C-13. Failing to distinguish

We could adopt a convention by which one of the indefinite articles (i.e., “a” or “an”) would be required to precede the use of every conceptual term … this to signal that the term defies definition. Seriously, however, we have a vexing problem here.

Given that we would like to include and understand any and every condition in and of consequence we should be aware of three faults: first, that we might overlook a condition altogether, second, that we should not grasp it firmly and thus lose it, and. third, that many concepts clump conditions together. Ramifications of the Nature of things’ behavioral necessity (e.g., requisites and imperatives) exemplify the first case. Confounded concepts, where there is a failure to distinguish between or among difference makers, difference making, and/or differences made, are an important second case. Behavioral globs which require operational definitions (e.g., “variables” such as education defined as educational level attained) exemplify the third.

In addition to the confusion that can arise when we seek a definition for a concept – which is considerable (see XI, where confounding also obscures consequential behavioral dynamics), there is the matter of how concepts relate to theory.

In XI (behavioral dynamics) we listed some cases where confounding and confusion arise (e.g., learning and knowing, capacity and capability). There are others (e.g., general and universal). In V (Behavioral manifold), we saw a sample from what must be hundreds of concepts that can refer to any or all of behavioral need, process, product, situational need, product-tool, product-tool in use, new product, and so on up to ideal. (Do we somehow provide markers on concepts for these?

We have already seen that some concepts need to be clarified – more explicated than defined — by theoretical considerations. For example, in C-11 the body x step dynamic (XI) tells us to distinguish B-cmy from S-cmy. (There are more examples, such as of time and space, of the body x step distinction listed in III.) We have also seen that the general x particular dynamic sheds light on behavior per se (in consequence of the Nature of things) versus an instance of behavior (G-behavior vs. p-behavior).

That words and languages deal with both signification and significance adds to the problem. The theoretical distinctions afforded and noted here (dynamics, behavioral manifold, B x S, G x p) are crucial to fulfilling the significance function, to involving and grasping all the consequentiality. For words generally, and concepts especially, they deny signification a solo role (which coding envisions). There are always the questions of points OF and FOR re the communicative act, in regard not just to the problematic situation but also to the general persisting conditions of the Nature of things.

(But signification may not necessarily be denied a primary role, in the sense that communication prospers if the point AT precedes the point[s] ABOUT. See C-8. Still, it seems a developmental artifact that word and language tools, as invented and used, addressed the signification function more and better than the significance function. For lack of understanding of all that consequentiality implied? Because cries and gestures already served to represent consequences – i.e., the significance function – if not consequentiality?)

The notion that theory and concept might progress together, each enlightening the other, seems to have depended too much on theory being conceived as a higher-level categorization of concepts serving as lower-level categories. (See the influence of logical necessity, such that induction and deduction can serve heuristically.) That concepts now in use tend toward such a summary function, gathering instances of some similarity (i.e., oneness), need not imply that theory should tend the same way – nor, indeed, that this is the best view to take of conceptual functioning.

Perhaps a different practice we might adopt, one neither so far-fetched nor facetious, would seem right on target for the third, glob-type concepts. The idea would be to crush concepts, in the tradition of producing wine from grapes. The proposal is to separate – and distinguish – what is be talked about, of body and step, from how those conditions are being cognitively observed (e.g., positionally in N dimensions, or as categorical instances, or as in or of consequence). This, after all, is the message of App-6 (Science and behavior), that our agenda should be Ogcog: Od => Mgcmu => On, not On = Or: Od. Which is to say, a concept is an observation, On, in regard to a focus of attention, Od, produced by cognitive minding, Ogcog, and expressed by communicative moving, Mgcmu. There are many such minding options (X).

We can use such a procedure for a concept’s appearances in the literature, not just to clear up what’s being talked about by various authors, in what cognitive mode (and sometimes in different ways by the same author!), but also to prepare us to interpret and judge single uses of the concept – as in tertiary reads (C-8). But the primary purpose is to mine the concept for all that is of consequence, step components and step-step relationships, body components and body-body relationships, step=>body relationships and body=>step relationships, and, to be sure, relevant circumstantial conditions.

This lest we fail to distinguish any and all of difference makers, difference making, and differences made (i.e., potential control foci: C-11). Lest we offer ourselves as composers an incomplete and muddied palette.

(c) 2010 R. F. Carter