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ITOE: Concepts vs. Collective Nouns

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AndrewSternberg
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What is the relationship between concepts and collective nouns.

From www.Dictionary.com :

“n : a noun that is singular in form but refers to a group of people or things”

This definition was not very illuminating, so perhaps someone else can do better.

The word ‘man’ is a concept, whereas ‘mankind’ is a collective noun. Now take the following two statements:

"Man is rational."

"Mankind is rational."

Is there a difference?

It might be useful if anyone can think of and list any other pairs of concepts and collective nouns,

(I was originally going to ask a question about the language used when discussing the universe, but I quickly realized that I should investigate the above distinction first. Once this thread is exhausted I will start a separate thread for that topic)

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Um, first of all both of those statements are false. You would be better off saying:

"Man is potentially rational."

and

"Mankind is potentially rational."

My nitpickiness satisfied, I can now attempt to answer your question:

Yes, there is a difference between the two statements. The first one indicates that individual men have the ability to exercise rationality. The second indicates that all men, taken together, have the ability to exercise rationality.

Doesn't seem like such a big deal, does it? The distinction is important, though. You can attribute characteristics to one without necessarily attributing them to the other. If you say "Man is rational" it does not necessarily mean that "Mankind is rational," and vice versa.

Other collective nouns are a "gaggle" of geese, a "flock" of sheep, etc. It is important to note that these collective nouns aren't merely a group of dissociated things denoted by concepts, (i.e. geese or sheep), but seperate concepts in and of themselves. A flock of sheep is not the same thing as a bunch of sheep that happen to be in the same geographical locale, it has definite properties of its own.

A good similar term for humans would be a "society" of humans, namely, a group of humans that have agreed to associate in a particular way.

I know this is hardly a complete or consise answer, and I'm not entirely sure I've parsed this out correctly, but I'm still learning this stuff myself.

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Um, first of all both of those statements are false.  You would be better off saying:

"Man is potentially rational."

and

"Mankind is potentially rational."

What I meant was that man has the faculty of reason, which when he chooses, enables him to be rational. However if this is what I meant, then I should have used words that stated it more clearly.

As for your "nitpickiness", I will expect and hope for more from you and anyone else that understands that philosophical precision is indispensable when dissecting such complex issues.

My nitpickiness satisfied, I can now attempt to answer your question:

Yes, there is a difference between the two statements.  The first one indicates that individual men have the ability to exercise rationality.  The second indicates that all men, taken together, have the ability to exercise rationality.

Of what you say here, I am focusing specifically on the words, "taken together". I am not quite sure what this means. Can you elaborate?

Doesn't seem like such a big deal, does it?  The distinction is important, though.  You can attribute characteristics to one without necessarily attributing them to the other.  If you say "Man is rational" it does not necessarily mean that "Mankind is rational," and vice versa.

I am not to the point in my understanding where I can either agree or disagree. I don't yet know what the essential difference and relationship is between concepts and collective nouns, so it would be premature for me to start positing what once can and can't say about one and not the other.

Lets make a note to return to this question later, once we have "parsed" more of this issue.

Other collective nouns are a "gaggle" of geese, a "flock" of sheep, etc.  It is important to note that these collective nouns aren't merely a group of dissociated things denoted by concepts, (i.e. geese or sheep), but separate concepts in and of themselves.  A flock of sheep is not the same thing as a bunch of sheep that happen to be in the same geographical locale, it has definite properties of its own.
Would you agree to a summary to your above point is: a collective noun counts as a concept too. Or at least, these specific collective nouns count as concepts. These thoughts lead me to another question: Do all collective nouns count as concepts?

A good similar term for humans would be a "society" of humans, namely, a group of humans that have agreed to associate in a particular way.

I have nothing else to add to this point other than to agree that yes this is a good example of another collective noun and perhaps we can use it later.

I know this is hardly a complete or concise answer, and I'm not entirely sure I've parsed this out correctly, but I'm still learning this stuff myself.

Complete? On the first attempt? I think you can afford yourself just a little more leeway than that.

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While I don’t have time to properly respond... I found this useful:

Collective Noun (substantiv med kollektiv betydning): a noun which refers to a group of people, e.g. family, team, committee. A particular feature of collective nouns is that they may occur with plural verbs and co-referential pronouns and determiners, even when the noun has singular form. When they occur with plural forms, the emphasis is on the group as consisting of several members, e.g. Manchester United are in the lead. They have not lost a single match in three months. (This is called 'distributive reading'.) When a collective noun co-occurs with singular verbs and pronouns, the emphasis is on the group as a unit ('unit reading'): The committee has its last meeting today, and will submit on Tuesday. The use of plural verbs with collective nouns occurs mainly in British English, while both American and British English may use plural pronouns to refer back to a collective noun.

And another collective noun: “existence” (as used in existence exists). One question that will come up is - what is the difference between “existence”, as a collective noun, and “universe”?

And another question: Is there rule for which concepts may be used as collective nouns, or can they all be used as such?

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I want to temporarily abandon this thread so that more of my time can be spent discussing ITOE.

I vaguely recall one of the chapters mentioning the different types of words and their metahpysical and epistemological roots. I will revive this thread once we reach that part of ITOE.

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