Unifying Three Notions of Concepts


Edward N. Zalta


Theoria (Special Issue: Context, Cognition and Communication; Tadeusz Ciecierski and Paweł Grabarczyk, guest eds.), 87(1) (February 2021), 13–30; first online 05 June 2019, doi: 10.1111/theo.12187


In this talk, I first outline three different notions of concepts: one derives from Leibniz, while the other two derive from Frege. The Leibnizian notion is the subject of his “calculus of concepts” (which is really an algebra). One notion of concept from Frege is what we would call a “property”, so that when Frege says “x falls under the concept F”, we would say “x instantiates F” or “x exemplifies F”. The other notion of concept from Frege is that of the notion of sense, which played various roles within Frege's theory. This notion of concept can be generalized and, as such, accounts for our intuitive talk of “x's concept of …”, where the ellipsis can be filled in with a name for individual, a property, or a relation, etc. After outlining these three notions, I then discuss how (axiomatic) object theory offers a distinct, precise regimentation of each of the three notions.

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