Conceptual Scheme

The general system of concepts which shape or organize our thoughts and perceptions. The outstanding elements of our everyday conceptual scheme include spatial and temporal relations between events and enduring objects, causal relations, other persons, meaning-bearing utterances of others, and so on. To see the world as containing such things is to share this much of our conceptual scheme. A controversial argument of Davidson’s urges that we would be unable to interpret speech from a different conceptual scheme as even meaningful; we can therefore be certain a priori that there is no difference of conceptual scheme between any thinker and ourselves. Davidson daringly goes on to argue that since translation proceeds according to a principle of charity, and since it must be possible for an omniscient translator to make sense of us, we can be assured that most of the beliefs formed with the commonsense conceptual framework are true.”

Excerpted from: Blackburn, Simon. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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