The University of Arizona

Events & News

Cog Sci Brown Bag Seminar

DateFriday, September 11, 2009
Time12:00 pm
LocationGS 906
SpeakerSusan Carey
AffiliationDept of Psychology, Harvard University

The Origin of Concepts

ABSTRACT: As a matter of logic, a theory of conceptual development has three components: a specification of the innate representational repertoire, a description of the differences between the initial and adult repertoire, and a characterization of the learning processes that underlie the transition from the initial to the final state. My talk defends three theses. 1 )Contrary to many theories (ranging from the British Empiricists', through Piaget's and Quine's, to many modern cognitive scientists') the initial representational repertoire goes beyond sensorimotor primitives and includes representations with conceptual content. 2) Contrary to many continuity theorists, such as Pinker, Macnamara, or Fodor, conceptual development includes episodes of radical discontinuity. 3) One learning mechanism that can achieve such qualitative changes is a learning mechanismI dub "Quinian bootstrapping." I illustrate these three theses through a case study of the origin of the capacity to represent natural number.