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explication of a concept

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The reason I ask is that there seems to be a sharp divide between people who grasp a need for making CCDs explicit (to aid measurement inclusion) vs. people who think concept-formation and conceptual identification are largely automatic and cannot be improved.

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Nemain, concept articulation can certainly be improved. We seem to know more about our concepts than first might be thought. We can come up with genus-species definitions of many of our concepts just thinking it over. When one has a genus for the definition of a concept, one has the conceptual common denominator, supposing there is one. That is, one has in such cases the dimension along which measure values may vary among species and among individual members within species under the concept.

In my own view, we should start with formulating a genus-species definition. That articulation will be useful of itself. Then see if there is one or more magnitude dimensions shared at the genus level, that is, shared among all the species and their members. For the genus of a solid, we might take ability of a material to resist shearing stresses (fluids will not). Then specifying the different sorts of shearing stresses and how resistance to the various ones are measured, we get varieties of solids specified in terms of those sorts shearing-stress resistance.

However, sometimes we have a genus, perfectly sensible, that does not seem to have one or more magnitude dimensions that can be Rand's conceptual common denominator spanning all the species under the genus and individuals under the species. Hardness, fatigue cycle limit, critical buckling stress, shear and bulk moduli, and tensile strength all fall under the superordinate concept strength of a solid. These various strengths of solids are all forms of resistance to degradations under stresses. That is their genus, but the variety of species seems so wide that there does not seem to be a conceptual common denominator in Rand's sense, though the concept with its wide range is useful in design engineering and in failure analysis.

Edited by Boydstun
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To my last paragraph in the preceding post, I'd like to add that for concepts just a single level over the individuals they subsume it seems there will be some definitions of the concept, including some genus or other and some super-ordinate concept or other which will be a conceptual common denominator having magnitude and measurability as in Rand's conception of the character of concepts. And if that is so, then all concrete particulars stand in magnitude relations among other concrete particulars.

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I feel like you're almost talking about how similarity criteria are used in engineering.  In the case of elastic deformation, the Poisson ratio comes to mind.  Or consider such proposals for chemistry as this: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8607974/


With regard to your remarks on what you're calling magnitude dimensions, a given characteristic might map to a number of them.  But if our state of knowledge hasn't found something as rigorous as dimensions, we'd have to enumerate and map out the CCD's some other way.

One type of situation that comes to mind is how sometimes not having a certain characteristic counts against the possibility of it being an A much more than having the characteristic provides strong evidence for the possibility of it being an A.  That sort of asymmetry could complicate the use of a rigorous definition that you already trust.


Also, while a tentative definition can sometimes help, I can think of two major classes of situations where a definition could be misleading:

1. There can be situations where it is premature to try to articulate a definition. Consider that before we learned that the number of protons defined the elements and constrained oxidation numbers, elements were given lengthy descriptions and were associated with specific chemical tests to determine composition of materials.

2. There are perfectly decent definitions which do not explain a number of characteristics actually used for the purpose of classification.  Consider "heat flow".  Or consider the use of equations serving as similarity criteria for comparing physical systems.



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