- (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).
- 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”.
- 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 individuation and identity.
- Many advocates of this view have argued that object is not a genuine sortal6 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 sortal7 for both infants and adults.
- Furthermore, object may be the infant's first sortal8 and more specific sortals9 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 sortal10, and I will speculate on how a child may construct sortal11 concepts such as cup and dog.
Originally in Mind and Language 12, 1997, pp. 413-21
Footnote 1: Footnote 3:
- I haven’t a copy of this paper.
- I presume Fei Xu is this this lady: Link, a cognitive psychologist at Berkeley specializing, inter alia, in “conceptual development, developmental psychology, cognitive development, language development, social cognition in infants and children”.
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