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Dynamic Conceptual Semantics

A Logico-Philosophical Investigation into Concept Formation and Understanding

Renate Bartsch

The book presents a theory of concept formation and understanding that does not make use of a notion of an innate mental language as a means of concept representation. Instead, experimental concepts are treated semantically as stabilizing structuring of growing sets of data, which are sets of experienced satisfaction situations for expressions, and theoretical concepts are based on coherent sets of general sentences held true. There are two kinds of structures to be established. First, there are general concepts by means of similarity sets under perspectives, which grow towards maximal sets with a stabilized internal similarity degree, and these stabilized similarity sets represent a concept, which is understood as an equivalence class of such sets with respect to the internal similarity. Second, there are historical concepts, especially individual concepts as sets of situations connected to each other by contiguity relationships, such as spatial, temporal and causal relationships.This basically data-oriented vision of concept formation gives rise to a theory of understanding new situations and expressions by integrating new data into established sets of data salva stability, or by extending the conceptual structure in a metaphorical or metonymical way. The theory provides a way to understand what identity between propositional attitudes amounts to, especially how people can have more or less the same belief. A comparison with connectionist models of concept formation shows the intended parallels in flexibility and context-addressability.

Renate Bartsch is Full Professor in the Philosophy of Language Institute of Language, Logic, and Computation, Department of Philosophy, University of Amsterdam.


  • Introduction
  • Preliminaries
    • The Frame for Regular Use of an Expression
    • Satisfaction Situations and Language Learning
    • The Definition of Notions of Semantic Correctness
    • The Second Level of Concept Formation
  • 1 Concept Formation: its Basis and Structure
    • 1.1 The First Level of Concept Formation: Quasi-concepts and Concepts
    • 1.2 The Second Level of Concept Formation: Explicated Concepts, i.e., Theoretical and Formal Concpets
  • 2 Concept Formation: the Construction of New Concepts
    • 2.1 Concept Composition and the Generation of New Concepts
    • 2.2 Generating Polysemy on the Experimental Level: Creative Metaphors and Menonymies
    • 2.3 Lexical Understanding in Concept Composition
    • 2.4 A General Outline of Understanding
  • 3 Knowledge and Understanding
    • 3.1 Syntactic Understanding in Concept Composition
    • 3.2 Understanding Logical Categories: Quantifiers and Negation
    • 3.3 The Identity of Concepts across Possibilities
    • 3.4 The Identity of Concepts across Counterfactual Possibilities
    • 3.5 The Identity of the Conceptual System across Changing Knowledge
    • 3.6 Epistemic Attitudes: Holding True, Finding Acceptable, Understanding
    • 3.7 Interaction between Language Use, Knowledge and Concept Formation
  • 4 Correction in Concept Formation
    • 4.1 Correction Caused by Reality and Intersubjectivity
    • 4.2 Kinds of Correction
    • 4.3 Correction, Reorganization, and Conceptual Change
  • 5 Conceptual Semantics and Propositional Attitudes
    • 5.1 Structured Propositions as Contents of Attitudes
    • 5.2 Identity of Beliefs in Formal and in Conceptual Semantics
    • 5.3 Intentional Contents in Dynamic Conceptual Semantics
    • 5.4 Intentionality, Partiality and Constructivist Approaches
    • 5.5 Propositional Attitudes and Partial Conceptual Systems
    • 5.6 Conclusion
  • 6 Concept Formation and Connectionist Models
    • 6.1 An Outline of Constructionist Concept Formation
    • 6.2 Different Types of Conceptual Maps
    • 6.3 Similarity Spaces, Similarity Measures, and Perspectives
    • 6.4 Generalization over Context Dependent Uses
    • 6.5 Objectivization and Objectivity
    • 6.6 Quantitative Aspects of Concept Formation
    • 6.7 Conclusion
  • 7 Summary and Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Subject Index


ISBN (Paperback): 1575861240 (9781575861241)
ISBN (Cloth): 1575861259 (9781575861258)
ISBN (Electronic): 1684000017 (9781684000012)

Subject: Linguistics; Semantics; Concepts

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