Volume 30, 2013
Concepts - Contemporary and Historical Perspectives
A Critique of David Chalmers’ and Frank Jackson’s Account of Concepts
David Chalmers and Frank Jackson have promoted a strong program of conceptual analysis, which accords a significant philosophical role to the a priori analysis of (empirical) concepts. They found this methodological program on an account of concepts using two-dimensional semantics. This paper argues that Chalmers and Jackson’s account of concepts, and the related approach by David Braddon-Mitchell, is inadequate for natural kind concepts as found in biology. Two-dimensional semantics is metaphysically faulty as an account of the nature of concepts and concept possession. It is also methodologically flawed as a guideline for how to study scientific concepts. Proponents of two-dimensional semantics are criticized for not taking seriously semantic variation between persons and for failing to adequately account for the rationality of semantic change. I suggest a more pragmatic approach to natural kind term meaning, arguing that the epistemic goal pursued by a term’s use is an additional semantic property.