Knowing Lions and Understanding “Lion”: Two Jobs for Concepts in Ockham?

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Abstract

Externalist readings of Ockham are currently most prominent in the literature. For instance, an externalist interpretation with respect both to mental content and the meaning of expressions is advocated by prominent scholars. In this paper, I want to argue that although this externalist picture is certainly not incorrect, it is nonetheless incomplete. As I show, Ockham distinguishes between two ways of acquiring concepts: one of them can be accounted for in wholly externalist terms while the other involves the understanding of linguistic expressions. According to the reading of Ockham I suggest here, it turns out that we can have two kinds of concepts pertaining to the same kind of things. But only one of the two is completely determined by external relations. Thus I conclude that the externalist picture of Ockham calls for some additions.

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