Concepts

Empty beach, summer ends

Language communicates concepts. Animals use calls to convey information _ a blue jay shrieking about a hawk nearby. Non-auditory communication involves visual clues _ like flower color _ or olfactory _ like insect pheromones_ or various tactile signals like grabbing a friend’s arm.

In a narrow sense human language requires a vocabulary which consists of predefined concepts associated with words. Obviously, for language to be effective, the meaning of words between people must be congruent. That is not so much an issue when at the gross simple level _ “look, a deer,” or “it is day” _ but meaning is easily confused when applied to fine details_ especially intangibles like emotions.

Science tries to pulverize concepts into tinier and tinier bits _ each more restricted then the last. A chunk of gold is carefully measured,weighted, defined by crystalline atomic structure and chemical and physical properties. Thinking of problems in this fashion almost defines our technological existence.

Philosophy is not able to do this. All concepts are chimerical: anger becomes laughter, love becomes hate, beautiful turns ugly. Not because the concept has changed but simply by our shifting of the perspective of the concept. Trying to break “love” into tiny bits may yield a splendid poem, but scarcely a better definition of what it “really” is.

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