Sortal Concepts: A Reply to Xu
Wiggins (David)
Source: Wiggins (David) - Continuants: Their Activity, Their Being, and Their Identity
Paper - Abstract

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Editors’ Abstract1

  1. (This essay, revised) is a sortalist2 commentary on Fei Xu's account of how particular substances can be singled out. It emphasizes the central importance of the determinable concept object of some kind or other (to be determined).

  1. This Chapter is a response to Fei Xu’s Paper3 in Mind and Language, Volume 12, Issue 3-4, September 1997, pp 365–392, entitled “From Lot’s Wife to a Pillar of Salt: Evidence that Physical Object is a Sortal4 Concept”.
  2. Xu’s abstract is as follows:-
    • A number of philosophers of language have proposed that people do not have conceptual access to ‘bare particulars’, or attribute-free individuals (e.g. Wiggins, 1980). Individuals can only be picked out under some sortal5, a concept which provides principles of individuation6 and identity.
    • Many advocates of this view have argued that object is not a genuine sortal7 concept. I will argue in this paper that a narrow sense of ‘object’, namely the concept of any bounded, coherent, three-dimensional physical object that moves as a whole (Spelke, 1990) is a sortal8 for both infants and adults.
    • Furthermore, object may be the infant's first sortal9 and more specific sortals10 such as cup and dog may be acquired later in the first year of life. I will discuss the implications for infant categorization studies, trying to draw a conceptual distinction between a perceptual category and a sortal11, and I will speculate on how a child may construct sortal12 concepts such as cup and dog.


Originally in Mind and Language 12, 1997, pp. 413-21

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Footnote 3:

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