From Conceptual Spaces to Predicates

  • Jean-Louis DessallesEmail author
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 359)


Why is a red face not really red? How do we decide that this book is a textbook or not? Conceptual spaces provide the medium on which these computations are performed, but an additional operation is needed: Contrast. By contrasting a reddish face with a prototypical face, one gets a prototypical ‘red’. By contrasting this book with a prototypical textbook, the lack of exercises may pop out. Dynamic contrasting is an essential operation for converting perceptions into predicates. The existence of dynamic contrasting may contribute to explaining why lexical meanings correspond to convex regions of conceptual spaces. But it also explains why predication is most of the time opportunistic, depending on context. While off-line conceptual similarity is a holistic operation, the contrast operation provides a context-dependent distance that creates ephemeral predicative judgments (‘this book is not a textbook’, ‘this author is a linguist’) that are essential for interfacing conceptual spaces with natural language and with reasoning.


Conceptual spaces Contrast Predication Language of thought Aspect 



This research is based on past collaborations with Laleh Ghadakpour and with Damien Munch. I would like to thank Damien Munch for his fruitful comments. Part of this research is funded by the “Chaire Modélisation des Imaginaires, Innovation et Création” (


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Network and Computer Science DepartmentTelecom ParisTechParisFrance

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