[MaFLa] reminder:invitation to György Gergely`s talk at the CEU Philosophy department - October 6, 4.30 PM

Krisztina Biber Biberk at ceu.hu
Mon Oct 5 10:03:20 CEST 2009

The CEU Philosophy Department cordially invites you to a talk 
(as part of its Departmental Colloquium series)
György Gergely (CEU) 
Psychological Essentialism: The Origins of Representing Artifact Kinds

Tuesday,  6 October 2009, 4.30 PM, Zrinyi 14, Room 412

‘Psychological Essentialism’ (Gelman 2003; Medin & Ortony, 1989) is
a doctrine in current-day cognitive developmental science according to
which - as a result of evolutionary adaptation - the human mind makes
the basic innate assumption that individuals of a given kind have hidden
essences with causal and rich inferential properties that determine the
existence of the members of that kind, their suface properties and
causal powers. The evolved essentialist interpretational and
representational stance about kinds and their members clearly serves
adaptive purposes in conceptual development, but it doesn’t depend on
essentialism being true in a metaphysical sense about natural kind

While many agree that natural kinds are conceptualized and represented
by young children in an essentialist manner from very early on, there is
a debate whether artifact kinds are also subject to an initial
essentialist construal or not. Kelemen & Carey (2007) propose that the
essentialist representation of artifact kinds in terms of derived
intentionality of the creator is a function of the child’s
construction of the Design Stance around 5 years, before which arifacts
are not represented in terms of an inherent kind-defining proper
function, but rather understood in terms of its context-dependent and
changing episodic functional uses. I shall present new evidence from a
series of object individuation studies demonstrating for the first time
that 10-month-old preverbal infants can be induced in ostensive
communicative contexts to assign the demonstrated functional use of a
novel artifact object as the essential function of the artifact kind
that the object is represented as a member of. Another important
implication of the present studies is that they challenge the earlier
proposal (Xu & Carey) that linguistic labeling is the ‘royal road’
for individuating sortal kind representations for referents. It is
argued that it is ostensive communicative reference (rather than naming
by verbal labels per se), which may trigger sortal kind assignment and
the interpretation of the demonstrated properties of deictically
identified particular referents as being enduring generic kind-relevant
properties that identify the referent kind.

Kriszta Biber
Department Coordinator
Philosophy Department
Tel: 36-1-327-3806
Fax: 36-1-327-3072
E-mail: biberk at ceu.hu 
MaFLa - Hungarian philosophers' mailing list
Archives & Help: http://phil.elte.hu/mafla

More information about the MaFLa mailing list