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Monday, August 15, 2011

What is concept ?


a general notion or idea; conception.

an idea of something formed by mentally combining all its characteristics or particulars; a construct.

a directly conceived or intuited object of thought.

1. an idea, esp an abstract idea: the concepts of biology

2. philosophy a general idea or notion that corresponds to some class of entities and that consists of the characteristic or essential features of the class

3. philosophy a. the conjunction of all the characteristic features of something b. a theoretical construct within some theory c. a directly intuited object of thought d. the meaning of a predicate

4. ( modifier ) (of a product, esp a car) created as an exercise to demonstrate the technical skills and imagination of the designers, and not intended for mass production or sale

A concept is a generalized idea of a thing or class of things.

A concept (substantive term: conception) is a cognitive unit of meaning—an abstract idea or a mental symbol sometimes defined as a "unit of knowledge," built from other units which act as a concept's characteristics. A concept is typically associated with a corresponding representation in a language or symbology such as a single meaning of a term

There are prevailing theories in contemporary philosophy which attempt to explain the nature of concepts.

The representational theory of mind proposes that concepts are mental representations,

while the semantic theory of concepts (originating with Frege's distinction between concept and object) holds that they are abstract objects.

Ideas are taken to be concepts, although abstract concepts do not necessarily appear to the mind as images as some ideas do.

Many philosophers consider concepts to be a fundamental ontological category of being.

The term "concept" is traced back to 1554–60 (Latin conceptum - "something conceived"), but what is today termed "the classical theory of concepts" is the theory of Aristotle on the definition of terms The meaning of "concept" is explored in mainstream information science, cognitive science, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind. In computer and information science contexts, especially, the term 'concept' is often used in unclear or inconsistent ways.

A posteriori abstractions

John Locke's description of a general idea corresponds to a description of a concept.

According to Locke, a general idea is created by abstracting, drawing away, or removing the uncommon characteristic or characteristics from several particular ideas.

The remaining common characteristic is that which is similar to all of the different individuals. For example, the abstract general idea or concept that is designated by the word "red" is that characteristic which is common to apples, cherries, and blood.

The abstract general idea or concept that is signified by the word "dog" is the collection of those characteristics which are common to Airedales, Collies, and Chihuahuas.

In the same tradition as Locke, John Stuart Mill stated that general conceptions are formed through abstraction. A general conception is the common element among the many images of members of a class. "...[W]hen we form a set of phenomena into a class, that is, when we compare them with one another to ascertain in what they agree, some general conception is implied in this mental operation" (A System of Logic, Book IV, Ch. II). Mill did not believe that concepts exist in the mind before the act of abstraction. "It is not a law of our intellect, that, in comparing things with each other and taking note of their agreement, we merely recognize as realized in the outward world something that we already had in our minds. The conception originally found its way to us as the result of such a comparison. It was obtained (in metaphysical phrase) by abstraction from individual things" (Ibid.).

For Schopenhauer, empirical concepts "...are mere abstractions from what is known through intuitive perception, and they have arisen from our arbitrarily thinking away or dropping of some qualities and our retention of others." (Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. I, "Sketch of a History of the Ideal and the Real"). In his On the Will in Nature, "Physiology and Pathology," Schopenhauer said that a concept is "drawn off from previous images ... by putting off their differences. This concept is then no longer intuitively perceptible, but is denoted and fixed merely by words." Nietzsche, who was heavily influenced by Schopenhauer, wrote: "Every concept originates through our equating what is unequal. No leaf ever wholly equals another, and the concept 'leaf' is formed through an arbitrary abstraction from these individual differences, through forgetting the distinctions...

By contrast to the above philosophers, Immanuel Kant held that the account of the concept as an abstraction of experience is only partly correct. He called those concepts that result of abstraction "a posteriori concepts" (meaning concepts that arise out of experience). An empirical or an a posteriori concept is a general representation (Vorstellung) or non-specific thought of that which is common to several specific perceived objects (Logic, I, 1., §1, Note 1).

The logical acts of the understanding by which concepts are generated as to their form are:

comparison, i.e., the likening of mental images to one another in relation to the unity of consciousness;

reflection, i.e., the going back over different mental images, how they can be comprehended in one consciousness; and finally

abstraction or the segregation of everything else by which the mental images differ ...

In order to make our mental images into concepts, one must thus be able to compare, reflect, and abstract, for these three logical operations of the understanding are essential and general conditions of generating any concept whatever. For example, I see a fir, a willow, and a linden. In firstly comparing these objects, I notice that they are different from one another in respect of trunk, branches, leaves, and the like; further, however, I reflect only on what they have in common, the trunk, the branches, the leaves themselves, and abstract from their size, shape, and so forth; thus I gain a concept of a tree.

A priori concepts

Kant declared that human minds possess pure or a priori concepts. Instead of being abstracted from individual perceptions, like empirical concepts, they originate in the mind itself. He called these concepts categories, in the sense of the word that means predicate, attribute, characteristic, or quality. But these pure categories are predicates of things in general, not of a particular thing. According to Kant, there are 12 categories that constitute the understanding of phenomenal objects. Each category is that one predicate which is common to multiple empirical concepts. In order to explain how an a priori concept can relate to individual phenomena, in a manner analogous to an a posteriori concept, Kant employed the technical concept of the schema.

Lectur notes prepared by Biju P R,Assistant professor in Political science,GBC TLY

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