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ProtoSociology

Volume 30, 2013

Concepts - Contemporary and Historical Perspectives

Lewis Powell
Pages 221-237
DOI: 10.5840/protosociology20133012

Conceiving without Concepts
Reid vs. The Way of Ideas

Thomas Reid is notorious for rejecting the orthodox theory of conception (OTC), according to which conceiving of an object involves a mental relationship to an idea of that object. In this paper, I examine the question of what this rejection amounts to, when we limit our attention to bare conception (rather than the more widely discussed case of perception). I present some of the purported advantages of OTC, and assess whether they provide a genuine basis for preferring OTC to a Reidian alternative. I argue that Reid’s approach is no worse off than OTC at explaining intentionality of our conceptions, and suggest that OTC diverges less from Reid’s view than it would at first seem.

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