Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Thinker

The Thinker (French: Le Penseur) is a bronze and marble sculpture by Auguste Rodin, held in the Musée Rodin, in Paris. It depicts a man in sober meditation battling with a powerful internal struggle. It is sometimes used to represent philosophy

What is concept ?

A concept is a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated by a process of abstraction and united by a specific definition .By organizing his perceptual material into concepts , and his concepts into wider and still wider concepts , man is able to grasp and retain , to identify and integrate an unlimited amount of knowledge , a knowledge extending beyound the immediate concretes of any given , immediate moment .

In any given moment , concepts enable man to hold in the focus of his conscious awareness much more than his purely perceptual capacity would permit . The range of man's perceptual awareness - the number of percepts he can deal with at any one time - is limited . He may be able to visualize four or five units - as , for instance , five trees . He cannot visualise a hundered trees or a distance of ten light years . It is only his conceptual faculty that make it possible for him to deal with knowledge of that kind .

Man retains his concepts by means of language . With the exception of proper names , every word we use is a concept that stands for an unlimited number of concretes of a certain kind . A concept is like a mathematical series of specifically defined units , going off in both directions , open at both ends and including all units of that particular kind .For instance , the concept " man" includes all men who live at present , who ever lived or will ever live - a number of men so great that one would not be able to perceive them all visually , let alone to study them or discover anything about them .

Language is a code of visual - auditory symbols that serves the psycho - epistemological function of converting abstraction into concretes or , more precisely , into the psycho- epistemological equivalents of concretes , into a manageable number of specific units .

( Psycho - epistemology is the study of man's cognitive processes from the aspect of the interaction between the conscious mind and the automatic functions of the subconscious)

Consider the enormous conceptual integration involved in any statement , from the conversation of a child to the discourse of a scientist . Consider the long conceptual chain that starts from simple , ostensive definitions and rises to higher and still higher concepts , forming a hierarchical structure of knowledge so complex that no electronic computer could approach it .It is by means of such chains that man has to acquire and retain his knowledge of reality .

Yet this is the simpler part of his psycho-epistemological task . There is another part which is still more complex .

The other part consists of applying his knowledge - i.e, evaluating the facts of reality , choosing his goals and guiding his actions accordingly .To do that , man needs another chain of concepts , derived from and dependent on first , yet separate and , in a sense , more complex : a chain of normative abstractions.

While congnitive abstraction identify the facts of reality , normative abstractions evaluate the facts , thus prescribing a choice of values and a course of action .Congnitive abstractions deal with that which is ; normative abstractions deal with that which ought to be .
Extract is from - The romantic manifesto by Ayn Rand.

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