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Human conceptualization

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Egosum—
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How did humans obtain conceptualization, and was there ever a time where our descendants did not have conceptualization? Wouldn't that prove that we would never have it? If there was a time when we didn't, but we do now, how did it go about happening? I'm not asking for the progression of our intelligence and knowledge base, but rather from A (nothing) to B (something) without any interference?

How does one build a pyramid without stone? How does one obtain conceptualization through evolution? Could it be we always had Conceptual minds?

I'm doubtful of human's "ancestors". It just seems so baffling how we obtained such a powerful ability, while no other animal has; and if we obtained it through "ancestors" or there never were ancestors at all.

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How did humans obtain conceptualization, and was there ever a time where our descendants did not have conceptualization?

I can answer, in part at least, that a good deal of conceptualization comes from the evolution of culture. In terms of child development, in most primitive cultures, few if any people tend to ever reach Piaget's "formal operations stage." Assuming that there is no genetic determinant, the idea is that in a simple society with a lack of complex relationships, socially and otherwise, the mind never develops the capacity to abstract past the point which is necessary in that particular society. Viewed inductively, to be able to identify anything, it is necessary to have a contrast between at least two objects to form genus and differentia. To be able to form more complex thoughts than simple precept based identification, it is necessary to organize many, many of these identities.

So a society which only collects roots, nuts and berries does not require much expansion of mental capacity compared to one which also hunts, or compared to one that hunts and domesticates animals(100,000 years ago) or compared to one that hunts, domesticates animals, and grows crops(10,000 years) or one that hunts, domesticate animals, grows crops and builds international corporations as part of an intergovernmental collaboration intending to increase micro loan usage for the implementation of increased communication based microprocessors in emerging markets(1 year ago).

So, humans, at birth, are potentially capable of serious conceptualization but a severe lack of stimulation can functionally end that potentiality by the age of 5. To make the point, imagine the extreme example of a child raised alone in a white square room. Assuming he could even survive, what level of conceptualization could he ever achieve? Probably very little.

If you are asking, prior to modern man, than I would guess that the movement towards larger brain capacity was VERY gradual, even as compared to the gradual and somewhat logarithmic movement of cultural and technological advancement. More or less, technology, advanced culture(and its philosophy) and individual conceptual capacity have grown hand in hand.

edit: regarding the evolution aspect, someone more biologically educated might give a better answer, but I wanted to clarify that the development of increased mammalian brain capacity over the prior millions of years was a necessary but not sufficient requirement for advanced conceptual thought because, as you say, the bricks(complex knowledge base) had to be there first before a really shiny conceptual pyramid could be built. So the lack of a complex set of ideological materials may make it appear as if the capacity for advanced conceptualization appeared suddenly 5000 years ago, if, you view brain capacity alone as the requirement for complex thought.

edit 2: Sorry to go on in on but this is a subject of much interest to me. An example of this that I thought might clarify the limitations put on an otherwise complex mind is the use of Roman Numerals. Try multiplying and dividing without the 0 place holder. It's a bloody mess that quickly forbids the human mind from grasping even basic algebraic concepts. Each new idea allows for an increase in complexity that was quite literally not in existence before even with no actual change in brain size to accompany it.

Edited by aequalsa
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How did humans obtain conceptualization, and was there ever a time where our descendants did not have conceptualization?

How reason (conceptualization) evolved in humans or their ancestors is currently not known. This means that the environmental factors that guided natural selection towards development of reason are not understood. But given the theory of evolution and prehistoric-archeological discoveries, it is certain that there was a time when our descendants did not have conceptualization.

Having said that, some scientists and philosophers argue that reason developed in conjunction with language. This may not surprise you if you are familiar with Ayn Rand's theory of concepts. Audio/visual symbols (words) are the means by which man is able to hold concepts. The idea that language is intricately linked with reason actually goes back to Aristotle. This section of a Wikipedia article on "Language" might be helpful in this regard:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language#Hist...gin_of_language

Wouldn't that prove that we would never have it? If there was a time when we didn't, but we do now, how did it go about happening? I'm not asking for the progression of our intelligence and knowledge base, but rather from A (nothing) to B (something) without any interference?

Why should it be without interference? Interference is the basis of evolution. For an example of how quickly environmental factors can affect physiological characteristics in birds, see "The Beak of the Finch" (Amazon - I haven't read it but know it's central idea.)

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I'm doubtful of human's "ancestors". It just seems so baffling how we obtained such a powerful ability, while no other animal has; and if we obtained it through "ancestors" or there never were ancestors at all.

Of course there were ancestors. That is how we got here. See -The Ancestor's Tale- by Richard Dawkins or -The Greatest Show on Earth- by the same author. If you want to visit your ancestors, go the the Great Barrier Reef and see the stromatelites.

How did we get here? Genetic mutation. Chromosomal crossover. It is accidental. A glitch. A happenstance. Evolution at work. Our kind happened along, through purely natural processes. Nature clanking and grinding along, without a thought, dumb as a bag full of anvils.

The most successful species on this planet (in terms of reproductive success) are (and were) one celled microscopic organism without an iota of intelligence. They outweigh the mammalian species by at least three or four orders of magnitude.

Of the multicelled organisms, the most reproductively successful are the insects. Long after our kind is extinct and gone there will be beetles and roaches.

If Nature "cared" (it doesn't) the thing it cares about most is how well does a species reproduce itself. In fact, the cosmos is mostly non-alive, at least the baryonic portion that gives off electromagnetic radiation. Of the part that does not shine (so-called dark matter) who knows?

Bob Kolker

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