Difference between revisions of "Concepts"

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; Whoa! What sort of question is that? Don't try to put me down! The sentence doesn't make any sense to me, but it's Durkheim and who am I to say it doesn't make any sense.
 
; Whoa! What sort of question is that? Don't try to put me down! The sentence doesn't make any sense to me, but it's Durkheim and who am I to say it doesn't make any sense.
 
: It's no put down, just the opposite. We have to read as Durkheim's peers. He was a person like you and I, no less, no more. His language should make sense, not because he's "Durkheim," but because we expect a writer to write meaningfully. If he seems not to, so we have to think about what he wrote to see what sense we can make of it, and if we can't make sense of it, say so.
 
: It's no put down, just the opposite. We have to read as Durkheim's peers. He was a person like you and I, no less, no more. His language should make sense, not because he's "Durkheim," but because we expect a writer to write meaningfully. If he seems not to, so we have to think about what he wrote to see what sense we can make of it, and if we can't make sense of it, say so.
; OK. I see several concepts in the sentence—''the division of labor'', ''societies'', maybe ''the last century'' and ''this law''. What doesn't make much sense is the idea of these societies ''submitting'' and doing so ''unwittingly''.  
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; OK. I see several concepts in the sentence—''the division of labor'', ''societies'', maybe ''the last century'' and ''this law''. What doesn't make much sense is the idea of these societies ''submitting'' and doing so ''unwittingly''.
 
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: Why doesn't it make sense that they submit unwittingly?
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; Persons can submit unwittingly, and I suppose lots of people might. I think it is difficult for a government to submit unwittingly, but I guess it might be tricked into submission by a super sly opponent, but how does the division of labor ''force submission'' or societies become ''aware'' of a law? It's a manner of speaking.
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: Right. To grasp what Durkheim was trying to say we need to unpack its meaning, The key phrase, a concept, is "the division of labor." What is going on with that concept?
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; Well, it means a process through which the members of a group of people specialize in their work, this person doing one kind of task and another a different kind, and together they produce more than they would if each person did the full range of tasks.
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: Good it is an active process dividing work up into specialties.
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; I guess we can say that the concept, "the-division-of-labor," is a verb meaning "to divide work up into specialties and to allocate it to persons according to their talents."
  
  

Revision as of 07:52, 11 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! The sentence doesn't make any sense to me, but it's Durkheim and who am I to say it doesn't make any sense.
It's no put down, just the opposite. We have to read as Durkheim's peers. He was a person like you and I, no less, no more. His language should make sense, not because he's "Durkheim," but because we expect a writer to write meaningfully. If he seems not to, so we have to think about what he wrote to see what sense we can make of it, and if we can't make sense of it, say so.
OK. I see several concepts in the sentence—the division of labor, societies, maybe the last century and this law. What doesn't make much sense is the idea of these societies submitting and doing so unwittingly.
Why doesn't it make sense that they submit unwittingly?
Persons can submit unwittingly, and I suppose lots of people might. I think it is difficult for a government to submit unwittingly, but I guess it might be tricked into submission by a super sly opponent, but how does the division of labor force submission or societies become aware of a law? It's a manner of speaking.
Right. To grasp what Durkheim was trying to say we need to unpack its meaning, The key phrase, a concept, is "the division of labor." What is going on with that concept?
Well, it means a process through which the members of a group of people specialize in their work, this person doing one kind of task and another a different kind, and together they produce more than they would if each person did the full range of tasks.
Good it is an active process dividing work up into specialties.
I guess we can say that the concept, "the-division-of-labor," is a verb meaning "to divide work up into specialties and to allocate it to persons according to their talents."




  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.