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the psycho-epistemological function of propositions

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Cognitively, propositions apply concepts to particular problems.

What is the psycho-epistemological function of propositions?  They seem to help "document" the nature of the mental connections one needs to make and maintain.  They seem to help ensure attention and manage the crow.  I'm wondering what else they do.  And I'm wondering what fundamental function explains the most benefits.

Any psychology majors out there?

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Not a psych major per se, but as far as my knowledge and actual pursuit of the field, I'm well aware of the field.

I don't follow your question, or why psychology matters here. Rand seems to talk about psycho-epistemology as one's psychological state for thinking and one's attitude toward thinking. So a rational or healthy psycho-epistemology is one which promotes proper use of concepts, enjoyment of thought, and pursuing knowledge. A better question may be: taking as a premise that Rand is right about the role of concepts from a philosophical basis, what could a psychologist take away from this to study the details of what propositions do?

Linguistics is a better angle to approach that question and some ideas in psychology. That would help to define "proposition" so we know what the content of a proposition has anyway. From my knowledge, philosophically, a proposition has concepts or proximate percepts or distal percepts as content, but it's still open what to do about noun-phrases, semantics, pragmatics, etc. From that you'd compare people employing propositions to those being told to employ only a few concepts. I suspect another way to study it is to show one group a set of propositions, another group a set of single terms, and use a test of creativity to see which group if any thinks better.

I hypothesize, though, that propositions allow one to get into a "thinking and rational" state more easily by virtue of connecting your ideas to more concepts, without cognitive overload. Consider a proposition has more content than a concept within that proposition, so one might argue that propositions only hinder thinking, making one prone to biases and errors. Propositions -organize- concepts though, regardless of the linguistic rules or details. Philosophically, it is reasonable to say propositions connect concepts, but it doesn't tell us how hard it is to do, if it's pretty natural to do, or the specific impact on the brain.

Edited by Eiuol
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14 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I don't follow your question, or why psychology matters here

Louie, I'm thinking about the interaction between the conscious mind and the automatic functions of the subconscious.  I'm thinking about the subconscious as an integrating mechanism.  I was specifically thinking of how propositions help maintain focus and attention, but I didn't want responses to be restricted to only that.

Psychology matters to the extent that they are using epistemologically proper methods.  Cognitive psychology has a bit to say about "concept learning", i.e. gaining the knowledge of how to apply a particular concept correctly, e.g. knowing what it is to be a triangle to correctly determine whether a particular thing has a qualifying aspect.

But I haven't found anything in cognitive psychology on what propositions do for problem-solving, working-memory, and so on.  I've only found stuff on "personal epistemology".

I didn't bother with linguistics because the cognitive role of grammar is already evident to me.  (BTW I recommend Leonard Peikoff's lectures on grammar and an old book entitled Writing and Thinking by Foerster and Steadman)

I'm glad about how much Objectivist writings cover.  Ayn Rand remarks that a concept can be said to stand for a number of propositions. And she knows that a proposition applies a concept to something particular in a "determinate" way.  Harry Binswanger devotes a chapter of How We Know to the nature of propositions.




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Linguistics has a lot to say about language, it's not just the role of grammar. Nowadays, linguistics and psychology have a lot of synergy, and combined are about the role concepts, propositions, and other linguistic features play in making thought more efficient. Propositions are harder to study from being so varied, but plenty of studies involve interpreting sentences that possess certain features like morphisms.



Those are related. This page is helpful: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_linguistics

Propositions aren't often studied, but schemas and frames are other terms for related ideas for what you want.

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9 hours ago, Vik said:

I was specifically thinking of how propositions help maintain focus and attention, but I didn't want responses to be restricted to only that.

Are you thinking along the following quote from ITOE, p. 48.

Truth is the the product of the recognition (i.e. identification) of the facts of reality.  Man identifies and integrates the facts of reality by means of concepts.  He retains concepts in his mind by definitions.  He organizes concepts into propositions....

.... Every concept stands for a number of propositions.  A concepts identifying perceptual concretes stands for some implicit propositions; but on higher levels of abstractions, a concept stands for chains of paragraphs and pages of explicit propositions referring to complex factual data."


Also, the role of propositions is further discussed in a way that may pertain to your post on page 183. It relates to the economy of thought due to "crow" limits.  Without re-typing it in full:


Prof. B:  Isn't this question really about the theory of propositions, not of concepts?  There are twenty-one concepts [words in a sentence] but the first five of them, say, are integrated into one clause, and the various clauses are integrated into one proposition, and that's how we hold it.

AR:  Yes.

Prof. E:  If you just strung out twenty-one words at random from the dictionary, you couldn't hold them all.

AR:  Yes.

Prof. A:  So there's something going on, when you read the sentence forward, that enables you to grasp it.

Prof. E: The proposition, in effect, becomes a unit itself.

AR: Yes. 

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