Difference between revisions of "Concepts"

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: ''Concepts'' describe and construct mental actions through which we grasp, make sense of, explain, or interpret complex phenomena.  
 
: ''Concepts'' describe and construct mental actions through which we grasp, make sense of, explain, or interpret complex phenomena.  
 
; Wait, there's that term ''action''. Are we back with [[Verbs]]?
 
; Wait, there's that term ''action''. Are we back with [[Verbs]]?
: Yes, but I think in a somewhat different way.
+
: Yes, but I think in a somewhat different way. Agency figures into the matter differently with concepts. Verbs in the active voice indicate an action taking place through the intention of an agent trying to bring the action about. The intended action may not come to fulfillment for many reasons, but the agent's effort clearly takes place. Concepts allow us to think about active processes that are too complicated to clearly identify agency by postulating an ideal, fictitious agent for them.
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; Let's go slowly. Can you exemplify this idea of "an ideal, fictitious agent" and explain where you want to go with it?
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: Sure. You complained that you had difficulties with Emile Durkheim's ''Division of Labor in Society'' when you tried reading it the other day. Let's look at the first sentence—"Although the division of labour is not of recent origin, it was only at the end of the last century that societies began to become aware of this law, to which up to then they had submitted almost unwittingly." Does this make any sense to you?
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; Whoa! What sort of question is that? Don't try to put me down! It doesn't make any sense to me, but it's Durkheim and who am I to say it doesn't make any sense.
 +
: No, just the opposite. We have to take ourselves as Durkheim's peer. He was a person like you and I. His language should make sense, so we have to think about what he wrote to wee what sense we can make of it.
 +
 
  
  

Revision as of 16:05, 10 December 2019

Concepts—We think by grasping

Since about 1770, old words such as democracy, freedom, and the state have indicated a new horizon of the future, which delimits the concept in a different way; traditional topoi gained an anticipatory content that they did not have before.[1]
Uh-oh. This looks like it might be a bit hard. I thought concepts are universals that aren't supposed to change since about 1770. What's going on?
I don't think it will be too difficult. Concept has an old, original meaning, simply "something conceived in the mind; a notion, idea, image, or thought."[2] To be a notion, idea, image, or thought conceived in a mind, it must be so conceived at some time and place, and consequently it has a history. A lot of thinkers treat concepts that way—it actually avoids some hard problems and helps to clarify what living persons do in thinking about important matters.
Can you give me the gist of treating concepts in this way, skipping who those thinkers are and what they say.
Concepts describe and construct mental actions through which we grasp, make sense of, explain, or interpret complex phenomena.
Wait, there's that term action. Are we back with Verbs?
Yes, but I think in a somewhat different way. Agency figures into the matter differently with concepts. Verbs in the active voice indicate an action taking place through the intention of an agent trying to bring the action about. The intended action may not come to fulfillment for many reasons, but the agent's effort clearly takes place. Concepts allow us to think about active processes that are too complicated to clearly identify agency by postulating an ideal, fictitious agent for them.
Let's go slowly. Can you exemplify this idea of "an ideal, fictitious agent" and explain where you want to go with it?
Sure. You complained that you had difficulties with Emile Durkheim's Division of Labor in Society when you tried reading it the other day. Let's look at the first sentence—"Although the division of labour is not of recent origin, it was only at the end of the last century that societies began to become aware of this law, to which up to then they had submitted almost unwittingly." Does this make any sense to you?
Whoa! What sort of question is that? Don't try to put me down! It doesn't make any sense to me, but it's Durkheim and who am I to say it doesn't make any sense.
No, just the opposite. We have to take ourselves as Durkheim's peer. He was a person like you and I. His language should make sense, so we have to think about what he wrote to wee what sense we can make of it.





  1. Reinhart Koselleck, The Practice of Conceptual History: Timing History, Spacing Concepts (Todd Samuel Presner, trans., Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002) p. 5.
  2. OED, concept, I.1.