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Articulating the WorldConceptual Understanding and the Scientific Image$
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Joseph Rouse

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226293677

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226293707.001.0001

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What Is Conceptual Understanding?

What Is Conceptual Understanding?

(p.39) Two What Is Conceptual Understanding?
Articulating the World

Joseph Rouse

University of Chicago Press

This chapter begins with an overview and a taxonomy of philosophical accounts of intentionality and conceptual understanding. Differences among these views often cause confusion: debates between John McDowell and Hubert Dreyfus over whether practical and perceptual skills are conceptually articulated exemplify such confusion from different understandings of the “conceptual.” Two distinctions together provide an instructive taxonomy of four philosophical approaches to the topic. First, is the difference between conceptual and non-conceptual performances determined by an operative cognitive process, or does it mark a normative status within a larger pattern of practice? Second, does the analysis start with an “empty” conceptual content that is then fulfilled or disconfirmed in perception or action, or begin instead with an agent’s perceptual and practical interaction with the world before asking how that interaction is conceptually articulated? The chapter then builds upon John Haugeland’s arguments against several strategies in this taxonomy to show why the best approach is to analyze intentionality and conceptuality as a normative status that conceptually articulates an agent’s practical and perceptual engagement with the world. The chapter also introduces a third important distinction among philosophical approaches: is intentionality or conceptual understanding a distinctively human phenomenon, or are humans and non-human animals continuous in this respect?

Keywords:   intentionality, conceptual understanding, conceptual content, perception, action, conceptual normativity, John McDowell, Hubert Dreyfus, John Haugeland, non-human animals

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