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AISB opportunities Bulletin Item

CALL FOR PAPERS: Special issue on Artifact Categorization

-Special issue of "Review of Philosophy and Psychology" journal -Guest editors: Massimiliano Carrara and Daria Mingardo

How do we decide that a certain item is a chair? How do we establish that objects as diverse as a 
throne, a glider and a papasan chair may all be categorized as chairs? More generally, how do we 
categorize artifacts?

The topic of artifact categorization has recently attracted the attention of both philosophers 
and psychologists. However, these two communities have so far carried out their studies in a 
rather independent way. The aim of this special issue is to promote an interdisciplinary approach 
on artifact categorization.

In the recent literature, philosophers on the one hand tend to argue that we categorize chairs 
and pens, smartphones and cars on the basis of one fundamental property: some think that such 
fundamental property is the artifact?s function (e.g. Kornblith, Dennett, Rudder Baker), others 
the designer?s intentions (e.g. Vaesen and van Amerongen), others still a combination of structural 
properties and function (e.g. Houkes and Vermaas). On the other hand, the conflicting results of 
psychological experiments on artifact categorization (e.g. Rips, Malt and Johnson, Ahn, Chaigneau 
et al) seem to press either to adopt much more nuanced positions, or to straightforwardly conclude 
that no coherent account of artifact categorization can be given (Malt and Sloman). A significant 
exception to these attitudes in the psychological literature is Bloom, for whom we categorize 
artifacts on the basis of intended category membership.

The present issue invites contributions that integrate existing results and purport to move 
forward the discussion on artifact categorization. We welcome contributions capable of enhancing 
interdisciplinary discussion, e.g. theoretical papers that discuss/critically exploit experimental 
data on artifact categorization, papers that compare philosophical and experimental methods of 
inquiry on artifact categorization, and papers that while presenting new empirical findings on 
the topic, suggest how these can address philosophical questions.

Examples of potential topics are (the list is not exhaustive):
- According to e.g. Malt and Sloman, we categorize artifacts in many different ways, depending on 
the cognitive task we are involved in. But is there a way of categorizing artifacts that subjects 
consider as fundamental? Can psychological experiments offer an answer to this question? Or is it 
a question that calls for a purely theoretical research?
- Is the category to which an object is intended to belong by the author/designer commonly taken 
into account by the subjects in the categorization tasks? If so, to what extent?
- Do functional criteria prevail over formal ones in the categorization of artifacts? And in any 
case, which type of functional criteria prevail? For instance, do they consist in use functions or 
functions intended by the designer, or in some specification/integration of these two?
- How are we to characterize the ?intended function(s)? of an artefact produced by a complex 
intentional process involving many mental states, including non conscious and non-propositional ones?
- From a philosophical point of view, the categorization of artifacts is standardly conceived along
the prototypical lines offered by the categorization of natural objects and kinds. However, it has 
also been proposed that objects belonging to the same kind of artifact, unlike natural objects, do 
not share a common nature. What do the differences/analogies between (the categorization of) 
artifacts and natural kinds tell us about the semantics of the corresponding terms, i.e. of 
artifact kind terms and natural kind terms?

*Guest Authors
*The issue will include invited articles authored by:
Susan Gelman (University of Michigan)
Diego Marconi (University of Turin)
Pieter Vermaas (Delft University) and Wybo Houkes (Eindhoven University)

*Important dates
*Submission deadline: November 15, 2012
Target publication date: March 15, 2013

*How to submit
*Prospective authors should register at: to obtain a login and select
Artifact Categorization as an article type.
Manuscripts should be approximately 6,000 words. Submissions should follow the author guidelines 
available on the journal's website.

*About the journal
*The Review of Philosophy and Psychology (ISSN: 1878-5158; eISSN:
1878-5166) is a peerreviewed journal published quarterly by Springer and focusing on philosophical 
and foundational issues in cognitive science. The aim of the journal is to provide a forum for 
discussion on topics of mutual interest to philosophers and psychologists and to foster 
interdisciplinary research at the crossroads of philosophy and the sciences of the mind, 
including the neural, behavioural and social sciences. The journal publishes theoretical works 
grounded in empirical research as well as empirical articles on issues of philosophical relevance. 
It includes thematic issues featuring invited contributions from leading authors together with 
articles answering a call for paper.

*For any queries, please email the guest editors:,