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Philosophy of Mind 101: Inquiries & Conceptual Theories of Mind

This 101 series enucleates the topics of the inquiries on philosophy of mind and cognitive science from a critical perspective. It covers the topics of behaviourism, mind-body identity, functionalism and computationalism theories thoroughly; and brings more recent concepts, methodologies, and theories to light. Throughout the series, these theories will be critically analysed. This elaboration as well as the critical analysis is planned to help the reader to have an understanding and comprehension of the mental world, concepts and processes, and different approaches to this realm. The main concerns of this series ask questions such as 'what is the mind?' , 'how does it work?', 'why does it work?', 'what is its purpose if there is one?'. Questions regarding how one understands the world around them amazed thinkers throughout history. This series will take the reader to a journey of different theories and perspectives regarding the mind and mental beings.


'Philosophy of Mind 101' will be mainly divided into the following chapters of the content:


Philosophy of Mind 101: Inquiries & Conceptual Theories of Mind


This article will end the series Philosophy of Mind 101 with a brief presentation of what has been said about the mind in this series and will present further ways of cognitive science in the inquiry on mind and the theories that refer mind as a conceptuality. Firstly, to get an understanding of concepts, the approach of conceptualization in cognition and sense of relation-making of conceptual understandings. The terms will be explicated. The conceptual cognition revolves around concepts. Concepts occur in the mind and classify the categories of the entities according to the property defining and changing standards of the classifications (Croft, 2004). Categories are the cumulative sets of entities that occur actually in the physical world. In this sense, by the abstraction of the process of conceptualization, ideas and the theories regarding the entities occur. The ideas are the properties or the features regarding the entities, and theories are the systematic ideas that define and signify the relations and the properties of the entities and events in question (Zima, 2007). As concepts occur according to the classifications of the entities regarding the theories that are made with the consideration of the properties; not strictly defining in an atomistic way, nor macroscopically projecting what the concept in question signifies. The concepts initiate the abstraction and the inspection of abstract ideas. On the other hand, regarding the attributions of concepts, there are two main approaches as nativism and empiricism. In the light of these information and conveyance, conceptualization and the conceptual theories of mind are going to be described and elaborated on. Conceptual theories of mind regard mind as a concept. Thus, according to the theory, the mind is an abstract idea (Reed, 1972). To grasp this idea, the term concept will be examined and the relations of concept with categories and theories will he put forth. In addition, to conclude the series, recent theories of mind and further inquiries of philosophy of mind will be presented.


Brankovic. D. (2019). A Chaotic State. [Photo].
Figure 1. Brankovic. D. (2019). A Chaotic State. [Photo].

Previously on the series Philosophy of Mind 101 in the former articles, to briefly mention, the topic of mind has been elaborated on the perspectives of ontology, epistemology, on a social and a cultural perspective. Different perspectives, such as dualism, idealism, and materialism regarding mind are mentioned. While the idealist versions propose a Platonic idea of mind; the dualist approach, firstly proposed by Descartes, describes the individual as consisting of two distinct substances one being the faculties of mind and the spirit all together, which will proceed existing, and the other being body, which is the part of the individual that connects the faculties of the mind to the physical existence and seize existing after death (Descartes, 2008). In the following articles, the materialist versions of thought on mind are also elaborated on in this series by describing and discussing functionalist, computationalist versions of theory of mind and psychological approaches that take the matter from the developmental and evolutionary perspectives in the scope of the field cognitive science. Following this investigation on mind, this article will elaborate on the conceptual theories of mind and more recent inquiries regarding different understandings of mind and cognition.


Concepts enable the cognition of the categories as a set of knowledge (Goguen, 2005). This relation of concepts with categories generated through the process of abstraction, which occurs in a method of theorization for human-beings (Murphy, 1985). By the theorists of developmental or evolutionary psychologists or cognitive scientists, this faculty of mind is thought to be unique to human-beings. What is referred to as a concept in this sense is an abstract idea (Murphy, 1985). These ideas are categorizations according to different standards of generalizations. In an epistemological sense, the theories and ideas form a bridge between actuality and the knowledge of concepts (Croft, 2004). There are two major positions regarding concepts (Elman, 1996). One is the empiricist view which proposes that the concepts are not inherent to mind and are learned through experience, and the other is the nativist view that regards most of the concepts as inherent to the mind and as systems of the mental ground that they operate in. For the former, concepts are multipurposed mechanisms of cognition. For the latter, these intrinsic properties are exceptional systems that are case-specific and acting on the mental ground as a mechanism of complicated processors of information (Elman, 1996).


Unknown. (n. d.). Concept Maps. [Digital Art].
Figure 2. Unknown. (n. d.). Concept Maps. [Digital Art].

The actuality is signified by the notion that is referred to as categories here (Croft, 2004). To clarify this perspective, it could be said that categories are the sets of recognized actuality. The question of whether categories are inherent to the objective reality or a part of reality that is built by the conceptual perception of the cognition of patterns arises when categories are taken as the cumulative occurrences of objects or phenomenon. This question is also the point of the conceptual theories of mind in their reflection to the former inquiries of mind where mind is idealized as an entity of divinity (Reed, 1972). In this way, the conceptual theories of mind reflect on the inquiries of mind as a category mistake in self-cognition, where the abstraction of mind is reflected to a rather macro level than the mind as a phenomenon. Category mistakes are the false representations of phenomenon or objects as different concepts arising from wrong abstractions (Ryle, 2000). An instance for phrasal visage of category mistakes occurs by associating an entity with an absurd property that is in contradiction with its category e.g., “chestnuts run slowly” while “chestnuts” is an object and does not run, the property of running is assigned to them. In the case of minds, the conceptual theories refer to the mind as an abstract idea which is known to be recognized by humans, and they concern the theories that regard minds differently are interpreting minds either in an atomistic way, or idealistic way. Hence, in the sense of conceptuality, the concept is required to be rectified by an association with the corresponding categorical entity. In this sense, ideas are representations of the categories in the mental faculties (Croft, 2004).


Both the idealism arising from the macroscopic reflection of mental properties and the atomism arising from strictly defining mental properties leads to a categorical mistake because the fluidity of the category does not permit the definition to be maintained in the defined form since it is ever-changing (Carey, 2015). A water container made of clay could be a good analogy for explaining this type of leakage of conceptual definition of a category. When water is put into a clay material, water runs out of the little pores of the clay, the clay container perspires and the water evaporates, so that water reduces and does not stay inside the clay container. The definition that is tried to encapsulate the concept of mind is represented by the porous clay container. As this is the case for the clay container, the case for the definitions of the category of mental faculties is similar for the concept of mind (Ryle, 2000). Where the concept is defined as an atomistic or idealistic entity, the definition comes short of reflecting the category, hence the conceptualization does not fit the definition. However, if the definition is made considering mind as an ever-changing and evolving entity, the definition does not act as a limiting container but the reflection of the properties of the entity in question. In this sense, the definition of mind as a concept is a definition that is free from the strains of being an atomistic or an idealistic definition. As a concept includes the instances by developing the idea, conceptual cognition of mind comes forth as actual as possible (Croft, 2004).


Unknown. (n. d.). Philosopher. [Photo].
Figure 3. Unknown. (n. d.). Philosopher. [Photo].

Theories are the standards of these mental imagery of categorizations (Zima, 2007). Theoretical knowledge of objects or phenomenon are the knowledge of the standards of classification of these ideas. Herewith, the categories of the objects and phenomenon are classified according to the theoretical knowledge of ideas which turn out to be the concepts (Croft, 2004). Thus, concepts are the generalized knowledge of the ideas of occurrences that are classified according to the theoretical knowledge, which are the standards of these classifications, so that the higher level of cognition and reasoning could be made regarding the phenomenon or objects in question (Carey, 2015). In this way, cognition of objects and events are enabled by conceptualizing (Murphy, 1985) and conceptual knowledge of entities facilitate inquiries of research on relations of the categories of conceptuality.


Conceptualization of events occur in a sense of relation making between the objects and their change so that the cognition of an event such as an occurrence of a phenomenon can be conceptualized by recognition of different objects and how they change, intervene, and interfere with each other (Carey, 2015). For instance, conceptualization of the categories of plants, and herbivores enable the concepts of PLANTS and HERBIVORES (the concepts are demonstrated as uppercase words as they are formally shown (Thorpe, 2022)). Therefore, an event such as herbivores eating plants could be conceptualized as a cumulative knowledge of the concept according to the theory of what a plant is, what a herbivor is, and with the relation of the action of eating. Hence, the concept of the event, HERBIVORES-EATING-PLANTS, occurs in mind according to the knowledge of the concepts (Thorpe, 2022). The single plant, that is digested by the single herbivore that acts, disappears in the action, but the relations of the concepts are maintained. In this sense, the everchanging nature of the single entities is preserved by conceptualization, and for event conceptualization it is relation making, property describing and specifying (Reed, 1972). Thus, conceptualization of mind as a process does not atomize or idealize mind and mental faculties, and the cognition of mind as an abstract idea could occur as the concept MIND.


Rose, Helen. (2019). Your Mind is a Galaxy. [Digital Art].
Figure 4. Rose, Helen. (2019). Your Mind is a Galaxy. [Digital Art].

The inquiries regarding mind have been in the outlooks of psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, anthropology, computer science and philosophy (Miller, 2003). And more recently, these inquiries are tried to be connected in a pursuit of making sense of mind and cognition under the umbrella of cognitive sciences. Each of these fields have their own approach to the properties and the faculties of mind. Hence, connecting these approaches could lead to an extensive conceptualization of mind. On the other hand, while the ages old questions of philosophy of mind regarding what mind is, whether there is a free will or not, and/or the understanding of self are still examined. The more recent questions are about the relation of mind and brain in the fields of cognitive sciences and the evolution and development of the mind (Pinker, 1997). These inquiries are pursued in a rather scientific manner, and the thinkers take a reductive positivist approach; reducing mind to the physical properties, or a non-reductive physicalist approach, which is taking mind as another entity than merely a brain or bodily function (Kim, 1995). On the other hand, the research on near death experiences, and mindfulness is another spectrum of research for the philosophy of mind. While mindfulness and near death experiences could be a part of the scientific inquiries (Ergas, 2013)(Luce, 2013), the other inquiries are in the scope of research for metaphysics, spiritualism, and religion.


To conclude, the terms are defined in order to provide an understanding as well as the conceptualization approach to mind and cognition, and relation-making sense of conceptual understandings. The central notion of conceptual cognition, concepts, form in the mind and classified in accordance with their change and properties. The categories are presented as the constitutions of sets of entities that are present in the physical world. In this way, concepts and theories about the entities are created through the abstraction of the conceptualization process, and theories are the systematic ideas that define and signify the relations and properties of the entities and events in question. The occurrence of the initiation of the abstraction process and the examination of abstract ideas through concepts are examined. Since they arise from classifications of entities based on theories that are developed with consideration of their properties rather than strictly defining in an atomistic manner or macroscopically projecting what the concept in question signifies, the conceptual understanding reflects a more fluid and more flexible description than atomistic and macroscopic understandings. In addition, the two primary schools of thought, nativism and empiricism, are elaborated. Mental concepts are viewed as in conceptual theories of mind. Consequently, the theory holds that mind is abstract ideas and conceptual. In order to understand this notion, the term 'concept' is examined, along with its relationships to categories and theories.


ajijchan. (2021). Introspection. [Digital Art].
Figure 5. ajijchan. (2021). Introspection. [Digital Art].

With this article, the series Philosophy of Mind 101 has come to a conclusion. As the article is a sequent to the previous episodes of the series, the topic is also the follow-up of the previous topics. The series follows a chronological order of the evolution of inquiries of mind. The theories are presented and examined critically throughout the series. As the philosophical inquiries are cumulative and ongoing inspections, philosophy of mind also is such an inquiry. The questions accumulate and multiply as the field progresses and the more knowledge is obtained, the more queries there are. Hence, as this series is a brief start in the following inquiries in the field, it is also a reflection on how the field is shaped and how it could proceed. The series ends with the hopes of the series being a good source of information and with candid gratefulness in debt of gratitude owed to the editors of this series and the referenced competent authors.


Bibliographic References

Carey, S. (2015). Why Theories of Concepts Should Not Ignore the Problem of Acquisition. Disputatio, 7(41), 113–163. https://doi.org/10.2478/disp-2015-0008


Croft, William; Cruse, D. Alan (2004). "Categories, concepts, and meanings". Cognitive Linguistics. Cambridge University Press. pp. 74–77. ISBN 0521661145.


Descartes, R., & Moriarty, M. (2008, July 6). Meditations on First Philosophy: with Selections from the Objections and Replies (Oxford World’s Classics) (1st ed.). Oxford University Press.


Ergas, O. (2013). "Mindfulness in education at the intersection of science, religion, and healing". Critical Studies in Education. 55: 58–72. doi:10.1080/17508487.2014.858643. S2CID 144860756.


Goguen, J. (2005). What Is a Concept?. In: Dau, F., Mugnier, ML., Stumme, G. (eds) Conceptual Structures: Common Semantics for Sharing Knowledge. ICCS 2005. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 3596. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/11524564_4


Kim, J. (1995). "Mind–Body Problem", Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Ted Honderich (ed.). Oxford:Oxford University Press.


Luce, J. M. (2013). Chronic Disorders of Consciousness Following Coma. Chest, 144(4), 1381–1387. https://doi.org/10.1378/chest.13-0395


Miller, George A. (2003). "The cognitive revolution: A historical perspective". Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 7 (3): 141–144. doi:10.1016/S1364-6613(03)00029-9. PMID 12639696. S2CID 206129621.


Murphy, G. L., & Medin, D. L. (1985). The role of theories in conceptual coherence. Psychological Review, 92(3), 289–316. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.92.3.289


Pinker, S. (1997) How the Mind Works. tr. It: Come Funziona la Mente. Milan:Mondadori, 2000. ISBN 88-04-49908-7


Reed, S. K. (1972). Pattern recognition and categorization. Cognitive Psychology, 3(3), 382–407. doi:10.1016/0010-0285(72)90014-X


Rethinking Innateness: A Connectionist Perspective on Development (Neural Network Modeling and Connectionism) Second edition by Elman, Jeffrey L., Bates, Elizabeth A., Johnson, Mark H., Ka (1996) Hardcover (Seco). (n.d.). The MIT Press.


Ryle, G., & Dennett, D. C. (2000). The Concept of Mind (1st ed.). University of Chicago Press.


Thorpe, L. (2022). Atomic Event Concepts in Perception, Action and Belief. Journal of the American Philosophical Association, 8(1), 110–127. doi:10.1017/apa.2020.43


Zima, Peter V. (2007). "What is theory? Cultural theory as discourse and dialogue". London: Continuum (translated from: Was ist Theorie? Theoriebegriff und Dialogische Theorie in der Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften. Tübingen: A. Franke Verlag, 2004).

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