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In the question [Is a first level concept whatever it is that you can point to and perceive directly]?(http://objectivistanswers.com/questions/12538/is-a-first-level-concept-whatever-it-is-that-you-can-point-to-and-perceive-directly)

An answerer wrote as a part of his response:

It should be emphasized that concepts, in the Objectivist view, are not arbitrary groupings of whatever man finds convenient to group together for some particular purpose.

I know the concept horse. There are a wide variety of types of horses to which I know not, nor do I care to know as I am not a horse enthusiast. Those who are horse enthusiast have many more concepts to segment horses into different categories for their own purposes.

Since they are grouping together horses by identifying certain similar distinguishing characteristics that a smaller set of horses share to serve their purpose, does this make their concept non-arbitrary?

Now, if they do so without any clear purpose (e.g., some sort of value pursuit), I would assume then that this would be arbitrary.

This would mean that purpose is a key ingredient in making a concept non-arbitrary. Correct?

If so, then I am quite confused why the answerer would put into the same sentence "arbitrary" and "purpose" since purpose would make it non-arbitrary. Or is he saying that it would be arbitrary if the facts of reality were ignored regardless of purpose?

asked Mar 05 at 12:07

Humbug's gravatar image


Purpose is important to the process of concept-formation, but not necessarily to the validity of one's concepts. All human action is purposeful in some way (unless one's "purpose" is to act without purpose, insofar as that is humanly possible). If one acts rationally, one's purpose in forming concepts is to gain knowledge which is (or potentially may become) relevant for living. Man has a conceptual faculty in order to sustain and strengthen his life, and he needs to use that faculty in specific ways if he wants to succeed at living. He does not automatically perform the actions, mental and/or physical, that his life requires of him, nor does he automatically know how to perform those actions, nor even that his life depends on such knowledge. The alternative of life or death confronts man (and all living things) continually, but man must learn what he can and ought to do about it if he wants to remain alive.

Another related factor that affects concept-formation is one's previously formed context of knowledge. All knowledge is contextual, but this doesn't preclude objectivity. For further elaboration, refer to the topics of "Context," "Objectivity," and "Subjectivism" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.

answered Mar 06 at 02:09

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

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Asked: Mar 05 at 12:07

Seen: 152 times

Last updated: Mar 06 at 02:09