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RE: [xmca] concepts
I have enjoyed reading your back and forth on this topic of concepts.
Examining the concept of concepts is indeed problematic, but it is the crux
of the whole issue. Social/individual, internal/external,
physiological/mental, concrete/abstract, etc.
You ended with this:
"But to sever completely the links between everyday discourse and scientific
discourse would be to prevent the informing of the former by the latter that
LSV found so important."
I would just like to go one further: severing the links between everyday
discourse and scientific discourse would prevent the former(everyday) from
informing the latter(scientific). There can be no higher psychological
processes, no scientific concepts without everyday concepts because it is
the specific and local nature of experience that informs all the others (and
is informed by the others as well). It is the dialogic nature of concepts
that makes them so fascinating and so powerful.
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On
Behalf Of Martin Packer
Sent: Sunday, April 10, 2011 11:33 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] concepts
On Apr 10, 2011, at 12:33 PM, Martin Packer wrote:
>>> Maybe the notion of a "concept" might be a bit like that of a "gene" in
the sense that a gene is a sort of functional unit, but it has no simple
material reality in itself.
Jay's opening sentence neatly illustrates the difficulty of eliminating
'concept.' He writes of 'the notion' of a concept - which is to say, to
write about concepts he has to employ a concept, namely that of 'concept'!
(If that seems odd, try reading some Frege!)
As the Stanford Encyclopedia article points out, no one has satisfactorily
defined a concept. But the seeming unavoidability of invoking something like
'concept' follows from the fact that we humans (and perhaps animals too;
another seemingly intractable debate) deal not so much with particularities
as with generalities. We talk and write not about this think and that thing,
but this 'kind' of thing and that 'type' of thing. We write not about the
specific concept of 'rabbit,' but about 'the notion' of concept.
As Henry James once wrote, "The intellectual life of man consists almost
wholly in his substitution of a conceptual order for the perceptual order in
which his experience originally comes." One may disagree with the separation
of the two order that James' words seems to suggest, but it seems
implausible to deny that there are *two* orders.
Do this order of generalities involve complex interrelations or systems, as
Jay suggests? Are they specified in practice, in ways that depend on
context? Yes, of course. I am deep in the middle of chapter 6 of T&S, and
LSV wrote of all this, 70 years ago. We have already discussed here his
notion [!] of a system of generality, represented metaphorically by lines of
longitude and latitude on a globe. He conceived of this system as operating
in acts of thought that actively grasp their objects. He saw both the
dependence of generalities on language, and their distinction.
Should we avoid, as Jay recommends, claiming that "there are concepts as
such"? I'm not sure what this claim would amount to. There are, and can
only be, "concepts for us." Should we avoid reifying concepts? Certainly!
Should we remove the term from all scientific discourse, leaving it only as
an "everyday locution"? That's a matter of taste, I suppose. But to sever
completely the links between everyday discourse and scientific discourse
would be to prevent the informing of the former by the latter that LSV found
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