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Table of contents 

1 Introduction

2 Realism & anti-realism

In this chapter some reflections about our concept 'reality'. Few people doubt that the reality we eperience really does exist. However, from the earliest times until now it has turned out to be impossible to establish a logical relationship between that reality and our individual, subjective experience.

3 To which does a name refer?

Realists are convinced that reality really exists and that the words we use refer to things in that reality. In response to the ideas of a very old and a more recent philosopher, I argue that this view is untenable, leading to a curious paradox.

4 Dictionary and encyclopedia

In the previous chapter we saw, according to Russell, the dictionary and encyclopaedia give the official and socially sanctioned meaning of a word. Following an example I'll show the dictionary fails to give an unambiguous meaning. However, that is not a mistake of the dictionary, it is a consequence of the functioning of our conceptual system.

5 The notion of 'concept'

The term concept I use is well known in philosophy, psychology and linguistics. In those disciplines however, the concept is interpreted in a realistic world view. On the basis of the Semiotic Triangle in this chapter I'll show again why the realistic approach is not tenable and which consequences this should have for the notion of 'concept'.

6 Patterns, Types and Concepts

So the common notion of concept in philosophy and linguistics is not correct. In this and the next chapter I construct a different meaning, starting from observed patterns that lead to the forming of the elemental units in the mind that I call 'types'.

7 Definitions

As mentioned, in this chapter I try to describe the notion concept as accurately as possible. However, reading this chapter is not necessary for a good understanding. The reader who has no need for definitions and no affinity for logical notations can skip this chapter without any problems.

8 The meaning of the definition

The term 'concept' is now defined as: A concept C is a dynamic collection of different types that are connected in the mind. In this chapter we look at the various elements of this definition.

9 Properties of concepts

In order to further develop the meaning of the term 'concept', this chapter defines four properties: discretion, strength, longevity and sharpness.

10 Regularities

Unlike the data in a computer memory, human concepts are changeable. The lifespan can vary from a few seconds to a lifetime. Without empowerment, every concept disappears over time. Man is therefore constantly focused on the reinforcement of his concepts for the continued existence of his conceptual system.

11 Reinforcement & the creation of concepts

In the previous chapter it became clear that concepts disappear in course of time when they are not reinforced. That is why people are constantly working on strengthening their existing concepts and creating new ones. Our spirit is a concept machine that, like our heart, works faster or slower, but is always active.

12 The concept machine

When conscious the human mind is constantly focused on concept developing, either the reinforcing of existing concepts or the creation of new ones. Does a shortage of possibilities for concept developing, like for example a shortage of food, lead to serious problems? This appears indeed the case: concept developing is a basic need as described by Maslow

13 The step from the I perspective

Concepts are defined as strictly individual entities, seen from the I-perspective. However the collection of concepts I call 'animals' and 'people' I experience as strong agreeing with my self-concept. Through communication I experience other people also have many concepts that resemble mine. This makes it possible to take a step from the I-perspective and to consider concepts as a joint possession of a group. Communication within that group ensures convergence, it increases the agreement between the concepts of the members of the group.

14 Language & communication

A name isn't logically able to refer to a - material - object. Therefore the meaning of the name can't be that particular object. An elementary analysis shows that the meaning of a name is nothing more than the concept of which the name is part of. Which is precisely why language & communication has vastly expanded the conceptual system. But does the use of language sufficient explain the ability to think?

15 Linguistic relativity

In the previous chapter it became clear how the evolutionary development of the language led to a gigantic expansion of the number of possible concepts and thus to an equally strong expansion of the human world view, or, to put it another way, of human reality. The question arises whether our world view determines which language we use or whether the language used determines our world view. In this chapter I will discuss a few contributions to this question from both linguistics and philosophy. I give a definition of the concept of 'thinking' and conclude that both the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and Quine's thesis on untranslatability are trivial, so meaningless.

16 The power of communication

According to realists, reality ensures that people have similar concepts and can therefore communicate. Without such objective benchmarks communication would be impossible. In this chapter I show that a free floating system can be really stable under certain conditions. Just as the monetary system remained stable after leaving the gold standard thanks to constant exchange of value assessments, the human conceptual system is stable thanks to similar experiences, but especially through a continuous flow of communications. In particular, the use of language has exponentially increased the number of human concepts over the course of history.

17 The ability of language

In the previous chapters it was concluded that the use of language led to a huge increase in human concepts, both in number and in complexity. In this chapter I will discuss the nature of the concepts that could be created thanks to language. The general and specific concepts, the universals and notions such as space, time and causality are discussed. It is concluded that the creative power of language leads not only to abstract disciplines such as mathematics and logic, but also to religious belief, spirituality and misunderstandings such as belief in the Loch Ness monster.