NickMunro

Objectivist theory of concepts

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" A concept is a mental integration of two or more units possessing the same distinguishing characteristic(s), with their measurements omitted".

pg 13 Chapter 2, Introduction To Objectivist Epistemology

Hi there,

I am having difficulty grasping the application of this definition, and was hoping that someone out there could help me please.

1. If a concept is an integration of two or more units, what about the concept I hold of entities that are unique? (eg, the concept of myself). Is this a valid concept?

2. Many concepts cannot be measured at all. Consider the concept "war" or, "peace" - what measurements have been omitted to make this a concept? How do you measure "peace" ?

3. On OismOnline.net, there was a lengthy discussion about the concept "inch"; however in order to actually measure an inch, we must measure something (if you hold the concept 'plenum' as true) - even the space between your fingers is a 'thing'. Does this mean that "inch" is not a concept, but actually an attribute of an object (length, width, depth etc). ?

4. What about the concept "hard" - how are two or more "hards" units?

5.(this is a question on a different thing altogether)

If Reason is man's means of acquiring knowledge, and Logic is the tool of Reason, does this mean we can only acquire knowledge through either induction or deduction?

Are there any other ways of using logic to acquire knowledge?

(I am largely ignorant about Logic and intend to study it in the near future).

many thanks in anticipation of your replies!

NickMunro

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1. If a concept is an integration of two or more units, what about the concept I hold of entities that are unique? (eg, the concept of myself). Is this a valid concept?

The concept of "myself," "like consciousness," is an axiomatic concept whose units consist of all states of awareness, your own and those you infer for other human beings.

2. Many concepts cannot be measured at all. Consider the concept "war" or, "peace" - what measurements have been omitted to make this a concept? How do you measure "peace" ?

All concepts can be measured. I suspect you may be thinking of "measurement" in too literal a sense. The concept "war," for instance, omits all measurements of particular wars: where and when they occurred; the particular combatants; the particular weapons used; etc.

3. On OismOnline.net, there was a lengthy discussion about the concept "inch"; however in order to actually measure an inch, we must measure something (if you hold the concept 'plenum' as true) - even the space between your fingers is a 'thing'. Does this mean that "inch" is not a concept, but actually an attribute of an object (length, width, depth etc). ?

Of course "inch" is a concept. All words are concepts, except proper names. Regarding your point about measurement and the plenum, it is not clear to me what you mean, or what difficulty you see. Perhaps you can clarify.

4. What about the concept "hard" - how are two or more "hards" units?

A unit is "an existent regarded as a separate member of a group of two or more similar members" (ITOE, p. 6). A stone and a piece of metal are similarly hard, and distinguished from jello which is soft.

5.(this is a question on a different thing altogether)

If Reason is man's means of acquiring knowledge, and Logic is the tool of Reason, does this mean we can only acquire knowledge through either induction or deduction?

Are there any other ways of using logic to acquire knowledge?

Direct perception (extrospection or introspection).

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1. If a concept is an integration of two or more units, what about the concept I hold of entities that are unique? (eg, the concept of myself). Is this a valid concept?

I am not sure I understand your question. There is, of course, no concept "Nick Munro," if that is what you mean by "myself" in your sentence above. But there is a concept "myself," a concept anyone could use about himself.

Note that "my self" is a descriptive phrase, using two words/concepts, rather than the name of a concept ("myself").

P. S. -- You might want to chew on the idea of entities being unique. Aren't most or all entities unique when all their characteristics, including their measurements, are considered? Nick Munro is unique, from one perspective (legal responsibility, for example), but he is a unit from another perspective (in the formation of the concept "man").

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Thank you for your responses, I will chew on them, below are my clarifications of my original questions.

Of course "inch" is a concept. All words are concepts, except proper names. Regarding your point about measurement and the plenum, it is not clear to me what you mean, or what difficulty you see. Perhaps you can clarify.

What I intended here was that in order to perceive an "inch" you must perceive an "inch" of a "thing". If the universe is full, then there is no such thing as "nothing" therefore, whenever you are measuring an inch, you are measuring "things" rather than the inch. The inch is an attribute of a thing. If you compare two rulers to check they are accurate, you are measuring the rulers...

A unit is "an existent regarded as a separate member of a group of two or more similar members" (ITOE, p. 6). A stone and a piece of metal are similarly hard, and distinguished from jello which is soft.

What I meant was; why does the same "hardness" quality of the stone and the piece of metal, qualify as "units"? I can grasp "stone" as a concept under this rule, but not "hardness" - it seems like an attribute of something.

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I am not sure I understand your question. There is, of course, no concept "Nick Munro," if that is what you mean by "myself" in your sentence above. But there is a concept "myself," a concept anyone could use about himself.

Note that "my self" is a descriptive phrase, using two words/concepts, rather than the name of a concept ("myself").

P. S. -- You might want to chew on the idea of entities being unique. Aren't most or all entities unique when all their characteristics, including their measurements, are considered? Nick Munro is unique, from one perspective (legal responsibility, for example), but he is a unit from another perspective (in the formation of the concept "man").

Thanks for your reply, it is quite illuminating. Im going to think about this carefully; maybe attempt to model the objectivist epistemology for my own clarification.

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Of course "inch" is a concept. All words are concepts, except proper names. Regarding your point about measurement and the plenum, it is not clear to me what you mean, or what difficulty you see. Perhaps you can clarify.

What I intended here was that in order to perceive an "inch" you must perceive an "inch" of a "thing". If the universe is full, then there is no such thing as "nothing" therefore, whenever you are measuring an inch, you are measuring "things" rather than the inch. The inch is an attribute of a thing. If you compare two rulers to check they are accurate, you are measuring the rulers...

The concept "inch" is a standard of measurement used to quantify an attribute of an entity, say "length." "Inch" is an abstraction and does not have an independent metaphysical existence, but an abstraction is still a concept.

A unit is "an existent regarded as a separate member of a group of two or more similar members" (ITOE, p. 6). A stone and a piece of metal are similarly hard, and distinguished from jello which is soft.

What I meant was; why does the same "hardness" quality of the stone and the piece of metal, qualify as "units"? I can grasp "stone" as a concept under this rule, but not "hardness" - it seems like an attribute of something.

The phrase "an existent regarded as a separate member of a group" refers to more than just entities; an "existent" can be an entity, an attribute, an action, a relationship, etc.

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The phrase "an existent regarded as a separate member of a group" refers to more than just entities; an "existent" can be an entity, an attribute, an action, a relationship, etc.

Aha! Now I get it. Thank you for your time! (Im starting to make sense of it now!)

regards,

Nick

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Aha! Now I get it. Thank you for your time!

You're welcome.

(Im starting to make sense of it now!)

Since you are interested in this subject, I would recommend a slow and careful read of Ayn Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Her formulations there are so clear and precise, so overflowing with unique ideas on epistemology, so well-deserving of careful study.

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At the beginning of the second chapter of ITOE, a concept is defined as an integration of units:

A concept is a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated according to a specific characteristic(s) and united by a specific definition.
Rand repeatedly wrote about an integration of units, not about an integration of knowledge of units. Since she wrote about mental integrations (not physical ones) one could conclude from the context that she meant an integration of knowledge of units. But I wonder whether I am missing a deeper point here. How would you interpret her choice of words?

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At the beginning of the second chapter of ITOE, a concept is defined as an integration of units:

To be precise, as you note below, she wrote of a mental integration of units.

Rand repeatedly wrote about an integration of units, not about an integration of knowledge of units. Since she wrote about mental integrations (not physical ones) one could conclude from the context that she meant an integration of knowledge of units.

Of course. That is clear from the context, in multiple ways. For instance, the book is about epistemology, which is a study of knowledge.

In my understanding, your statement -- "[mental] integration of knowledge of units" -- is redundant, strictly speaking, as I suggest below.

But I wonder whether I am missing a deeper point here. How would you interpret her choice of words?

I would interpret her words as being written with great clarity, exactness, and conciseness. The key, I think, is to review the meaning of "unit" -- "A unit is an existent regarded as a separate member of a group or two or more similar members." (Ayn Rand, ITOE, p. 6, emphasis added.)

- Regarding is a mental activity, a cognitive one.

- Grouping is a mental activity, a cognitive one.

- Identifying similiarity is a mental activity, a cognitive one.

"Cognitive" means dealing with knowledge. So, assuming you are using "knowledge" in a general and not some special sense, I would say adding the word "knowledge" to the formulation would be redundant; knowledge is already assumed and implied in mental, unit, similiarity, regarding, group, and identifying, as well as epistemology.

If my comments aren't clear, perhaps someone else can help you.

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