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Can proper nouns be concepts?

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First, I'd like to point out I'm well aware that Objectivist Epistomology does not include Proper Nouns as concepts, and that I understand why (the short answer is that there is only one existant and so no integration is possible).

However, I want to put forward (tentatively) the idea that concepts do not require two or more existants to be integrated, but rather can be formed by integrating one existant with itself at two or more points in time. For example, a person could come up with the concept of New York City by integrating the image of the city at the present, with the images of it in 1995, 1965, and/or 1925.

Is there anything wrong with this idea, anyone?

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However, I want to put forward (tentatively) the idea that concepts do not require two or more existants to be integrated, but rather can be formed by integrating one existant with itself at two or more points in time.  For example, a person could come up with the concept of New York City by integrating the image of the city at the present, with the images of it in 1995, 1965, and/or 1925.

Is there anything wrong with this idea, anyone?

The purpose of concept formation is unit economy. What unit economy does your proposal achieve?

In your daily life are you feeling overwhelmed with "images" of New York City a week ago, six days ago, five days ago, and so forth?

I don't have that problem. I know New York City is an entity, that it has a past, and that it has a future (if the dominant philosophy of the City doesn't destroy it first).

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Is there anything wrong with this idea, anyone?
That was a clever idea, but what I think is wrong with it is, to expand on Burgess's answer, that there is no unit economy. No psycho-epistemological distinction is made between NYC at this instant (as I type this) and NYC at this instant (now I'm typing this). "Position in time" (or space) does not create new units (remembering that units are cognitive, not metaphysical). Concepts do not integrate existents, they integrate units. ("A concept is a mental integration of two or more units...": ITOE Ch. 2). NYC is one unit, regardless how many existents it is.

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Then you would have form concepts from every single entity that you see. There is one entity, New York City, existing at multiple times, but the same can be said of every other entity in existence.

Proper nouns do not name concepts: they name concrete entities. That's why there are proper nouns: to name concrete entities.

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New York isnt really an 'entity' unless you're using that word in the loosest possible sensee - it's a very high level abstraction. Understanding what 'New York' means isnt about knowing what physical objects we collectively refer to as New York (since the 'name' doesnt just refer to the buildings and people in a certain geographic region) - it involves understanding what a 'city' is - you couldnt understand 'New York' unless you already understood the concept of 'city'. It would be impossible to define New York purely by means of ostensive definition unless the person you were explaining it to already knew what a city was (what could you point to?). The understanding of 'city' would necessitate you already knowing that it can exist at various points in time and so on.

Edited by Hal

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Protons are also entities, but it is impossible ostensively to define them either.  City is a concept; New York is a particular city, one among the many referents of city.

What? EVIL is a concept. A city, a horse, a country... those are entities. In some cases, a thing could be called by its conceptual name. Civilization, for example.

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What?  EVIL is a concept.  A city, a horse, a country... those are entities.  In some cases, a thing could be called by its conceptual name.  Civilization, for example.

First, Linda, I strongly recommend two works that show Ayn Rand's philosophy in her own words, not in the interpretations by others in this forum (including mine):

The Ayn Rand Lexicon -- see, for example, the entries for "concept," "faith," and "reason."

Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology -- Ayn Rand's treatise on concept-formation, which is her philosophically most important and revolutionary work.

You can order them through The Ayn Rand Bookstore or many other outlets.

Second, yes, a (particular) horse is an entity. But "horse" (as an abstraction) is a concept referring to all particular horses. A particular city, such as New York City is a entity when considered as an object of study. (See Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, p. 271, among others).

The subject of this thread is reason versus faith. The formation of concepts from percepts, following rules of logic is reason in action. Percepts are the matter of reason. Concepts are the form of reason. And logic is the method of reason. You can read about each of those ideas -- percepts, concepts, and logic -- in IOE, as a starting point.

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What?  EVIL is a concept.  A city, a horse, a country... those are entities.  In some cases, a thing could be called by its conceptual name.  Civilization, for example.

You are mixing in very abstract concepts such as evil in with less abstract concepts. Concepts are formed in a hierarchy starting with the directly percievable, a chair, a table, etc. then preceeding from there to things like furniture, etc.

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You are mixing in very abstract concepts such as evil in with less abstract concepts. Concepts are formed in a hierarchy starting with the directly percievable, a chair, a table, etc. then preceeding from there to things like furniture, etc.

Furniture is a collective noun. It's pretty preceivable at least to me. The term chair, however, is very unclear as it may have significance on several levels. The definition is determined by context.

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Furniture is a collective noun.  It's pretty preceivable at least to me.  The term chair, however, is very unclear as it may have significance on several levels.  The definition is determined by context.

What does "preceivable" mean?

How closely have you studied Ayn Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology? How much of it do you agree with?

P. S. -- Have you read the Forum Rules, particularly the following section?

• Prohibited behavior

(1) This site supports discussion of, first, the principles of Objectivism, as defined by the works of Ayn Rand and supported by the Ayn Rand Institute; and, second, their application to various fields. Therefore participants must not use the website to spread ideas contrary to or unrelated to Objectivism. Examples include religion, communism, "moral tolerationism," and libertarianism. Honest questions about such subjects are permitted. However, since the focus of this forum is the philosophy of Objectivism, such questions are not encouraged.

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Furniture is a collective noun.  It's pretty preceivable at least to me.  The term chair, however, is very unclear as it may have significance on several levels.  The definition is determined by context.

It might help you to look up the terms, for example here: furniture is a mass noun, not a collective noun. In addition, the distinction between count, mass and collective noun is entirely irrelevant to the question of identification. In fact, the term "chair" is extremely clear. It is true that in primitive societies which have no chairs, chairs have a different importance from that of Western civilization, but the referent is the same. And although Danish Modern chairs were virtually unknown in the US before 1960, there was never an question whether they were chairs. The definition of a concept is not the same as "everything you know or believe about the particular existents", and this may be where you are getting confused. That, plus confusion over the meaning of "concept" (which doesn't mean "abstract", "nebulous"). Probably you're getting confused because of terms like "concept art", which is art that isn't about anything at all and does not stand for anything concrete. "Concept", in its proper meaning, does refer to something very concrete. It is the higher-order concepts (like furniture) which are not directly perceivable which therefore get involved in nit-picky debates (for instance, it an ash-tray "furniture", esp. if it is one of those types with its own stand, which you put on the floor and not on the table).

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What does "preceivable" mean?

How closely have you studied Ayn Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology? How much of it do you agree with?

P. S. -- Have you read the Forum Rules, particularly the following section?

Yes, It does not say that a collective noun is a concept. In fact one of the patrons in that section of the forum makes the distinction.

I don't agree with everything in any philosophy. That would preclude my right to think independently or to examine alternatives. I follow the scientific method.

Edited by lindagarrette

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I don't agree with everything in any philosophy.  That would preclude my right to think independently or to examine alternatives.

By what method can you examine alternatives, if you do not have an accepted metaphysics to base it on? You cannot judge independantly of philosophy, as judgement REQUIRES philosophy. Whether or not you know it, you are operating on philosophical premises every time you examine something. If you decide "I don't want to be biased or narrow-minded, so I'll arbitrarily flit between various explicit philosophical premises as a means of 'running different tests'" then that is your accepted philosophy. You cannot think, without a certain method of thinking, guided by certain principles. Your only choice is in choosing the right method and the right principles. And making that choice requires inductive observation, not science. You cannot reverse the relationship between philosophy and science, no matter how hard you try.

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Protons are also entities, but it is impossible ostensively to define them either.  City is a concept; New York is a particular city, one among the many referents of city.

Protons have physical existence, New York doesnt. New York cannot be defined as 'the buildings and people currently inhabiting geographic location X', since New York will still exist after all these people and buildings have changed. Nor is New York 'this area of land, regardless of what is built on it', since this area of land could change and New York would still exist (the size of a city can increase or decrease over time). 'New York' is an abstraction we make - the term does not pick out any single entity, or group of entities, in perception.

If you think the term 'New York' refers to an entity, then which entity do you believe this is?

Edited by Hal

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Protons have physical existence, New York doesnt. New York cannot be defined as 'the buildings and people currently inhabiting geographic location X', since New York will still exist after all these people and buildings have changed. Nor is New York 'this area of land, regardless of what is built on it', since this area of land could change and New York would still exist (the size of a city can increase or decrease over time). 'New York' is an abstraction we make - the term does not pick out any single entity, or group of entities, in perception.
I think New York City does exist, and it refers to a particular place. You argue that the boundaries could change, but I don't see how that disqualifies "this place" as the definition of NYC. The location or energy of a proton can change, and it is still a proton (and still the same proton). If you lose a finger, that doesn't mean you no longer exist. Same if you lose a hand, or an arm. If you lose everything but a finger, then is when you don't exist. Immutability isn't a requirement of entities.

To take an intermediate case, would you consider a hand to be an entity, or an abstraction?

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Is there anything wrong with this idea, anyone?

There is something wrong with this. New York City is NOT a concept. It does have to be integrated, though, but not over time. Watch "The Objectivist Standard" for an article on this very subject, to be published (we hope) before Summer 2006.

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I don't agree with everything in any philosophy. That would preclude my right to think independently or to examine alternatives. I follow the scientific method.

First, this is a false alternative. Agreement with a particular philosophy, either all or in part, does not prevent a person from thinking independently or examining alternatives. If this were true, the same argument could be made that you preclude your right to independent thought if you just limit yourself to "the scientific method". After all, some people claim that you can learn alot by doing psychodelic drugs (though not me of course).

Second, what if everything in a particular philosophy was verifiable by use of the scientific method? Would your agree with all of it then?

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There is something wrong with this. New York City is NOT a concept. It does have to be integrated, though, but not over time. Watch "The Objectivist Standard" for an article on this very subject, to be published (we hope) before Summer 2006.

What is "The Objectivist Standard?" Did you mean to type "The Objective Standard?" I have the Summer 2006 issue and there isn't an article on proper names.

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