Betsy Speicher

Do concepts change?

207 posts in this topic

A correctly formed concept retains the same units with the same similarities and differences, but may require a more expansive definition to make the distinctions required within a new context of additional knowledge. That is not a "changed concept".

Quite so. That's what Ayn Rand said and I agree fully. But what if an innovator alters the similarities and differences?

Units are either similar or they are not, which depends on their nature. Innovators don't "alter" that.

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ewv wrote:
Ayn Rand addressed this topic over 40 years ago in IOE and at the Workshop. There is no such alleged "confusion in Objectivism", only amongst those who do not understand it.

I know ITOE and the workshops well on this point. Did Ayn Rand say a concept can't change? No. All she said is that the act of expanding one's knowledge or changing a definition doesn't change a concept and she's right. Let me emphasize that: I agree with her: expanding one's knowledge and changing a definition doesn't change a concept. Here is the quote from the workshop again:

Prof. H: It is easy to assume that when the definition changes, the concept changes.

AR: No, the context of your knowledge changes. When you know more, you select a different essential characteristic by which to define the object, because you now have to differentiate it more precisely. Your knowledge has expanded, but the concept doesn't change.

The similarities and differences according to which you originally formed the concept still remain. So you haven't changed your concept.

Now read those last two sentences carefully. How do you know expanding your knowledge or changing a definition hasn't changed the concept? Because:"The similarities and differences according to which you originally formed the concept still remain."

Right there she tells how you change a concept. You alter "the similarities and differences according to which you originally formed the concept."

No, she did not say that. She said that the similarities and differences still remain. She did not say to change a concept or to change the similarities and differences of the units, which are what they are, not what anyone "changes" them to be.

How do you do that? One way is to relax the standard of similarity and create a variant where the referents have more distant likenesses.

Concepts are not formed by "relaxing standards" to "create variants". This is not Objectivism.

As I have already pointed out, this is what was done to widen the concept "character." Its original limited range of referents--marks made by a sharpened stake—was expanded to include the written symbols of hundreds of languages made by anything from a pen to a computer's printer. The concept widened i.e., changed because the standard of similarity was altered.

Anyone who thought that the concept 'character' was defined by how 'marks' are made did not have a concept of 'character' at all, which is defined by its role in specifying written words, not 'marks' in dirt without regard for meaning. We are discussing concepts, not primitive savages operating on the perceptual level.

Alternatively a concept can be narrowed by tightening the differentiating criteria. The original concept of "deer" subsumed any animal that wasn't a fish or a bird. The variant of the concept most people know today is much more restricted. It refers only to members of the family (Cervidae) of ruminants that have horns/antlers and spotted young.

If the original concept was intended to be animals that weren't fish or birds, then the word usage changed, not the concept, and a new concept of deer was a subdivision, not a "changed concept". If it was intended to mean deer without knowledge of any other animals, then the concept still remained the same but the definition changed to account for distinguishing from other animals that were discovered.

I arrived at the same conclusion about how to change a concept as Miss Rand from first-hand research, years before I read her standard. So I'm convinced she's right. That is how you change a concept. Any variant of an existing concept is created by doing exactly what AR indicated had to be done.

Ayn Rand did not have that "conclusion" about how to change a concept and did not "indicate" what "had to be done", and you should stop attributing it to Objectivism. Whatever research you did, which is still unspecified, without knowing Ayn Rand's concept of 'concept', it tells you nothing about Ayn Rand. You did not "arrive at the same conclusion" because it is not her conclusion.

When I am convinced that she was right about something it is because I understand and agree with her explanation of her conclusion, not research done without knowing what she thought and then attributed to her even though she didn't say it.

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...the concept "character." Its original limited range of referents--marks made by a sharpened stake—was expanded to include the written symbols of hundreds of languages made by anything from a pen to a computer's printer.

I would still like to see Tom's answer to my question posed earlier, but I'm going to press on. Returning to the above quote from Tom's earlier post, I'd like to call "definition by non-essentials" on it. In addition to characters, "marks made by a sharpened stake" could refer to drawings in the dirt, scratches on skin, a line on the ground made by dragging the stake while walking, etc. On the other hand, a character (in the sense being used in this discussion, other definitions notwithstanding) is a very specific kind of mark, intended for visual communication of language (I'll leave a more precise definition for others to formulate - I think my meaning here is clear). That purpose clearly includes a letter printed on paper as a referent and, because "[a concept] includes all [instances that exist] at present, [that] have ever [existed] or will ever [exist]," such printed letters were in fact referents of the concept when it was first created, despite being unknown at the time. Thus the concept has not changed since its creation, though its definition surely has.

The difficulty, I think, lies in wrestling with questions such as, "How is it possible that the concept 'character,' in the mind of an ancient man who, for example, knows only Cuneiform produced by a stylus on clay tablets, refers to something that does not exist in his world, that he cannot conceive of, that will not exist for thousands of years in his future, and which may never exist?" (By "may never exist" I mean that, at that time, it was possible that printers would never be conceived of by anyone, ever.) I don't have an answer to that question that I can express in a form worthy of presentation here, so if anyone else does I would appreciate seeing it.

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As usual, the issue returns back to the Law of Identity. (This may seem objectionable for those who see high level abstractions as "vague", but really, it's very useful.)

There is no bypassing the fact that a changed entity is a different entity. The referents of a concept are what they are. If one claims that the referents of a concept have changed then one is not using the same concept. Or possibly: *one did not have a concept in the first place.* "The collection of things in my room at 1:15 p.m. on 2-4-2011" is a meaningful statement but it is not a concept - that particular grouping is actually a concrete, not an abstraction.

All concepts must have a word associated with them, a perceptual level "tag", but that does not mean that the same word cannot represent different concepts (homonyms, as ewv noted.) And, the same concept can be represented by different words as well (this is obvious: just think of various human languages and concepts which are identical but which have different utterances/spellings.) Attempting to seriously use a single word to refer to different referents (i.e. different concepts), in the same context, is simply the fallacy of equivocation, and it's a bad thing. (And using it non-seriously is simply constructing a pun.)

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What I see in Tom's idea that concepts change is a failure to distinguish between the meaning of words and the meaning of concepts.

The meaning of a word is the concept it denotes although the same word often denotes more than one concept. That's why dictionaries have multiple definitions with each definition denoting a different concept. The meaning of a concept are its referents and its referents are any existents, past, present, or future that have the characteristics that originally led to forming the concept.

What can lead to confusion is that word usage changes.

A given word can come to refer to more than one concept including concepts related to and derived from the original concept. When this happens, we have new concepts, not "changed" concepts. The only thing that has changed is which words denote which concepts.

Do you agree, Tom? If not, why not?

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The difficulty, I think, lies in wrestling with questions such as, "How is it possible that the concept 'character,' in the mind of an ancient man who, for example, knows only Cuneiform produced by a stylus on clay tablets, refers to something that does not exist in his world, that he cannot conceive of, that will not exist for thousands of years in his future, and which may never exist?" (By "may never exist" I mean that, at that time, it was possible that printers would never be conceived of by anyone, ever.) I don't have an answer to that question that I can express in a form worthy of presentation here, so if anyone else does I would appreciate seeing it.

After a good night's sleep, with my subconscious apparently working on this for me, let me make a first attempt at answering my own question:

Computer-printed figures that we know as instances of "character" were also referents of that concept at the time in history that the concept was first created because, were we able to show them to him (and after dispelling his confusion and possible shock over what paper is :)), that ancient man would easily recognize those figures as characters. In other words, once his observation and thinking were complete, he would conclude that the figures are instances of "character." He may want to identify them as a specialized sub-type of "character" and create a new concept for them (which would end in his creating a new word for the new concept), but most likely he would just qualify them with a phrase ("characters inked on paper," perhaps) just as we do ("computer-printed characters").

Another example:

You and I are Spanish explorers, in Florida for the first time. Here we have a never-before-encountered existent. (A particular sort of dark yellowish growth on a tree.) What is it? Is there an existing concept that "covers" it? (Fruit, perhaps?) If so, based on the new knowledge acquired by the examination of the existent, is it necessary to modify the definition of that concept to account for that new knowledge? (No, there's nothing about it that alters our general knowledge of fruit to warrant that.) Or would it be more appropriate to create a new concept that is a more general concept that subsumes both "fruit" and the new existent as immediate sub-types? (No, we already have something that subsumes fruit - "a structure of a plant"* - and this clearly fits within that.) What about a specialization or sub-type of the existing concept? (Yes, because it is not the same as any other fruit we've ever encountered.) Since the best choice is the latter, we will derive a definition for the concept. (A fruit [genus] which insert specific characteristics here [differentia].) We will then name the concept with a word. (Naranja - remember, we're Spanish :D.)

In neither example does any concept change. In the first case "character" is unaltered, a new instance of "character" is merely recognized as such. In the second, "fruit" is unaltered, and a new instance of "fruit" is not only recognized as such but is given its own, new concept, a sub-type of "fruit."

_____

*As far as I looked into it for this post this has no word thus is not a concept, though it may have a word I did not find. In any case that changes nothing about my point.

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...the concept "character." Its original limited range of referents--marks made by a sharpened stake—was expanded to include the written symbols of hundreds of languages made by anything from a pen to a computer's printer.

I would still like to see Tom's answer to my question posed earlier, but I'm going to press on. Returning to the above quote from Tom's earlier post, I'd like to call "definition by non-essentials" on it. In addition to characters, "marks made by a sharpened stake" could refer to drawings in the dirt, scratches on skin, a line on the ground made by dragging the stake while walking, etc. On the other hand, a character (in the sense being used in this discussion, other definitions notwithstanding) is a very specific kind of mark, intended for visual communication of language (I'll leave a more precise definition for others to formulate - I think my meaning here is clear). That purpose clearly includes a letter printed on paper as a referent and, because "[a concept] includes all [instances that exist] at present, [that] have ever [existed] or will ever [exist]," such printed letters were in fact referents of the concept when it was first created, despite being unknown at the time. Thus the concept has not changed since its creation, though its definition surely has.

The difficulty, I think, lies in wrestling with questions such as, "How is it possible that the concept 'character,' in the mind of an ancient man who, for example, knows only Cuneiform produced by a stylus on clay tablets, refers to something that does not exist in his world, that he cannot conceive of, that will not exist for thousands of years in his future, and which may never exist?" (By "may never exist" I mean that, at that time, it was possible that printers would never be conceived of by anyone, ever.) I don't have an answer to that question that I can express in a form worthy of presentation here, so if anyone else does I would appreciate seeing it.

The ancient man did not have to conceive of printers (or Gutenberg's invention for that matter), which are means of displaying characters. To have the concept of 'character', however, he needed the idea of symbols used to specify a word. A 'concept' of marks in dirt is not enough. As I wrote previously, "anyone who thought that the concept 'character' was defined by how 'marks' are made did not have a concept of 'character' at all, which is defined by its role in specifying written words, not 'marks' in dirt without regard for meaning. We are discussing concepts, not primitive savages operating on the perceptual level." If he had a concept of 'character', then his concept refers to all of them, and if he could have seen a printing press producing characters (and understood and read that language) he would have recognized immediately that they were characters subsumed by his concept.

But how he gets there can be more complicated. If he had a concept of 'character' but defined it ostensively, he would have to expand his definition, because his mental image of what was being pointed to would not be enough to distinguish them in a wider context of knowledge. If he had defined it as somehow including the use of sticks to scratch in dirt, then he would have been defining it partly in terms of non-essentials and would have to correct his definition. If he thought of the meaning as symbols used to specify words but scratched in dirt only and with nothing to contrast that with, then his conception itself would be based, too narrowly, on non-essentials and he would have to correct his concept (which is also a possible scenario). Errors can be avoided, and concepts as a succession of corrections to errors as knowledge progresses is not the normal means of conceptualization if done properly. But errors do occur and must be corrected when they do, and they are often more easily recognized in retrospect than in the first attempts at attaining new knowledge. That is as true in forming new concepts as it is in making advanced inductive generalizations in science.

But the ancient man did not have to explicitly 'conceive of printers' for his concept of 'character' to include all of them, however produced. The method of physical production is not relevant to what characters are in their role in a written language, and knowledge or awareness of all the different forms of characters (or characters in different languages one does not know) is not required for them to be included in the concept because they involve non-essential characteristics. These additional characteristics possible for characters only becomes relevant to higher level abstractions when forming subdivisions of the concept -- printed characters, scratched characters, etc. (which may also be qualified instances used as concepts). He could not, for example, form a subdivision of characters based on method of production when he only knew one method, and could not form subdivisions at any time based on methods he didn't know about.

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What I see in Tom's idea that concepts change is a failure to distinguish between the meaning of words and the meaning of concepts.

The meaning of a word is the concept it denotes although the same word often denotes more than one concept. That's why dictionaries have multiple definitions with each definition denoting a different concept. The meaning of a concept are its referents and its referents are any existents, past, present, or future that have the characteristics that originally led to forming the concept.

What can lead to confusion is that word usage changes.

A given word can come to refer to more than one concept including concepts related to and derived from the original concept. When this happens, we have new concepts, not "changed" concepts. The only thing that has changed is which words denote which concepts.

Do you agree, Tom? If not, why not?

Word usage is part of it, as can be seen from the appeals to lists of usages in dictionaries without regard to concepts. But the problem is deeper than word usage. He advocates "expanding" concepts in a confusion over the role of subdivision in forming conceptual distinctions from the original, base concept, and he advocates using "changed" "versions" of the same concept on the fly on behalf of "desired" "variants", "relaxed standards", and "innovating" changes to "similarities" deemed to be "valuable". This followed an earlier version in which "definitions" were said to be "changed" for the same kinds of purposes. All of this represents and epistemology greatly at odds with Ayn Rand's theory of concepts and the stability of knowledge itself, not just word usage. It is not the same thing as formulating new concepts or qualified instances based on objective standards for wider or narrower concepts in abstracting from abstractions.

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The ancient man did not have to conceive of printers (or Gutenberg's invention for that matter), which are means of displaying characters...

I agree. I'm sure you noticed that my followup to my own post included some ideas similar to some of what you wrote here. Thanks for addressing my question.

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The ancient man did not have to conceive of printers (or Gutenberg's invention for that matter), which are means of displaying characters...

I agree. I'm sure you noticed that my followup to my own post included some ideas similar to some of what you wrote here. Thanks for addressing my question.

Yes I've read it, but not until after I posted the response to your previous one. There is no question on what Ayn Rand's position was, and at least among most of us here, that it is correct. The nature of what proper concept formation is and how it applies here (which is what you raised in your first post) is easier to address than trying to figure out what primitive man may have done, correctly or incorrectly, in enough detail to describe his actual conceptual thinking (not just word usage). I doubt that anyone can reconstruct that kind of detail now because such epistemological matters were not discussed then and there is no such philosophical record for primitive times, but we can analyze hypothetical possibilities with respect to proper concept formation. Appeals to 'laundry lists' of word usage in dictionaries is not a substitute for epistemology.

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As this thread has now been given a title and as I have a backlog of questions/comments to answer and can't get to them at once, this is a good time to examine briefly whether the proposition "Concepts can be changed" is consistent with the basics of Objectivism. In AR's article The Metaphysical Versus The Man-Made she wrote:

It is the metaphysically given that must be accepted: it cannot be changed. It is the man-made that must never be accepted uncritically: it must be judged, then accepted or rejected and changed when necessary.
As concepts are man-made, that principle applies. There are several reasons to change a man-made product. The first is that it is faulty. The second is that it can be improved. The third is that a variant of it may be useful. I hold that thinkers, good and bad, have been changing the man-made products we're focused on--concepts--for all three reasons for thousands of years.

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...the concept "character." Its original limited range of referents--marks made by a sharpened stake—was expanded to include the written symbols of hundreds of languages made by anything from a pen to a computer's printer.

Purely for my own edification (at this point, anyway), I would like to see Tom's and ewv's answer to this question:

Did the concept "character," when originally formed, encompass as referents letters produced on paper by a computer printer?

No. The definition of the concept "character", when it was first formed, was as an "engraved mark." Engraving involves a process of cutting or incising, so a computer printer's output is definitely ruled out. From the Online Etymological Dictionary:
character

early 14c., from O.Fr. caractere , from L. character , from Gk. kharakter "engraved mark," from kharassein "to engrave," from kharax "pointed stake." Meaning extended by metaphor to "a defining quality."

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search...searchmode=none

I apologize to piz for the delay. I wanted to find an online source so that this answer could be verified. I welcome ewv providing the evidence for his answer.

As a historical note, when concepts are first formed they are often narrow and concrete-bound. They are widened as men notice similarities between the original referents and other classes of existents. That's what happened with "character." As best we know the concept wasn't widened to include a wide range of distinctive marks (beyond those made by engraving) until the early 14th Century.

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No. The definition of the concept "character", when it was first formed, was as an "engraved mark." Engraving involves a process of cutting or incising, so a computer printer's output is definitely ruled out.

You may want to consider a different perspective on this.

Human thought is obviously very complex. It isn't the case that a given entity in reality must be a unit of just one concept (entity used in the broadest sense possible including mental entities.) Cross-classification is ubiquitous.

Let's take that engraved mark. If the concept actually formed was "An engraved mark" and that happened to be designated by the word "character", then I'm sure you'll agree that all future instances of an engraved mark are units of that concept. Let's designate this for discussion as character[1].

The concept "A man-made symbol conveying information" is essentially the commonly accepted concept of "character" today. That symbol need not be an engraving. Similarly let's designate this as character[2].

Clearly, an engraved mark is classified by character[1] and it *may* be classified by character[2], simultaneously. That would be an instance of cross-classification. (Not all such engravings would be character[2]: something purely decorative is not designed to convey information.)

What's for sure is that character[1] is not character[2], even if they were once designated by the same word (or even so today.)

There is no problem and no contradiction entailed in such cross-classifications. They are simply different perspectives on the same entity.

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...the concept "character." Its original limited range of referents--marks made by a sharpened stake—was expanded to include the written symbols of hundreds of languages made by anything from a pen to a computer's printer.

Purely for my own edification (at this point, anyway), I would like to see Tom's and ewv's answer to this question:

Did the concept "character," when originally formed, encompass as referents letters produced on paper by a computer printer?

Of course it did. The characters produced by a printer have the same similarity of purpose and function to specify words, and the same distinction from everything else in those terms, that the original characters first known did. Now that you know about other kinds of characters you recognize that. A concept is open-ended and means all the units subsumed in the past, present and future that share the same similarities, whether or not you are aware of them. The "original limited range of referents" was limited to what was known about possible characters at the time, not a restriction on what the concept could refer to.

This is historically incorrect. ewv is equivocating and importing the medieval concept of "character" into an ancient Greek context. The original referents of the concept were limited to "engraved marks" formed by a particular Greek engraving device.
Earlier definitions that may have been based on ostensive definitions or on descriptions of scratching in dirt were expanded to account for the increased knowledge.
Again, this is plain wrong. Units of the concept "character" were contrasted with other kinds of mark such as "scratching in dirt." The Greeks had an advanced culture.

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What I see in Tom's idea that concepts change is a failure to distinguish between the meaning of words and the meaning of concepts.
Not so. A word has no meaning apart from that of the concept it represents. As AR said:
A word is merely a visual-auditory symbol used to represent a concept; a word has no meaning other than that of the concept it symbolizes, and the meaning of a concept consists of its units.
Betsy wrote:
The meaning of a word is the concept it denotes although the same word often denotes more than one concept.
The meaning of a word is not "the concept it denotes". The meaning is the referents (units) of the concept it denotes. There's a crucial difference.
That's why dictionaries have multiple definitions with each definition denoting a different concept. The meaning of a concept are its referents and its referents are any existents, past, present, or future that have the characteristics that originally led to forming the concept.

I agree with both those statements.

What can lead to confusion is that word usage changes.

A given word can come to refer to more than one concept including concepts related to and derived from the original concept. When this happens, we have new concepts, not "changed" concepts. The only thing that has changed is which words denote which concepts.

Do you agree, Tom? If not, why not?

No. Because it doesn't answer the question: where did the new concepts come from? I say they came into existence by modifying an earlier concept(s) represented by the same word.

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"As this thread has now been given a title and as I have a backlog of questions/comments to answer and can't get to them at once"

Take your time.  Some questions to consider as you work through the back log.

1. Do all concepts change?

2. Has the concept table changed?

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A concept may change if an error is discovered, either minor or major, in which case it is found to be an invalid concept which may be corrected or abandoned entirely and a correct classification re-established. But that is not the normal progression of increases in knowledge.

This acknowledges that concepts can change. But change is not restricted to invalid concepts. With valid concepts, change is motivated by the desire to create a valuable variant.

No, correcting erros is not an acknowledgment of your theory. If an error is made it must be corrected, replacing the erroneous, invalid concept. That does not justify "changing" anything else out of a "desire" for a "variant", while keeping around "old versions". The advancement of knowledge is not a progression of errors replaced by an accumulation of desired "variants".

If ewv goes to a decent dictionary and looks up the word "character," he will find there was an original valid concept that subsumed instances of a distinctive mark made by a karax. It did not subsume instances of Egyptian hieroglyphs, let alone marks made by a modern printer. Since that concept's formation, innovators have created one brilliant variation of it after another, none of which replaces the original. Here is a list of the definitons of those concepts, from Webster's New World Dictionary, beginning with a definition of a much wider version than the original.

1. a distinctive mark (TM: This wider version of the concept is not the same as the original Greek one. "A distinctive mark" in a broad generic sense dates from only about 1315 AD)

2.

a. any letter, figure, or symbol used in writing and printing

b. the letters of an alphabet, collectively

3. style of printing or handwriting

4.

a. a mystic symbol or magical emblem

b. a code or cipher

5. a distinctive trait, quality, or attribute; characteristic

6. essential quality; nature; kind or sort

7. the pattern of behavior or personality found in an individual or group; moral constitution

8. moral strength; self-discipline, fortitude, etc.

9.

a. reputation

b. good reputation [left without a shred of character]

10. a statement about the behavior, qualities, etc. of a person, esp. as given by a former employer; reference

11. status; position

12. a personage [great characters in history]

13.

a. a person in a play, story, novel, etc.

b. a role as portrayed by an actor or actress

14. Informal an odd, eccentric, or noteworthy person

15. Genetics any attribute, as color, shape, etc., caused in an individual by the action of one or more genes

Piz raised the issue of 'character' as it pertains to character displays of printers.
That misrepresents what piz asked. He wanted to know if the original concept of "character" (not the word) could have subsumed the output of a computer printer. The answer is definitely not.
Most of this list has absolutely nothing to do with that.
You're not paying attention to why I gave it. The list is of the definitions of concepts that have been derived from the original Greek concept. Can't you see the relationship between them?
It lists homonyms.
That's quite wrong: it lists definitions of concepts. Besides, the English word "character" is not a homonym.
Word usage is not epistemology.
I'll say. I have no more interest in usage than you. Epistemology is what this is about.
I addressed Piz's post in terms of Objectivist epistemology, not linguistic analysis.
I would certainly hope so. Linguistic analysis is a corrupt subject.
When someone conceptually distinguishes Egyptian characters from some other kind that is obviously a subdivision.
The relevant modern concept of "character" subsumes Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Greek concept did not.
That does not justify a substitute theory of concepts advocating "changing concepts" in comparison with Ayn Rand's epistemology.
Who advocates "changing concepts?" My theory states that an innovator can create a variant of an existing concept. That is perfectly compatible with Objectivism. Do you think AR didn't create variants of concepts? If her concept of "egoism" isn't different from the concepts of egoism that went before her, why did she sub-title The Virtue of Selfishness "A new concept of egoism?"

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A correctly formed concept retains the same units with the same similarities and differences, but may require a more expansive definition to make the distinctions required within a new context of additional knowledge. That is not a "changed concept".

Quite so. That's what Ayn Rand said and I agree fully. But what if an innovator alters the similarities and differences?

Units are either similar or they are not, which depends on their nature. Innovators don't "alter" that.

No, they don't. This remark was intended as shorthand for what I had spelled out in detail previously when I commented on AR's view of when a concept has and hasn't been changed. I said:
Right there she tells how you change a concept. You alter "the similarities and differences according to which you originally formed the concept." How do you do that? One way is to relax the standard of similarity and create a variant where the referents have more distant likenesses. As I have already pointed out, this is what was done to widen the concept "character." Its original limited range of referents--marks made by a sharpened stake—was expanded to include the written symbols of hundreds of languages made by anything from a pen to a computer's printer. The concept widened i.e., changed because the standard of similarity was altered.

Alternatively a concept can be narrowed by tightening the differentiating criteria. The original concept of "deer" subsumed any animal that wasn't a fish or a bird. The variant of the concept most people know today is much more restricted. It refers only to members of the family (Cervidae) of ruminants that have horns/antlers and spotted young.

An innovator doesn't change similarities and differences that are metaphysical facts. But he (or she) sure can widen a concept. His work is epistemological not metaphysical. Do you think AR didn't widen the concept of "capitalism?"

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...the concept "character." Its original limited range of referents--marks made by a sharpened stake—was expanded to include the written symbols of hundreds of languages made by anything from a pen to a computer's printer.

Purely for my own edification (at this point, anyway), I would like to see Tom's and ewv's answer to this question:

Did the concept "character," when originally formed, encompass as referents letters produced on paper by a computer printer?

No. The definition of the concept "character", when it was first formed, was as an "engraved mark." Engraving involves a process of cutting or incising, so a computer printer's output is definitely ruled out. From the Online Etymological Dictionary:
character

early 14c., from O.Fr. caractere , from L. character , from Gk. kharakter "engraved mark," from kharassein "to engrave," from kharax "pointed stake." Meaning extended by metaphor to "a defining quality."

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search...searchmode=none

I apologize to piz for the delay. I wanted to find an online source so that this answer could be verified. I welcome ewv providing the evidence for his answer.

As a historical note, when concepts are first formed they are often narrow and concrete-bound. They are widened as men notice similarities between the original referents and other classes of existents. That's what happened with "character." As best we know the concept wasn't widened to include a wide range of distinctive marks (beyond those made by engraving) until the early 14th Century.

As I and others have pointed out, your argument equates the concept with it definition. It is a definition by non-essentials. It is an "engraved mark" that serves what purpose? Doesn't such an engraved mark have other, essential characteristics in common with other units that allowed those units to be subsumed under the concept? Is any type of engraved mark considered a character by your definition? Are these engraved marks characters?

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ewv wrote:
Ayn Rand addressed this topic over 40 years ago in IOE and at the Workshop. There is no such alleged "confusion in Objectivism", only amongst those who do not understand it.

I know ITOE and the workshops well on this point. Did Ayn Rand say a concept can't change? No. All she said is that the act of expanding one's knowledge or changing a definition doesn't change a concept and she's right. Let me emphasize that: I agree with her: expanding one's knowledge and changing a definition doesn't change a concept. Here is the quote from the workshop again:

Prof. H: It is easy to assume that when the definition changes, the concept changes.

AR: No, the context of your knowledge changes. When you know more, you select a different essential characteristic by which to define the object, because you now have to differentiate it more precisely. Your knowledge has expanded, but the concept doesn't change.

The similarities and differences according to which you originally formed the concept still remain. So you haven't changed your concept.

Now read those last two sentences carefully. How do you know expanding your knowledge or changing a definition hasn't changed the concept? Because:"The similarities and differences according to which you originally formed the concept still remain."

Right there she tells how you change a concept. You alter "the similarities and differences according to which you originally formed the concept."

ewv wrote:

No, she did not say that. She said that the similarities and differences still remain. She did not say to change a concept or to change the similarities and differences of the units, which are what they are, not what anyone "changes" them to be.
But don't you understand that the similarities and differences may exist metaphysically but whoever originally formed the concept selected which referents to specify by isolating only certain similarities and differences? If he had changed the criteria of selection and used different ones, the concept's parameters would have been different. A later innovator can do just that. That is how concepts get widened or narrowed.
How do you do that? One way is to relax the standard of similarity and create a variant where the referents have more distant likenesses.

ewv wrote:

Concepts are not formed by "relaxing standards" to "create variants". This is not Objectivism.
If you want that stated in more familiar terms, an innovator can broaden the criteria of similarity. This is often a profound insight. Ayn Rand realized that capitalism was a social system not just an economic system and that there were similarities between economic freedom and freedom of speech. If she had not seen the breadth of similarity we'd still be stuck with the same useless concept of capitalism that existed before her. (I hasten to add that the metaphysical referents of capitalism existed before she identified them fully. Her concept is an epistemological achievement.) If you think her concept of capitalism is just as narrow as the earlier one, spend ten minutes looking up the definitions of the pre-Ayn Rand concept in a few dictionaries. You'll see the referents specified are solely economic.
As I have already pointed out, this is what was done to widen the concept "character." Its original limited range of referents--marks made by a sharpened stake—was expanded to include the written symbols of hundreds of languages made by anything from a pen to a computer's printer. The concept widened i.e., changed because the standard of similarity was altered.
ewv wrote:
Anyone who thought that the concept 'character' was defined by how 'marks' are made did not have a concept of 'character' at all, which is defined by its role in specifying written words, not 'marks' in dirt without regard for meaning. We are discussing concepts, not primitive savages operating on the perceptual level.
On the contrary we're discussing the achievements of a very advanced society: Greece. It was a Greek who first conceived the concept "character". And the units of that concept were marks made in only one way: by engraving. The definition of the Greek concept of "character" was "engraved marks". The genus was "marks" and the differentia was "engraved" to distinguish them from every other kind of mark. The Greeks didn't have the modern concept of character, but they sure provided its forerunner.
Alternatively a concept can be narrowed by tightening the differentiating criteria. The original concept of "deer" subsumed any animal that wasn't a fish or a bird. The variant of the concept most people know today is much more restricted. It refers only to members of the family (Cervidae) of ruminants that have horns/antlers and spotted young.

ewv wrote:

If the original concept was intended to be animals that weren't fish or birds, then the word usage changed, not the concept, and a new concept of deer was a subdivision, not a "changed concept". If it was intended to mean deer without knowledge of any other animals, then the concept still remained the same but the definition changed to account for distinguishing from other animals that were discovered.
This talk of "usage changing" is at variance with Objectivism. A word has no meaning apart from that of the concept it represents. If the meaning of a word changes it is because a new concept is being represented by that word. The concept 'deer' was subdivided and the subdivision retained the same name. That's why the word "deer" acquired a narrower meaning. Usage is an effect, not a cause. (The original broader concept still exists and has cognitive value for interpreting older texts.)
I arrived at the same conclusion about how to change a concept as Miss Rand from first-hand research, years before I read her standard. So I'm convinced she's right. That is how you change a concept. Any variant of an existing concept is created by doing exactly what AR indicated had to be done.
ewv wrote:
Ayn Rand did not have that "conclusion" about how to change a concept and did not "indicate" what "had to be done", and you should stop attributing it to Objectivism. Whatever research you did, which is still unspecified, without knowing Ayn Rand's concept of 'concept', it tells you nothing about Ayn Rand. You did not "arrive at the same conclusion" because it is not her conclusion.
If Ayn Rand had not concluded that maintaining the relevant similarities and differences was what kept a concept the same through time, why did she say it? She said:
The similarities and differences according to which you formed the concept still remain. So you haven't changed your concept.
The implication of her remark is that if the extent of those similarities and differences had been changed, you would have changed the concept. That's simple logic.

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...the concept "character." Its original limited range of referents--marks made by a sharpened stake$(Owa(Bs expanded to include the written symbols of hundreds of languages made by anything from a pen to a computer's printer.

Purely for my own edification (at this point, anyway), I would like to see Tom's and ewv's answer to this question:

Did the concept "character," when originally formed, encompass as referents letters produced on paper by a computer printer?

No. The definition of the concept "character", when it was first formed, was as an "engraved mark." Engraving involves a process of cutting or incising, so a computer printer's output is definitely ruled out. From the Online Etymological Dictionary:
character

early 14c., from O.Fr. caractere , from L. character , from Gk. kharakter "engraved mark," from kharassein "to engrave," from kharax "pointed stake." Meaning extended by metaphor to "a defining quality."

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search...searchmode=none

I apologize to piz for the delay. I wanted to find an online source so that this answer could be verified. I welcome ewv providing the evidence for his answer.

As a historical note, when concepts are first formed they are often narrow and concrete-bound. They are widened as men notice similarities between the original referents and other classes of existents. That's what happened with "character." As best we know the concept wasn't widened to include a wide range of distinctive marks (beyond those made by engraving) until the early 14th Century.

As has been pointed out several times now, a primitive who had no idea of a character in its role in specifying a word, as a symbol in a system of writing -- which is what everyone else here is talking about -- did not have the concept of 'character' at all. The concept of character is distinct from the method of making a mark, not a 'broadening' of scratching in dirt.

Citing a list of 15 different usages of a word from a dictionary, 14 of which are irrelevant (and some missing), and then picking the wrong one in the name of etymology, has nothing to do with the nature of the concept. Whatever Tom's own philosophy is, which seems to be some mixture of Objectivism and something else more conventional, as has been said before, linguistic analysis is not epistemology: we do not use appeals to dictionaries as a method in analyzing and explaining the nature of concepts and that does not support his own proposed alternate theory. This is not about word usage. A history of word usage from dictionaries is inadequate as a factual basis and barely relevant at all. Tom's apparent insistence on restricting us to that in the name of facts and research has been rejected both as a philosophical method and as alleged proof for his alternate theory of concepts.

The obsolete use of 'character' to mean a 'distinctive mark' has nothing to do with the discussion here, including the normal function of computer printers except for the special case of 'printing' to reproduce drawings, which method could include reproducing a 'mark'. It had nothing to do with Piz's original question about the concept of 'character'. Invoking an obsolete use of a word in the name of factual history does not address his post (which has been settled to his satisfaction). To say that a primitive use of a word meaning scratching in dirt does not mean computer printers doesn't tell us anything we didn't know, and it tells us nothing about the relevant concepts.

Regarding the different, obsolete use of 'character', the concept of a mark is distinct from concepts of producing marks. The concept of a 'distinctive mark' is not a broadening of a particular method for scratching in dirt. Engraving versus use of ink are different methods, which are commensurable only with respect to a concept of what it is that one is engraving or printing.

A 'distinctive mark' disconnected from designating meaning of the mark can be any mark, identified by its shape. If some primitive man defined such a 'character' by including its method of production as something scratched in dirt, then his definition was inadequate for a wider context of knowledge that includes other means of making marks. This does not mean that concepts 'change' as they are corrected and/or given an expanded definition. The meaning of a concept is not its definition. The range of possibilities for his intellectual progression has been previously indicated in more detail for the concept of 'character' (the common one that everyone else here has been referring to).

When a child thinks of 'men' as only particular instances in his "concrete bound" awareness, he does not have a "narrower" concept, he lacks the concept at all. When he realizes that he can no longer identify the essence of his early open-ended concept of 'man' as a thing with two legs that moves and makes noises, or some other equivalent at that primitive level, he is not "broadening" the concept of man when he expands his definition to distinguish units in a broader context of knowledge. The concept has not changed.

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ewv wrote:
Ayn Rand addressed this topic over 40 years ago in IOE and at the Workshop. There is no such alleged "confusion in Objectivism", only amongst those who do not understand it.

I know ITOE and the workshops well on this point. Did Ayn Rand say a concept can't change? No. All she said is that the act of expanding one's knowledge or changing a definition doesn't change a concept and she's right. Let me emphasize that: I agree with her: expanding one's knowledge and changing a definition doesn't change a concept. Here is the quote from the workshop again:

Prof. H: It is easy to assume that when the definition changes, the concept changes.

AR: No, the context of your knowledge changes. When you know more, you select a different essential characteristic by which to define the object, because you now have to differentiate it more precisely. Your knowledge has expanded, but the concept doesn't change.

The similarities and differences according to which you originally formed the concept still remain. So you haven't changed your concept.

Now read those last two sentences carefully. How do you know expanding your knowledge or changing a definition hasn't changed the concept? Because:"The similarities and differences according to which you originally formed the concept still remain."

Right there she tells how you change a concept. You alter "the similarities and differences according to which you originally formed the concept."

ewv wrote:

No, she did not say that. She said that the similarities and differences still remain. She did not say to change a concept or to change the similarities and differences of the units, which are what they are, not what anyone "changes" them to be.

But don't you understand that the similarities and differences may exist metaphysically but whoever originally formed the concept selected which referents to specify by isolating only certain similarities and differences? If he had changed the criteria of selection and used different ones, the concept's parameters would have been different. A later innovator can do just that. That is how concepts get widened or narrowed.

Again, Ayn Rand did not say what you said she did. Your statement is not responsive to that.

There are no grounds on which you can even begin to presume to suggest that I don't understand that concepts are based on selections of relevant similarities. You are not addressing what has been said to you.

Formation of concepts from selective focus on similarities and differences is much of what the book is about. It provides the standards for doing that. Those standards are not in accordance with your alternate theory of "innovating" so that concepts "get widened or narrowed" into "variants" by your "altering" similarities and "relaxing standards".

How do you do that? One way is to relax the standard of similarity and create a variant where the referents have more distant likenesses.

ewv wrote:

Concepts are not formed by "relaxing standards" to "create variants". This is not Objectivism.

If you want that stated in more familiar terms, an innovator can broaden the criteria of similarity. This is often a profound insight. Ayn Rand realized that capitalism was a social system not just an economic system and that there were similarities between economic freedom and freedom of speech. If she had not seen the breadth of similarity we'd still be stuck with the same useless concept of capitalism that existed before her. (I hasten to add that the metaphysical referents of capitalism existed before she identified them fully. Her concept is an epistemological achievement.) If you think her concept of capitalism is just as narrow as the earlier one, spend ten minutes looking up the definitions of the pre-Ayn Rand concept in a few dictionaries. You'll see the referents specified are solely economic.

No I don't "want that stated in more familiar terms". Ayn Rand did not advocate "relaxing standards" to "create variants". That is your position in your words, not hers. It is not Objectivism.

She corrected the conventional erroneous definitions of 'capitalism' and established a valid concept replacing the invalid conglomerations based on non-essentials. That was not a "broadening" of the concept and such a correction of what you called a "useless concept" does not support your own theory. A "useless concept" is an invalid concept, not a conceptual base for "changing" concepts into "different versions".

Please do not instruct me on how to "spend ten minutes looking up definitions" as if I had never done that and as if it has any relevance to what has been said to you. This attitude is not addressing the criticisms rejecting your theories.

As I have already pointed out, this is what was done to widen the concept "character." Its original limited range of referents--marks made by a sharpened stake—was expanded to include the written symbols of hundreds of languages made by anything from a pen to a computer's printer. The concept widened i.e., changed because the standard of similarity was altered.

ewv wrote:

Anyone who thought that the concept 'character' was defined by how 'marks' are made did not have a concept of 'character' at all, which is defined by its role in specifying written words, not 'marks' in dirt without regard for meaning. We are discussing concepts, not primitive savages operating on the perceptual level.

On the contrary we're discussing the achievements of a very advanced society: Greece. It was a Greek who first conceived the concept "character". And the units of that concept were marks made in only one way: by engraving. The definition of the Greek concept of "character" was "engraved marks". The genus was "marks" and the differentia was "engraved" to distinguish them from every other kind of mark. The Greeks didn't have the modern concept of character, but they sure provided its forerunner.

This does not address what I wrote in response to your own statement either here or elsewhere where the fallacies in your arguments claiming to broaden scratching in dirt to a concept of characters in written language have been explained in detail.

Alternatively a concept can be narrowed by tightening the differentiating criteria. The original concept of "deer" subsumed any animal that wasn't a fish or a bird. The variant of the concept most people know today is much more restricted. It refers only to members of the family (Cervidae) of ruminants that have horns/antlers and spotted young.

ewv wrote:

If the original concept was intended to be animals that weren't fish or birds, then the word usage changed, not the concept, and a new concept of deer was a subdivision, not a "changed concept". If it was intended to mean deer without knowledge of any other animals, then the concept still remained the same but the definition changed to account for distinguishing from other animals that were discovered.

This talk of "usage changing" is at variance with Objectivism. A word has no meaning apart from that of the concept it represents. If the meaning of a word changes it is because a new concept is being represented by that word. The concept 'deer' was subdivided and the subdivision retained the same name. That's why the word "deer" acquired a narrower meaning. Usage is an effect, not a cause. (The original broader concept still exists and has cognitive value for interpreting older texts.)

No, it is your "changing concepts" that is at variance with Objectivism.

Everyone knows that the usage of words has historically changed, that some go out of use entirely, and that we have what are called "homonyms". Such historical fact is not epistemology and not "at variance" with Objectivism.

When a concept is subdivided into more specialized concepts it is not being "broadened" into a changed concept as you claimed. This has been described in detail previously.

No one has said that changes in usage of words "causes" new concepts. You are not addressing what has been said to you.

I arrived at the same conclusion about how to change a concept as Miss Rand from first-hand research, years before I read her standard. So I'm convinced she's right. That is how you change a concept. Any variant of an existing concept is created by doing exactly what AR indicated had to be done.

ewv wrote:

Ayn Rand did not have that "conclusion" about how to change a concept and did not "indicate" what "had to be done", and you should stop attributing it to Objectivism. Whatever research you did, which is still unspecified, without knowing Ayn Rand's concept of 'concept', it tells you nothing about Ayn Rand. You did not "arrive at the same conclusion" because it is not her conclusion.

If Ayn Rand had not concluded that maintaining the relevant similarities and differences was what kept a concept the same through time, why did she say it? She said:

The similarities and differences according to which you formed the concept still remain. So you haven't changed your concept.

That is what we said to you. Your statement here is unresponsive to the statement you quoted, which rejects your claim that Ayn Rand embraced your "conclusion" from your claimed "research". She did not embrace your theory of "changing" concepts to produce your "desired variants". She did not "indicate" what "had to be done" in accordance with your alternate theory. She did not do what you claim she did in your own statement. Quoting her contradicting you is not not establishing your theory.

The implication of her remark is that if the extent of those similarities and differences had been changed, you would have changed the concept. That's simple logic.

"Would have changed the concept" "if" one had done something else does not mean that one should make such changes. She provided the standards for concept formation, not a call for a flux of "variants" without regard to them.

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A concept may change if an error is discovered, either minor or major, in which case it is found to be an invalid concept which may be corrected or abandoned entirely and a correct classification re-established. But that is not the normal progression of increases in knowledge.

This acknowledges that concepts can change. But change is not restricted to invalid concepts. With valid concepts, change is motivated by the desire to create a valuable variant.

No, correcting erros is not an acknowledgment of your theory. If an error is made it must be corrected, replacing the erroneous, invalid concept. That does not justify "changing" anything else out of a "desire" for a "variant", while keeping around "old versions". The advancement of knowledge is not a progression of errors replaced by an accumulation of desired "variants".

If ewv goes to a decent dictionary and looks up the word "character," he will find there was an original valid concept that subsumed instances of a distinctive mark made by a karax. It did not subsume instances of Egyptian hieroglyphs, let alone marks made by a modern printer. Since that concept's formation, innovators have created one brilliant variation of it after another, none of which replaces the original. Here is a list of the definitons of those concepts, from Webster's New World Dictionary, beginning with a definition of a much wider version than the original.

1. a distinctive mark (TM: This wider version of the concept is not the same as the original Greek one. "A distinctive mark" in a broad generic sense dates from only about 1315 AD)

2.

a. any letter, figure, or symbol used in writing and printing

b. the letters of an alphabet, collectively

3. style of printing or handwriting

4.

a. a mystic symbol or magical emblem

b. a code or cipher

5. a distinctive trait, quality, or attribute; characteristic

6. essential quality; nature; kind or sort

7. the pattern of behavior or personality found in an individual or group; moral constitution

8. moral strength; self-discipline, fortitude, etc.

9.

a. reputation

b. good reputation [left without a shred of character]

10. a statement about the behavior, qualities, etc. of a person, esp. as given by a former employer; reference

11. status; position

12. a personage [great characters in history]

13.

a. a person in a play, story, novel, etc.

b. a role as portrayed by an actor or actress

14. Informal an odd, eccentric, or noteworthy person

15. Genetics any attribute, as color, shape, etc., caused in an individual by the action of one or more genes

Piz raised the issue of 'character' as it pertains to character displays of printers.

That misrepresents what piz asked. He wanted to know if the original concept of "character" (not the word) could have subsumed the output of a computer printer. The answer is definitely not.

No it does not misrepresent his topic. I addressed his question about what is subsumed by the concept with his specific emphasis on printer characters, as has been acknowledged by Piz himself. Your post did not even claim to state a direct answer to his question, and your later response to him saying that scratching in dirt is not printing on a computer does not address it, not in terms of Objectivist epistemology that he was seeking: it gives the wrong answer, ignoring the distinction between what a character is and methods of producing it, as has been described previously in detail.

Most of this list has absolutely nothing to do with that.

You're not paying attention to why I gave it. The list is of the definitions of concepts that have been derived from the original Greek concept. Can't you see the relationship between them?

Do not tell me that I am not "paying attention". You gave this list of alternate word usages for the word 'character' in direct response to an exchange in which you originally claimed that correcting an error in a concept is an "acknowledgment" of your theory of changing concepts for other purposes:

A concept may change if an error is discovered, either minor or major, in which case it is found to be an invalid concept which may be corrected or abandoned entirely and a correct classification re-established. But that is not the normal progression of increases in knowledge.

This acknowledges that concepts can change. But change is not restricted to invalid concepts. With valid concepts, change is motivated by the desire to create a valuable variant.

No, correcting errors is not an acknowledgment of your theory. If an error is made it must be corrected, replacing the erroneous, invalid concept. That does not justify "changing" anything else out of a "desire" for a "variant", while keeping around "old versions". The advancement of knowledge is not a progression of errors replaced by an accumulation of desired "variants".

If ewv goes to a decent dictionary and looks up the word "character," he will find there was an original valid concept that subsumed instances of a distinctive mark made by a karax. It did not subsume instances of Egyptian hieroglyphs, let alone marks made by a modern printer. Since that concept's formation, innovators have created one brilliant variation of it after another, none of which replaces the original. Here is a list of the definitons of those concepts, from Webster's New World Dictionary, beginning with a definition of a much wider version than the original.

[followed by listing from dictionary]

The necessity of revising a concept to correct an error does not "acknowledge" your theory of changing concepts for other purposes, and your insistence that I "go to a decent dictionary" does not establish otherwise. You stated no other purpose for the post. It is not responsive to what you claimed to be responding to. It simply listed different concepts for which the same word is commonly used, sometimes related concepts and sometimes not. One can find that pervasively throughout any dictionary. It is does not justify your theory of changing concepts and does not address what you claimed to be addressing in the exchange you did not address.

Dictionaries list common usages of words with different emphases, for different concepts, and without regard for whether the concepts are valid or whether the definitions are in terms of essentials or otherwise proper. The definitions need not be related at all, e.g. in this case: "any letter, figure, or symbol used in writing and printing" versus "moral strength; self-discipline, fortitude, etc."

Your additional comments inserted in definitions trying to show similarities are the kind of examples Ayn Rand used to give as parodying extreme cases of thinking in non-essentials: "good reputation [left without a shred of character]" and "a personage [great characters in history]" [emphasis and brackets in original].

None of this justifies pragmatically "changing concepts" with different "versions" in the name of "innovation" or the specific error of confusing broadening a concept into a changed concept with the same word versus subdivision in accordance with IOE. And it has nothing to do with revising a concept or definition to correct an error, replacing it with a correct concept and definition.

It lists homonyms.

That's quite wrong: it lists definitions of concepts. Besides, the English word "character" is not a homonym.

More precisely, it lists definitions associated with the same word used in different ways. The homonym is the word 'character', not the multiple descriptions of usage.

Word usage is not epistemology.
I'll say. I have no more interest in usage than you. Epistemology is what this is about.

Your appeal to dictionary usages is entirely word usage, saying nothing about the nature of the concepts and how they are formed.

I addressed Piz's post in terms of Objectivist epistemology, not linguistic analysis.

I would certainly hope so. Linguistic analysis is a corrupt subject.

Which is why you should not be narrowing the factual basis to multiple meanings in a dictionary.

When someone conceptually distinguishes Egyptian characters from some other kind that is obviously a subdivision.

The relevant modern concept of "character" subsumes Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Greek concept did not.

If the Greek concept did not recognize that the particular written language employed is irrelevant, as an omitted measurement, then it was incorrect as a concept of character, and needed to be corrected, not "broadened". That definition would have been in terms of non-essentials since they were aware of other languages. On the other hand, a name for the finite number of fixed symbols in the Greek alphabet, if that is how they used it, does not designate the concept 'character' at all.

That does not justify a substitute theory of concepts advocating "changing concepts" in comparison with Ayn Rand's epistemology.

Who advocates "changing concepts?" My theory states that an innovator can create a variant of an existing concept. That is perfectly compatible with Objectivism. Do you think AR didn't create variants of concepts? If her concept of "egoism" isn't different from the concepts of egoism that went before her, why did she sub-title The Virtue of Selfishness "A new concept of egoism?"

You advocate changing concepts. Prior to that you advocated changing definitions. That one can create a subdivision of a concept based on increased detail knowledge of distinctions within the concept, or form a wider concept based on two or more commensurate existing concepts, both types formed in accordance with essential similarities, is not "perfectly compatible" with "innovating" "variations" as concepts. It is also a misuse of the concept "innovation". Someone concocting what he calls concepts, whether or not they are "variations", is not an "innovator" regardless of the cognitive value with respect to objective standards -- among which are "Rand's razor": do not multiple concepts beyond necessity.

Ayn Rand corrected the invalid meaning of 'egoism' traditionally framed in terms of who is sacrificing to whom. Under that definition there was no concept of what we know as the proper concept of egoism. That is why it was a new concept. It is not a "variant" of the invalid forms.

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As usual, the issue returns back to the Law of Identity. (This may seem objectionable for those who see high level abstractions as "vague", but really, it's very useful.)

There is no bypassing the fact that a changed entity is a different entity. The referents of a concept are what they are.

There are many advantages to looking at things from the perpective of the Law Identity. We agree so far.
If one claims that the referents of a concept have changed then one is not using the same concept.
I hope no one is claiming that. The referents of a concept don't change. But a concept itself can be varied to produce a new concept. This isn't a question of use. It's a question of concept-variation. It involves taking an existing concept and making changes to it. The result is a new concept with the same name--not the disappearance of the original. The Greek concept "character" was a narrow one. Its units were engraved marks. In the 14th Century someone created a new variant of that original abstraction. They widened its perimeters to subsume any distinctive mark--however made--and retained the same name (which explains why people have trouble separating the two concepts.)

Let me give you a current example. When the concept "google" (as a verb) was first formed, it only subsumed instances of using the Google search engine to find things on the internet. The use of Google's engine was the differentia of the concept: you hadn't "googled" unless you went via Google. But the concept was rapidly varied to widen it and people now more commonly use a second version that subsumes amongst its units any internet search they do, regardless of the engine. Note that this is a current development so there are still disputes as to whether an internet search done by Yahoo is really a referent of "google." Historically this may seem petty. But when first formed, the concept "google" had the same type of narrow limits as the first concept of "character." The fact that the first version of the concept "google" is rapidly falling out of use is unimportant. The word "google" stands for two concepts, one with a narrow definition and the other with a wider one. Hence the disputes. (It is unlikely dictionaries will pick up both concepts as, unlike in the case of "character," there aren't centuries separating the two variants. This doesn't matter. You can observe the two variants leading to disputes and equivocation first hand.)

All concepts must have a word associated with them, a perceptual level "tag", but that does not mean that the same word cannot represent different concepts (homonyms, as ewv noted.)
The same word can stand for different concepts. It's crucial to my theory. But, if it's the same word, it is not a homonym. Homonyms are two or more different words that have different origins and unrelated meanings but developed the same spelling or pronunciation (e.g., there are 5 radically different nouns spelled b-a-t.) They are not to be confused with ordinary words (technical name: polysemes) that stand for a number of closely related concepts. ewv has a primitive definition of the concept "homonym" which does not permit him to distinguish between a homonym like "bat" and a polyseme like "character."
And, the same concept can be represented by different words as well (this is obvious: just think of various human languages and concepts which are identical but which have different utterances/spellings.) Attempting to seriously use a single word to refer to different referents (i.e. different concepts), in the same context, is simply the fallacy of equivocation, and it's a bad thing. (And using it non-seriously is simply constructing a pun.)
I agree completely. When you use a word that represents several concepts, the context must match the concept you have in mind.

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The result is a new concept with the same name--not the disappearance of the original.

I really don't get this. In computer terms, that would be analogous to using the same primary key to refer to two different rows of data. There is a good reason why that isn't permissible: it's an immediate contradiction. In common-sense terms, how are you claiming that it is *not* equivocation - at least on the common-sensical view that "the same name" = the same word.

As I described in a different post, cross-classification is certainly possible. It is not the case that a given entity must map to only one concept. (I would say that such a view is indicative of accepting the philosophic fallacy of Monism.) Any given normal male is: a human; an animal; a mammal; a biped; organic; massive (i.e. an entity possessing mass); etc. etc. None of that is contradictory; that particular male lies within the intersection of the set of possible entities classified by each *distinct* concept. And an old concept of "engraved mark" would evidently *not* be the same concept as "character", even if some engraved marks are characters. So it would simply be confusing to treat them as in any way the same, they are not, and they should not be indicated with the same word today either.

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