The making of an abstract concept: Natural number

Susan Carey

in The Making of Human Concepts

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780199549221
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191724152 | DOI:
The making of an abstract concept: Natural number

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This chapter argues for three points: First, it denies that nonhuman animals or human infants lack the capacity to represent abstract concepts. In particular, it argues that the initial state includes several systems of core cognition with long evolutionary histories. Core cognition includes abstract concepts with conceptual content. Second, nonetheless, there are discontinuities in conceptual development at two different levels of generality. At a general level, most human concepts differ from those embedded in core cognition in many ways, and, at a specific level, core cognition does not have the resources to represent most specific abstract concepts. Third, it characterizes one class of learning mechanism that underlies the discontinuities of interest: Quinian bootstrapping. With this analysis in hand, the chapter speculates on some aspects of conceptual representations unique to humans. These points are illustrated with a single case study of the making of the human capacity to represent natural number.

Keywords: abstract concepts; core cognition; conceptual development; quinian bootstrapping; conceptual representations; natural number

Chapter.  14562 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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