation and inferential technique are developed and applied in a case study about the emergence of the notion of instantaneous speed during the passage from geometrical physics to analytical mechanics. It is claimed that this analysis provides support to the pluralistic perspective for theorizing about reasoning.
Inference, Reasoning, Conceptual Spaces, Concepts, Semantics
Osta Vélez, Matías
2020
English
Universitätsbibliothek der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Osta Vélez, Matías (2020): Inference and the structure of concepts. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Philosophy, Philosophy of Science and the Study of Religion
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Abstract

This thesis studies the role of conceptual content in inference and reasoning. The first two chapters offer a theoretical and historical overview of the relation between inference and meaning in philosophy and psychology. In particular, a critical analysis of the formality thesis, i.e., the idea that rational inference is a rule-based and topic-neutral mechanism, is advanced. The origins of this idea in logic and its influence in philosophy and cognitive psychology are discussed. Chapter 3 consists of an analysis of the relationship between inference and representation. It is argued that inference has to be studied from a pluralistic per- spective due to its dependence on different formats of representing information. The following four chapters apply conceptual spaces, a formal theory of concepts within cognitive semantics, to three concept-based inference-types. First, an explication of Sellars notion of material inference is advanced. Later, the model is extended to account for nonmonotonic inference by studying the role expectations in reasoning. Finally, a conceptual space-model of category-based induction is presented. This model predicts most of the empirical properties of this psychological phenomenon and subsumes some of the previous theories in psychology. It is stated that the explanatory fruitfulness of this new approach is evidence for the failure of the formality thesis and calls for a unified model of rational inference that puts semantics at center stage. The last chapter of the thesis discusses how inference and concepts interact in scientific reasoning, which makes constant use of hybrid symbolic structures for representing conceptual information. Stephen Toulmin’s notions of method of representation and inferential technique are developed and applied in a case study about the emergence of the notion of instantaneous speed during the passage from geometrical physics to analytical mechanics. It is claimed that this analysis provides support to the pluralistic perspective for theorizing about reasoning.