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christopher peacocke

Subject Philosophy » Epistemology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631192589.1993.x


Mental states have contents: a belief may have the content that I will catch the train, a hope may have the content that the prime minister will resign. A concept is something which is capable of being a constituent of such contents. More specifically, a concept is a way of thinking of something – a particular object, or property, or relation, or some other entity. Several different concepts may each be ways of thinking of the same object. A person may think of himself in the first-person way, or think of himself as the spouse of Mary Smith, or as the person located in a certain room now. More generally, a concept c is distinct from a concept d if it is possible for a person rationally to believe ‘ c is such-and-such’ without believing ‘ d is such-and-such’. As words can be combined to form structured sentences, concepts have also been conceived as combinable into structured complex contents. When these complex contents are expressed in English by ‘that…’ clauses, as in our opening examples, they will be capable of being true or false, depending on the way the world is. Concepts are to be distinguished from stereotypes and from conceptions. The stereotypical spy may be a middle-level official down on his luck and in need of money. None the less we can come to learn that Anthony Blunt, art historian and Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, is a spy; we can come to believe that ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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