, Volume 82, Issue 2, pp 255–274

Concepts and conceptual change

  • Paul Thagard

DOI: 10.1007/BF00413664

Cite this article as:
Thagard, P. Synthese (1990) 82: 255. doi:10.1007/BF00413664


This paper argues that questions concerning the nature of concepts that are central in cognitive psychology are also important to epistemology and that there is more to conceptual change than mere belief revision. Understanding of epistemic change requires appreciation of the complex ways in which concepts are structured and organized and of how this organization can affect belief revision. Following a brief summary of the psychological functions of concepts and a discussion of some recent accounts of what concepts are, I propose a view of concepts as complex computational structures. This account suggests that conceptual change can come in varying degrees, with the most extreme consisting of fundamental conceptual reorganizations. These degrees of conceptual change are illustrated by the development of the concept of an acid.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Thagard
    • 1
  1. 1.Cognitive Science LaboratoryPrinceton UniversityPrincetonU.S.A.

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