Conceptual Schemes

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  • Created by: Katie
  • Created on: 07-05-14 10:37

Conceptual Schemes and their philosophical implica

  • Humans don’t all have the same concepts
  • There are two distinguishable elements to our experience: the data of the senses, and how this data is interpreted by our concepts.
  • By the latter, it implies that different people would impose different conceptual scheme if they have different concepts
  • Conceptual relativism claims that because our conceptual scheme affects how people experience and understand reality, people with different conceptual schemes have different realities.
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An implication: Conceptual relativism

  • We assume people have different 'realities' because we can’t translate theirs to ours 
  • It assumes language 'constructs' reality to say reality is relative to our conceptual schemes 
  • It would mean that reality is dependent on language, which is not true - we express our realities by language


  • A proposition in one conceptual scheme can be true without needing to be express in another set of scheme
  • This means that there isn’t one set of schemes with how the world looks. 
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An implication: Conceptual relativism II

  • An objection is that people argue that the relation between experience and conceptual schemes doesn't make sense
  • Benjamin Whorf says that languages organize our experience of the world.
    • This is like trying to organise a wardrobe itself and not the clothes in it
  • If a conceptual scheme organizes our experience, then our experience must be comprised of individual experiences
  • Conceptual scheme all has a set of experiences in common
  • We can pick out individual experiences like smelling a flower, feeling cold, etc.
  • Any conceptual scheme with these sorts of experiences will end up similar to our own, despite the concepts one holds and their language and so translation between two different conceptual schemes will be possible
  • There may be small parts that can’t be translated, but this only leads to very mild form of conceptual relativism 
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An implication: Conceptual relativism III

  • We can’t necessarily combine conceptual scheme 
  • An example is that we can have more or less colours in our vocabulary, and so can describe things in a different ways.
  • The Greeks thought that there was only one colour - bronze, and that everything else was different shades of bronze.
  • This doesn’t mean they saw everything in what we call 'bronze', it’s just how they describe their experiences
  • We can therefore only state things depending on the concepts we have
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