Concepts are defined as abstract ideas. They are understood to be the fundamental building blocks of the concept behind principles, thoughts and beliefs.They play an important role in all aspects of cognition. As such, concepts are studied by several disciplines, such as linguistics, psychology, and philosophy, and these disciplines are interested in the logical and psychological structure of concepts, and how they are put together to form thoughts and sentences. The study of concepts has served as an important flagship of an emerging interdisciplinary approach called cognitive science.
In contemporary philosophy, there are at least three prevailing ways to understand what a concept is:
- Concepts as mental representations, where concepts are entities that exist in the mind (mental objects)
- Concepts as abilities, where concepts are abilities peculiar to cognitive agents (mental states)
- Concepts as Fregean senses, where concepts are abstract objects, as opposed to mental objects and mental states
Concepts can be organized into a hierarchy, higher levels of which are termed "superordinate" and lower levels termed "subordinate".