Home / Pages /

Loading Events

« Full list of events

  • This event has passed.

Concepts and Understanding Workshop

Research Project: Language and Mind

10th June 2016 - 11th June 2016

Event Navigation

A number of traditional strands in thinking about concepts closely associate concept possession and understanding, but there are a number of widely discussed cases in which a thinker seems to possess a concept despite only partially understanding or misunderstanding it. How can these cases be explained? What are the connections between possessing concepts and understanding them? How should the phenomena of partial understanding and misunderstanding shape our view of concepts and concept possession? What other cognitive structures can we appeal to in order to explain cases of understanding and misunderstanding? Are there different forms of partial understanding or misunderstanding?

Speakers include Derek Ball (St Andrews), George Bealer (Yale), Elisabeth Camp (Rutgers),Walter Pedriali (St Andrews), Gabriel Rabin (NYU Abu Dhabi). Sarah Sawyer(Sussex).


Friday 10th June

  • 09:30 – 10:00 Coffee/Tea
  • 10:00 – 11:30 Gabriel Rabin (NYU Abu Dhabi) Toward a Theory of Concept Mastery
  • 11:30 – 12:00 Coffee/Tea
  • 12:00 – 13:30 Derek Ball (St Andrews) Understanding and Revisionary Analysis
  • 13:30 – 14:30 Lunch
  • 14:30 – 16:00 Elisabeth Camp (Rutgers) Framing Truth and Perspectival Aptness
  • 19:00 Conference dinner

Saturday 11th June

  • 09:30 – 10:00 Coffee/Tea
  • 10:00 – 11:30 Sarah Sawyer (Sussex) Externalism, Ignorance and the Implications of Partially Grasped Concepts
  • 11:30 – 12:00 Coffee/Tea
  • 12:00 – 13:30 Walter Pedriali (St Andrews) Conceptions, Concepts, and Incomplete Understanding. Caught Between Two Ways of Being Infallible?
  • 13:30 – 14:30 Lunch
  • 14:30 – 16:00 George Bealer (Yale) Simple Concepts and Varieties of Misunderstanding

This event is open to all philosophers in Scotland and beyond and is made possible by the generous support of the Scots Philosophical Association and The Mind Association

To register for this event, please send an email to arche@st-andrews.ac.uk


Derek Ball

Understanding and Revisionary Analysis

Abstract: to follow

George Bealer

Simple Concepts and Varieties of Misunderstanding


  1. Misunderstanding the Concept of Analysis
    1. The Concept-Identity Version of the Paradox of Analysis
    2. Logical Setting and the Simple Concept Thesis
    3. Correcting the Core Misunderstanding of Concept-Identity Analyses
  2. Burgean and Local Misunderstanding of Concepts
    1. Burgean Misunderstanding
    2. Local Misunderstanding
    3. Local Misunderstanding and Explaining & Correcting A Priori Error
  3. The Need for Individualist & Anti-individualist Understanding: a Parable.

Elisabeth Camp

Framing Truth and Perspectival Aptness

Abstract: Ordinary intuitive thought is often perspectival in the rich sense that two thinkers may agree about a set of base-level facts while interpreting those facts in markedly different ways. Metaphors and other framing devices are rhetorically useful tools for inducing and manipulating perspectives. But because the effects of such framing devices frequently depart from the logical consequences of conceptual thought, they are often theorized as having a merely causal, purely associative influence on cognition. I articulate epistemic norms for assessing perspectives and frames which respect the fact that they are not true in any straightforward sense of the term.

Walter Pedriali

Conceptions, Concepts, and Incomplete Understanding. Caught Between Two Ways of Being Infallible?

Abstract: In the literature on incomplete understanding of concepts, it is customary to distinguish between conceptions and concepts, where conceptions are said to encase a thinker’s (more or less) tacit understanding of the concepts she deploys. In Frege’s terminology, the distinction is between the sense of a concept-word (the conception) and its reference (the concept). Tyler Burge has argued that Frege was committed to the view that thinkers may possess and deploy concepts that are only incompletely understood. On this view, a thinker might be credited with possessing a specific concept even if the sense attached to the relevant concept-word is confusedly grasped. In particular, Frege is said to have claimed that the senses of the fundamental notions of arithmetic remain stable and are stably grasped by thinkers throughout history. Fully competent practitioners grasp those senses clearly and distinctly, while uncertain practitioners grasp them, the very same senses, “as if through a mist”. There is thus said to be a common object of the understanding apprehended to a greater or lesser degree by thinkers of diverging conceptual competence. In this paper, I argue that the idea that senses could be grasped as a matter of degree is in tension with the constitutive theses that Frege held with regard to sense. Given those theses, there can in fact be no such thing as misty grasp of sense, since any uncertainty as to the logical features of a given sense will entail that one is getting hold of a different sense or of no sense at all. I consider various ways of resolving the tension, and conclude that Burge’s interpretation of Frege’s position cannot be defended as it stands. More generally, I argue that a proper account of incomplete understanding must avoid two equally undesirable results, namely, that we be forced to treat thinkers as infallible about concepts (as Burge’s view seems to entail) or as infallible about conceptions (as the views Burge opposes seem to entail). I close the paper by sketching a view that purports to avoid either result.

Gabriel Rabin

Toward a Theory of Concept Mastery

Abstract: This essay investigates the question “Under what conditions does a thinker fully understand, or have mastery of, a concept?” A thinker can possess, and think thoughts with, concepts he or she does not fully understand. I argue against three views of concept mastery, according to which mastery is a matter of holding certain beliefs, being disposed to make certain inferences, or having certain intuitions. None of these attitudes is either necessary or sufficient for mastery. I propose and respond to objections to my own “recognition view” of the conditions under which a thinker has mastery of a concept.

Sarah Sawyer

Externalism, Ignorance and the Implications of Partially Grasped Concepts

Abstract: In this paper, I argue that the most significant element of the content externalist view is the claim that concepts are things we come to possess over time and through experience; as a result, partial grasp of concepts is not only possible, but prevalent. I go on to suggest that this has theoretically significant implications for a range of philosophical issues in prima facie unrelated areas. I then look at moral concepts as a case study. The claim that moral concepts can be grasped partially allows us to resolve a debate concerning the nature of moral judgement and a debate concerning the nature of moral reasons.


10th June 2016
11th June 2016


School II
United College, St Salvator's Quad
St Andrews, KY169AL United Kingdom
+ Google Map

Other events in Language and Mind

Dec 2020: Metaphysics of Mind Workshop

Aug 2019: Fifth Philosophy of Language and Mind Network Conference

Apr 2019: Semantics/Arche Logic Group: No Meeting

Sep 2018: Language and Mind Seminar: Planning Meeting

Jun 2017: Slurring and Swearing Conference