The red herring and the pet fish: why concepts still can't be prototypes

Jerry Fodor, Ernest Lepore
1996 Cognition  
There is a Standard Objection to the idea that concepts might be prototypes (or exemplars, or stereotypes): Because they are productive, concepts must be compositional. Prototypes aren't compositional, so concepts can't be prototypes. However, two recent papers (Osherson and Smith, 1988; Kamp and Partee, 1995) reconsider this consensus. They suggest that, although the Standard Objection is probably right in the long run, the cases where prototypes fail to exhibit compositionality are relatively
more » ... exotic and involve phenomena which any account of compositionality is likely to find hard to deal with; for example, the effects of quantifiers, indexicals, contextual constraints, etc. In this paper, we argue that the Standard Objection to prototype theory was right after all: The problems about compositionality are insuperable in even the most trivial sorts of examples; it is therefore as near to certain as anything in cognitive science ever gets that the structure of concepts is not statistical. Theories of categorization, concept acquisition, lexical meaning and the like, which assume the contrary simply don't work. * Corresponding author. Fax: 908 445 0634. 1 A word on notation: we use capitals for names of concepts (as in "the concept COW". We use italics for names of semantic interpretations (as in "the concept COW expresses the property of being a cow". We assume that words and phrases express concepts (e.g., that the English phrase "brown cow" expresses the concept BROWN COW), and that the productivity of language is parasitic on the productivity of thought. We are thus explicit about drawing the language/thought distinction only when it matters to the discussion. Often we'll go back and forth between concepts and terms as convenience of exposition dictates. 0010-0277/96/$15.00 © 1996 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved SSDI 0010-0277(95)0694-X
doi:10.1016/0010-0277(95)00694-x pmid:8820389 fatcat:iocm23pburdzxorwdr3ctalttm