C-124.The Curse Of Concepts (BFEPS)

Focal attention is an important functionality, enough so that names were invented to assist human memory and communication … enough so that words (e.g., common nouns, such as “eyes;” prepositions and conjunctions) too were invented … enough so that conceptual terms (aka concepts) were invented … but enough already! Concepts elude our Grasp, in more ways than one. And they can be adamantly counterproductive, posing impediments to effective problem solving (IV).

Of the four types of problems we have yet to deal with effectively to improve our quality of life (0), three of them owe much of their vexation to our coining, adoption and use of concepts:

1/ Much of what has to be learned and instructed over and over again (0:Sp) across generations, informally and formally in education, comprises concepts. Examples and instances of concepts constitute most of what we learn about them. (To students and neophyte readers of a literature it must sometimes seem an intellectual cousin to waterboarding.) Some – perhaps a lot – of what is taught and learned (e.g., in survey courses) can be soft knowledge (C-44) because of concepts’ weak grasp of what is being talked about.

2/ Concepts utilize the inside-outside relation as the intellectual technology (0:S-P) for cognizing what we are talking about, limiting our Grasp of consequentiality. This even when relationships are taken as instances of a concept (e.g., marriage as an example of union) … or even coined as concepts (e.g., double concepts, such as “public opinion” and “behavioral economics”). The needed functionality of cognition’s before-after relation is too often forfeit to an overarching concept of “cause-effect,” as in “for every effect there is a cause.” This to the alienation of behavioral molecules, for which “multi-factor” is no adequate substitute to step anatomy. As binding on minding as this inside-outside relation usage is – it settles for sorting particulars instead of sorting out (Yorkshire style) behavior, concepts embody a much more fundamental intellectual bias, that of the BPO bias (C-39). They objectify anything to serve as instances; they deal with particulars – to the extent of confusing universality with generality; and, they may even presume an underlying order of things (see below). (In short, concepts call for the SGN correction [C-104], to be theoretically explicated [C-85], to be transformed into theoretical constructs [C-81].)

3/ Gathering up particulars as they do, and especially those concepts that compete for the same particulars (e.g., territorial importance claims) … concepts flood the knowledge-learning literature (0:Ps). “Pollution” does not capture the full extent of the damage incurred as they pile up. Governments need “streamlining” (C-115), as do all operating systems for a balanced effectiveness and efficiency (XI), but Realization’s needed functionality calls more broadly for reducing this concept overload.

The reach (and conceit?) of a concept as a call for attention can be enormous. We might have to read a whole book to get a Grasp on a key concept (probably the book’s title or in the title?). Kuhn’s “paradigm,” for example, gets over a 100 mentions in his book. We can use (Involve) familiarities of linguistic context and conceptual usage to offer some Read help here and there. But only an analysis of the totality of these mentions makes it clear that what he is primarily talking about is the historical interdependence of method and theory as the catalyst for “scientific revolutions.” Following the book’s release, “paradigms” were the rage, offered in profusion – though more to advance candidate paradigms than re the point TO of the method theory interdependence.

That concepts can accept units of any size and description as defining instances must surely count against their utility for anything other than a call to attention. How, for example, are we to effectively make the steps we are to take if we lack the materiality we need to compose:i.e, units compatible with the composing of behavioral molecules? (Or even to Grasp after the fact what concepts are talking about?) Concepts plus arrows are not the solution. Behavioral architecture (C-90) needs more blueprint than that.Steps too have an anatomy (III: Life, the double crystal). The lack of Grasp defeats the Involve of Realization’s needed materiality (C-78) and roils the progressive flow of CEM-history. The composed, composing self (C-47) depends on developing materiality … which depends on a Sense of behavioral units … which calls for heeding the body step interdependency, to give behavior its due … which calls for making the SGN correction.

That concepts, as Hayakawa said of their inside-outside cognitive use in a “ladder of abstraction,” can conduct us up, out and away on a path of further remove from the urgent rigors of Realization (App. XIX; C-111), and from the before-after relation usage that consequentiality demands as needed cognitive functionality … also counts against them.

Then too there is the matter of concepts and theory. On the basis of an order-of-things (oots) postulate there has been a presumption that concepts will (someday, somehow) come together with theory. (But only if that theory is built of inside-outside relations? Models of linked concepts – with arrows to give a nod to consequentiality – are presumably an interim [0:S-P] solution? See the proliferation of such “ideational maps.”). But the “oots” postulate has limited applicability given the Nature of Things’ general persisting condition of partial order (III). Partial order, together with the other GPC of consequentiality and discontinuity (among behavioral entities), entail collisions to be avoided or arranged… which is to say, should focus our attention on needed functionality and Realization ….

…. For which, what is called for (C-110) is to rid ourselves of weak-Grasp concepts by transformation (theoretical explication: C-85) to theoretical constructs and theoretical definition (C-81). Then we see that, as in the case of R-words (C-107), what is being talked about not only becomes clearer but, also, what is being talked about turns out to be shared by many other theoretical constructs.

Further, theory that enables the concept => theoretical construct transformation provides us with a fruitful capability analogous to that envisioned for “oots” theories. A productive “oots” theory leads to predictions as to what might now be found. A productive R-theory leads to theoretical constructs and Realization of needed functionalities (e.g., Imagination’s use of thingks to bring the future into the Present: C-21, C-96). It leads to explanations as to what may now be made,as partner with the found.

We might then be prepared to make the most of the two kinds of knowledge (C-93: Kt [knowing by trying] and Kf [knowing by finding]), to redress any imbalance between knowings (“know” should be an R-word!As should “learn.”), and to optimize their interdependence (XI; C-71). See HAS discipline (App. XV). Then too we might see that double concepts such as “behavioral science” pretty much open a Pandora’s Box. As concepts, behavior and science, individually and/or together, they do not do enough of what we need to be able to do.

Consider, for example, “cognition” as concept and as theoretical construct (C-15). Popular usage and the psychological literatures treat cognition as a concept, a close relative to – if not a synonym for – knowledge. But that collapses the whole of Realization and omits its heritage of needed functionality given the Nature of Things. (“-ion” does that, as do other suffixes.) However, as a theoretical construct, cognition becomes a needed capability in attendance on focal attention, to make something of and/or with it… and along with its companion functional necessities (VII) to deal with collisions. It is a party to, not the whole of, needed functionality and Realization. It is not an after-the-fact and flawed “Observer-observed” relationship (C-54, C-61) nor is it just a product – both of which usages typify conceptual employment of the term.

Consider too that, functionally, focal attention does not stand alone – either as needed function or in many species the capacity and/or capability for the minding basis for step taking. “Vision,” for example, can be Sensory or Sensery depending on a functionality companion to focal attention (C-96). For Sensory, the minding companion to focal attention is exposure (peripheral vision). For Sensery, the minding companion is cognition. (Memory can accompany either.)

Concepts like “cognition” and “communication” are the mud in the muddle (IV; C-114), those characterizations focusing on late-stage functionalities (C-97) – i.e., particulars — that have become too much our common Sense of what matters, of what makes a difference and wants our attention – but that do not enlighten us enough about the “how” of materiality and of our consequentiality. Consider, for instance, the tendency to recognize* communication in terms of available technologies (e.g., media) and their uses (e.g., reading, listening, viewing). This is the sense you will probably get if you ask most people to define the term.The mud and muddle are the very visible aspects of the quagmire in which we find ourselves below the Escarpment (App. XII). Our escape from that quagmire and the surmounting of the Escarpment require us to start anew from somewhere else than where we are now in our Sense of Materiality (C-58, C-126). Transforming as many concepts as we can to theoretical constructs would be a good beginning. As of now, the concept/theoretical construct ratio is so far beyond “>1” (C-120, C-122) that we might well speak of a plague (not just of a curse). Concepts may be the mud of quagmire. They contribute more puzzles to be solved than they contribute to the solution of problems (0:Ps).

We might even speak of dark materiality … in the Sense of “dark matter” and “dark energy” as conditions of unRealized materiality. Concepts, though they serve focal attention, leave too much of the remaining needed minding functionality unrealized.

Weak-Grasp concepts are anathema to Realization’s compositional contribution, such as the invention of technology’s tools and procedures. Given the interdependency of Grasp Involve (C-105), then it follows that I = f**(G). Just as we have seen demonstrated above, for theoretical constructs, that G = f**(I). The chunkiness of some units lightly grasped by concepts (e.g., those terms suffering from an “-ion” collapse of R-words [C-107]) makes their involvement difficult if not impossible. We don’t need bushels of bushelly concepts. We need composable behavioral units.

Consider, for example, the fractioning of universities and the departments within them into functional realms of teaching, research and service … with different faculty with different skills in each branch … but with little more than lip service to their integration – at either level. When it comes to picking an executive at either level – i.e., putting in place a control system together with an operating system (C-36), then partisan efforts are made by representatives of each branch. Balance and interdependency are elusive (C-120, C-122).

It’s not as if we never did more in regard to the “stars in the sky” than to give them names! Realization needs more than concepts can give it. And needed functionality is always increasing (C-115). Consider the stress, from the behavioral problem and situational problems (the collisions to be arranged, sometimes arranged just to avoid!) that we can expect from the increase in number and density of the world’s population….

* No wonder then that some observers regard recognition as the extent of cognition!

** This is a special, and limited, sense of functionality. However, as this mathematical term– and hieroglyphics too — demonstrate … there are alternative symbolic terms for what needs to be talked about.

(c) R.F. Carter