A Perspectivist Approach to Conceptual Spaces

  • Mauri KaipainenEmail author
  • Antti Hautamäki
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 359)


It is a part of everyday life that objects appear different from each perspective they are seen from. Ordinary language has plenty of expressions referring to abstract issues “from my point of view” or “your perspective”. In this article, we argue for a perspectivist approach to conceptual spaces, that is, an approach to concepts as entities whose definition depends on the perspective from which they are considered. We propose an interpretation of Gärdenfors’s conceptual space in terms of two components: a highly multi-dimensional ontospace whose simultaneous grasp is beyond or near the edge of human cognitive capabilities, and a lower-dimensional representational space that supports conceptualization of the ontospace in the manner Gärdenfors has suggested, however allowing several alternative conceptualizations, not just one. We suggest that a given ontospace is only accessible to the cognition by means of the epistemic work of exploring alternative perspectives. Further, we suggest that the overall understanding of a domain that emerges from seeing it from multiple perspectives is on a higher abstraction level than any particular single perspective. We stress that perspectives to the ontospace are individual and vary as a function of interest, situational contexts and various temporal factors. On the other hand, they are communicable, allowing interpersonally shared conceptualization.


Conceptual space Conceptualization Exploration Gärdenfors Perspectivism Ontospace Representational space Perspectives Relativism Determinables 



We thank Södertörn University, The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies, and Jyväskylä University for making this work possible, Peter Gärdenfors, Frank Zenker, and the anonymous referees for a number of good hints and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental StudiesSödertörn UniversityHuddingeSweden
  2. 2.The Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies, Faculty of ArtsUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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