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Nitpick: Words are not concepts

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If:

1. A sentence contains information other than a set of concepts. (Zebras are mammals =/= Mammals are zebras; concepts: { zebras, being, mammals })

2. The information in a sentence is communicated through words (Vocal 'punctuation' is unreliable)

 

Then it wouldn't be surprising if:

3. Some words aid in meaning without directly conveying a concept. (A grue was eaten by you = You ate a grue; concepts: { ingestion, grues })

 

 

It is important to distingish between what is conceptual or conceptualizable, and what is itself a concept. A colon may trigger thought, but for actually talking about the concept colon we use the word, not the symbol.

As you continue to dice, slice, and discard what you consider to be irrelevant to what you are trying to discover, you may find yourself with nothing left to analyze, and conclude that it all sums up to nothing at all.

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If:

1. A sentence contains information other than a set of concepts. (Zebras are mammals =/= Mammals are zebras; concepts: { zebras, being, mammals })

2. The information in a sentence is communicated through words (Vocal 'punctuation' is unreliable)

 

Then it wouldn't be surprising if:

3. Some words aid in meaning without directly conveying a concept. (A grue was eaten by you = You ate a grue; concepts: { ingestion, grues })

 

1 and 2 don't lead to 3. You seem to be saying that the word *is* the concept - that's not Rand's position. Maybe that conclusion is not surprising, but how do you get there? Even if a sentence conveys more than merely adding concepts, it doesn't follow that some words in the sentence aren't concepts. "Sure you saw a satyr" can mean that you really did see a satyr, or it could be sarcastic and mean that I think you never saw a satyr. Each word is a concept, but the meaning of the sentence is not merely adding up concepts. If you introduce punctuation to indicate sarcasm, that would be a concept of indicating sarcasm.

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Dower said:

A colon may trigger thought, but for actually talking about the concept colon we use the word, not the symbol.

It doesnt matter because both the word and the "symbol" are symbols in different context. In both cases the meaning is the actual existents being symbolized. Edited by Plasmatic

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It doesnt matter because both the word and the "symbol" are symbols in different context. In both cases the meaning is the actual existents being symbolized.

 

Is your position really that colons and "colon" have the same meaning?

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I consider 'concepts/words' an invalid package deal.

 

I think that I am starting to understand your position.

 

In short, I think that you are trying to distinguish between:

  • visible/audible symbols/words
  • mentally apprehended symbols/words
  • concepts
  • structural/grammatical meaning.

I think that we can all agree that visible/audible symbols/words (e.g. — the written word "THIS") are existents that are perceivable to the senses. Conversely, mentally apprehended symbols/words (e.g. — the thought of the written word "THIS") are existents that are *NOT* perceivable to the senses.

 

I think that some of the disagreement is coming from what I understand as your assertion that:

  • [CONCEPTS] and [sTRUCTURAL/GRAMMATICAL MEANING] are in some way the same/mutually inclusive

and the Objectivist assertion that: 

  • [CONCEPTS] and [MENTALLY APPREHENDED SYMBOLS/WORDS] are the same.

According to Rand's account of Objectivist epistemology, each and every case of a mentally apprehended (i.e. — recognized and understood) [WORD] is also a case of a mentally apprehended [CONCEPT].

 

In short, [CONCEPTS] = [WORDS].

 

The reason for this is simply based on Rand's definition of [CONCEPT], which is — "a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated by a process of abstraction and united by a specific definition [in conjunction with its definiendum]." Thus, every [WORD] that is mentally apprehended is also a [CONCEPT] according to Objectivist epistemology. It is also worth noting that this kind of perspective is not totally unrelated to philosophical accounts of [CONCEPTS].

 

THUS, It is based on this epistemological description that Objectivists assert that [CONCEPT] is not the same as [sTRUCTURAL/GRAMMATICAL MEANING]. Their contention is that [sTRUCTURAL/GRAMMATICAL MEANING] is created by the correct combinations of [WORDS]/[CONCEPTS].

 

It might be more useful to argue that Rand's epistemological account does not logically entail her to the conclusions that she asserts.

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The reason for this is simply based on Rand's definition of [CONCEPT], which is — "a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated by a process of abstraction and united by a specific definition [in conjunction with its definiendum]." Thus, every [WORD] that is mentally apprehended is also a [CONCEPT] according to Objectivist epistemology. It is also worth noting that this kind of perspective is not totally unrelated to philosophical accounts of [CONCEPTS].

 

THUS, It is based on this epistemological description that Objectivists assert that [CONCEPT] is not the same as [sTRUCTURAL/GRAMMATICAL MEANING]. Their contention is that [sTRUCTURAL/GRAMMATICAL MEANING] is created by the correct combinations of [WORDS]/[CONCEPTS].

 

It might be more useful to argue that Rand's epistemological account does not logically entail her to the conclusions that she asserts.

As far as I know, Rand never went that deep into philosophy of language, but I don't think anything she believed entailed that syntax is created by combinations of words, or that semantics are created by combinations of words. How to structure a sentence isn't a concept, but grammatical parts of a sentence like "and" are concepts referring to a method, just as the concept logic is referring to a method. I'm just trying to figure out why Rowsdower thinks anything used to convey grammar application is not a concept.

 

Also, words *denote* a concept. Concepts are more than their definition; it's not quite right to equate a representation with what it represents.

Edited by Eiuol

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Language not only allows us to express concepts, it allows us to apply concepts to entities, facts, hypotheticals, what-have-you. When you say "a red balloon" you not only communicate the two concepts, you specify that they apply to the same entity simultaneously. The Objectivist meaning of concept is an integration of similar existents; an idea is not necessarily a concept or set of concepts. The idea of a red balloon is not a mere juxtaposition of your concepts of red and balloons.

 

Also, from lojban.org/tiki/wavelessonscontinued:

la, as well as lai and la'i are a bit eccentric, since they always marks the beginning of a name. Unlike the other gadri, anything that can be grammatically placed after la and its sisters are considered part of the name. For example, le mi gerku is "my dog", but la mi gerku is someone called "My Dog".

 

It is a part of the language definition that these words (la, lai, la'i) alter the meaning of the sentence without themselves representing concepts.

 

 

I don't know how you arrived at this conclusion.

 

If you do recognize the distinction between the concept of a punctuation mark and the meaning represented by it, then you can not, for example, claim that a period is a concept because you have a concept of "grammatical tool used to express the end of an expression" (post #2 in this thread). If a punctuation symbol is a concept, then what is the difference in meaning between "Yesterday I died" and "Yesterday, I died." ?

 

 

grammatical parts of a sentence like "and" are concepts referring to a method

When I say "I am tired and hungry", am I talking about how occasionally I have more than one thing to say? Or am I just doing it without referring to it? This is just the same as the difference between "period" and a period.

Edited by rowsdower

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If you do recognize the distinction between the concept of a punctuation mark and the meaning represented by it, then you can not, for example, claim that a period is a concept because you have a concept of "grammatical tool used to express the end of an expression" (post #2 in this thread). If a punctuation symbol is a concept, then what is the difference in meaning between "Yesterday I died" and "Yesterday, I died." ?

Not much difference, that doesn't change a period as "sentence ending". If you don't need to convey "sentence ending", then don't. If you want to, go ahead. The sentence would be the same, albeit perhaps a little more ambiguous if it looked like you hit post by accident before you finished. A concept isn't "that which will destroy the meaning of a sentence if removed", since sentence meaning is not a sum of concepts within a sentence.

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Dowser said:

If a punctuation symbol is a concept, then what is the difference in meaning between "Yesterday I died" and "Yesterday, I died." ?

One of the sentences has the symbol that informs you of the intentional state of the speaker that the other doesn't, that is, to pause. The comma is a symbol that tells you the method employed by the writer and therefore how you should interpret the writers intentional state.

Edit: this lecture on intentionality discussing "intrinsic", "derived", and "metaphorical" intentional states:

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ov3JJyXvjGU

Approx 20:00 in.

Edited by Plasmatic

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As far as I know, Rand never went that deep into philosophy of language, but I don't think anything she believed entailed that syntax is created by combinations of words, or that semantics are created by combinations of words. 

Fair enough. I was overreaching.

 

 

 

Also, words *denote* a concept. Concepts are more than their definition; it's not quite right to equate a representation with what it represents.

 

In a way, this seems a little confusing. It is my understanding that, according to Rand, a [CONCEPT] is:

 

"a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated by a process of abstraction and united by a specific definition [in conjunction with its definiendum]."

 

Accordingly, a [CONCEPT], strictly speaking, is the UNION of

  1. a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated by a process of abstraction
  2. a specific definition, and
  3. a word (i.e. — the definiendum of #2 and for #1)

Henceforth, I will refer to this as Rand's original position.

 

Thus, when you say that, "Concepts are more than their definition," I accept this in the sense that a [CONCEPT] is not the aforementioned *#2* (i.e. — a specific definition), it is the union of *#1*, *#2*, and *#3*.

 

With regard to your statements that "words *denote* a concept" and that "it's not quite right to equate a representation with what it represents" — henceforth referred to as Rand's second position, this sentiment itself is problematic and seems to turn on Rand's somewhat ambiguous account of what a [CONCEPT] is.

 

On the one hand, she asserts that a [CONCEPT], as such, does not exist until there is a word for *#1* and *#2*. In other words, Rand's original position asserts that merely apprehending *#1* and *#2* with regard to [ENTITY-Xs] is *not* sufficient for there to be a [CONCEPT] of/with regard to [ENTITY-Xs].

 

In order for there to be a [CONCEPT] of/with regard to [ENTITY-Xs], she asserts that there must be an apprehension of the union of *#1*, *#2*, and *#3* with regard to [ENTITY-Xs]. 

 

Conversely, in her second position, she does in fact say that, as you say, words *denote* concepts and/or that concepts can take the form of words.

 

This position however, doesn't make sense if we hold Rand to her original position with regard to what a [CONCEPT] is (i.e. — the union of *#1*, *#2*, and *#3* with regard to [ENTITY-Xs]). 

 

Thus, if we do in fact hold her accountable, this second position indicates that a second word is needed to denote a [CONCEPT] that, by definition, already has a word associated with it.

 

Let's look at the dissonance of her original position as it relates to her second position by applying it to an actual example — the concept [OTTER].

 

Rand's original position with regard to the concept [OTTER] (i.e. — the union of *#1*, *#2*, and *#3* with regard to otters):

 

1. there is a mental integration of two or more brown, fuzzy, fun-loving, aquatic, etc, animals as units that have been isolated by a process of abstraction as being of the same kind

 

2. a semiaquatic fish-eating mammal of the weasel family, with an elongated body, dense fur, and webbed feet

  • this is the actual definition of [otter], but Rand also holds that any sort of rough, approximate, non-technical definition will work just as well, as long as what is understood is the same

3. [OTTER] (i.e. — the definiendum of #2 and for #1/the word for #2 and for #1)

 

Thus, [OTTER] - the word, serves a simultaneous triple function in Rand's original position. First, it is the symbol for the definiendum of #2 and for #1/the word for #2 and for #1. Second, it is the symbol that connotes the union of *#1*, *#2*, and *#3* with regard to otters — it is in this sense that [OTTER], the word, is the concept for otter and that the representation is, in a partial way, what it represents. Third, it is the symbol that functions as either a perceptual concrete or a mental concrete for the consciousness apprehending [OTTER].

 

Rand's second position would then have us use a new word, like [bROTTER], for the word [OTTER] when all we need and mean is just [OTTER].

__________

 

Personally, at least from what I have read, she seems somewhat uncertain and imprecise about what exactly a [CONCEPT] is.

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In a way, this seems a little confusing. It is my understanding that, according to Rand, a [CONCEPT] is:

 

"a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated by a process of abstraction and united by a specific definition [in conjunction with its definiendum]."

 

Accordingly, a [CONCEPT], strictly speaking, is the UNION of

  1. a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated by a process of abstraction
  2. a specific definition, and
  3. a word (i.e. — the definiendum of #2 and for #1)

1 and 2 are united by a word or symbol. A word by Rand's view is not 1, 2, and 3 united by a word or symbol because no word exists until 1 and 2 are unified. The word is the unifier. Rand clearly stated that her view is that words represent concepts. If you have no word, you have no representation.

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1 and 2 are united by a word or symbol. A word by Rand's view is not 1, 2, and 3 united by a word or symbol because no word exists until 1 and 2 are unified. The word is the unifier. Rand clearly stated that her view is that words represent concepts. If you have no word, you have no representation.

 

See ITOE, The Role of Words — Words and Concepts, pg. 162-177. On the one hand, she asserts that a [CONCEPT] is *NOT* the mere union of only 1 & 2. Thus, it is nonsense, if we take her original position seriously, that a word represents the [[CONCEPT]-1 & 2] when it is not possible for 1 & 2 to be a concept in the first place. A [CONCEPT], according to her definition, entails the presence of a word; thus, why would I need a word  for a word?

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rowsdower "You could only think I imply the latter by assuming that words are concepts."

In a sense you are right. Words are not concepts, they are audio-visual symbols which designate concepts. Without concepts words are simply sounds. If your words don't designate concepts, you will speak like Mad Hatter ": 'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe." -Is that what you mean by language?

Words are means to retain concepts, but concepts themselves initially are pre-verbal.One doesn't need a word to notice similarity or common denominator between 2 or more units, but needs a word to retain it.

Edited by Leonid

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See ITOE, The Role of Words — Words and Concepts, pg. 162-177. On the one hand, she asserts that a [CONCEPT] is *NOT* the mere union of only 1 & 2. Thus, it is nonsense, if we take her original position seriously, that a word represents the [[CONCEPT]-1 & 2] when it is not possible for 1 & 2 to be a concept in the first place.

So it's fair to say word(1 + 2 + otherStuff) = concept. You're saying Rand said word(1 + 2 + word) = concept. By represent a concept, I simply mean that once a concept is made, you use the word to denote the concept. Of course, having a word means you have a concept. The word is the last step. Your line of argument presumes that some words are not concepts.

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Consider the sentence:

 

You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

 

"You" is a deixis (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/deixis) and isn't quite a proper name or a concept (okay, this one is nitpicking and You can consider it a proper name if You want to.)

 

By this logic, no pronoun is a concept. As I read it, a pronoun is: "any of a small set of words in a language that are used as substitutes for nouns or noun phrases and whose referents are named or understood in the context". To me, this means that pronouns are second-order concepts with referents contextually defined. "You" means the one or ones referred to. Within the context of a conversation, this set of referents must be defined. It not, then the one listening to such a concept would be confused and require clarification in order to make sense of this word. When taken out of context, "you" is a concepts that refers to an unknown collection of referents. Pronouns require a context. Without that context they are like functions without an argument.

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So it's fair to say word(1 + 2 + otherStuff) = concept. You're saying Rand said word(1 + 2 + word) = concept. By represent a concept, I simply mean that once a concept is made, you use the word to denote the concept. Of course, having a word means you have a concept. The word is the last step. Your line of argument presumes that some words are not concepts.

 

I don't know of any place where Rand identified "otherStuff" as a constituent part of a concept, I also have no idea what that means or how it relates to Rand's presentation of Objectivist epistemology.

 

In short, Rand says (1 + 2 + word) = concept and/or concept = (1 + 2 + word), as well as (1 + word) = concept and/or concept = (1 + word). She then goes on to say, that a word denotes (1 + 2 + word)/(1 + word)/[concept].

 

I am not sure how my "line of argument presumes that some words are not concepts." 

 

At any rate, perhaps I may have misstated my position earlier, but it is definitely true that some mentally apprehended words themselves (i.e. — mental concretes, not perceptual concretes) are not concepts.

 

For example, any mentally apprehended word itself might not be a concept, in the sense that I might know a word without knowing how it is related to and/or united with [1 — a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated by a process of abstraction] and/or [2 — a specific definition]. In this case, I merely know the word, but not its meaning. Thus, that word would not be a concept for me. This is easy enough to prove - there are probably hundreds of words in the dictionary whose meanings I don't know. I could simply open a dictionary to a random page, cover all the definitions with a piece of paper, and, more than likely, find a word that I have never heard of and whose meaning I could only guess at. By reading the word, I would know the word itself, but not its meaning (i.e. — 1 & 2). In this case, that word would not be a concept, nor would it denote a concept, even though I could potentially remember that word and how to spell it, etc. for some time following that event.

______

 

I don't deny that Rand says that a word denotes a concept. She definitely says that. My problem is that this sentiment creates a bizarre redundancy when contrasted with her statements about what constitutes a [CONCEPT].

 

Let's take a look at the fact that Rand says that [CONCEPT] = (1 + 2 + word), as well as [CONCEPT] = (1 + word)

_______

 

Prof. D: So until the word was interposed, there would not in the strict sense be a concept?

AR: Right.

 

 
(ITOE, p. 165)
_______
 
Prof. D: Then would this do as the statement of the process? One integrates, then introduces a sensuous concrete holding the integration. At that point the sound or the sensuous concrete becomes a word whose meaning is the objects integrated.
AR: That’s right.
Prof. D: And at the same time one has for the first time a concept.
AR: That’s right.
 
(ITOE, Rand, p. 166)

 

_______

 

 

Prof. D: I’ve described the process, but I have arrived also at a product which is: these regarded as units. Now at that point do I have the concept of “pad,” or do I still have something further to do, a further integration to make, before the product would be a concept?
AR: Yes. You have to give it a name.
Prof. D: Oh, give it a name— not “united by a specific definition”?
AR: A definition would be involved in more complex subjects, but on the first level, you don’t have to have a definition.
 
(ITOE, Rand, p. 167-168)
_____
 

 

 

AR:...it’s precisely by learning to differentiate, which I believe takes quite a period of time— that a child becomes ready to form the concept fully, which happens when he finds a word for it.
 
(Rand, p. 169). 
_______
 
Prof. D: There wasn’t even one in the room, and he was crying for it. And so one would have to say that even without a name these are being treated in an open-ended way rather than a purely perceptual way?
AR: Only to this extent: what you are describing is exactly the preconceptual stage. That is the mind in process. At the end of that process, he will be ready to grasp that a word names these objects.
 
(ITOE, Rand, p. 169). 

 

_______

 

 
But in order for [perceptual information on its way to becoming conceptualized or brought into conceptual order] to become a concept, the infant has to acquire some method of identifying the total of these objects conceptually. That’s the purpose that a word serves.
 
(ITOE, Rand, p. 169).
________
 
AR: Therefore, if your question is: at what point does this preliminary mental activity become a full-fledged concept? I say it becomes that when the child learns that a perceptual symbol— remember that a sound or the visual shape of a word is a percept— when he learns that that percept stands for all those concretes that he’s trying to integrate.
 
(ITOE, Rand, p. 170)

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I don't know of any place where Rand identified "otherStuff" as a constituent part of a concept, I also have no idea what that means or how it relates to Rand's presentation of Objectivist epistemology.

 

In short, Rand says (1 + 2 + word) = concept and/or concept = (1 + 2 + word), as well as (1 + word) = concept and/or concept = (1 + word). She then goes on to say, that a word denotes (1 + 2 + word)/(1 + word)/[concept].

 

 

All those quotes show how the word is a unifier. A word in this case works like a function. There is only redundancy if a word is a separate thing to be unified and not the thing unifies. In a way, denoting a concept is just a matter of naming the unifier, the word. If a word is not doing the unifying, what do you suggest as an alternative?

 

"otherStuff" conveys the nonessentials of concept formation.

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By this logic, no pronoun is a concept. As I read it, a pronoun is: "any of a small set of words in a language that are used as substitutes for nouns or noun phrases and whose referents are named or understood in the context". To me, this means that pronouns are second-order concepts with referents contextually defined. "You" means the one or ones referred to. Within the context of a conversation, this set of referents must be defined. It not, then the one listening to such a concept would be confused and require clarification in order to make sense of this word. When taken out of context, "you" is a concepts that refers to an unknown collection of referents. Pronouns require a context. Without that context they are like functions without an argument.

 

Consider "A rock is heavy. It is mossy." We use 'it' to make sure that our two concepts heavy and mossy refer to the same entity. You couldn't use a concept like "rolling" there because "rolling is mossy" wouldn't clearly refer to the heavy rock. It's not even as simple as a substitute for a phrase, because "A rock is mossy" still wouldn't perform the task of referring to the same rock.

 

the word is a unifier.

 

I agree that every time I have a concept, it would be great to have a word that denotes it in a direct manner. Now, is it true that every single time I read a word, that contributes to meaning, I certainly directly refer to a concept? Is this the role performed by words or a role?

Consider the language of logic. Every time I have a boolean I give it a name. Every time I have an operator I give it a name. Now prove that every symbol is one of these. You can't, and A | (B & C) and (A | B ) & C have the same parts but different meanings. In the same way that "roses are red, violets are blue" does not mean "roses are blue, violets are red". Language linearizes something that isn't necessarily linear, and in the process may accumulate meta-data about the structure you want to convey.

Edited by rowsdower

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Consider the language of logic. Every time I have a boolean I give it a name. Every time I have an operator I give it a name. Now prove that every symbol is one of these. You can't, and A | (B & C) and (A | B ) & C have the same parts but different meanings. In the same way that "roses are red, violets are blue" does not mean "roses are blue, violets are red". Language linearizes something that isn't necessarily linear, and in the process may accumulate meta-data about the structure you want to convey.

I don't follow the analogy. Yeah, the meaning of those two boolean phrases are different despite having the same symbols. Not sure what you want to demonstrate. Rand's idea that we're discussing says that all words denote concepts. Rand didn't preclude other roles of words, but she certainly said that a role all words share is denoting a concept.

Edited by Eiuol

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So you're sure that the '(' in (B & C) doesn't denote the concept of "occasionally logicians want to apply operations in a different order"? You understand that we are simply doing it, not talking about it?

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