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Let say I grew up in a village where all the dogs have no tails. I associate the word "dog" with an animal with no tail, barks, insert other attributes of a dog here.

One day, I leave this village and go to another village where they have dogs with and without tail. They also call these animals dogs. Recognizing my initial error, I re-define my definition of "dog" to be animal that barks, insert other attributes of a dog here.

In re-using the word "dog" for a broader concept, what happened to the concept I had of dogs with no tails?

UPDATE Let say I love dogs that are shorter than 5 inches. I coin a new word called mini-dog for all dogs that are shorter than 5 inches. Is this a new concept that I've created because I've created a new word (mini-dog) vs. using an existing word with an adjective (dog shorter than 5 inches)?

asked Oct 10 '12 at 02:33

Humbug's gravatar image


edited Oct 11 '12 at 02:53

You expanded the concept of "dog".

In forming a concept, the final step is giving it a label or "word". In this sense, looking at three pencils which differ from one another only in length, once you grasp that the pencils differ from one another in that respect (of length), you have essentially formed the concept. Assigning the word "length" to that concept finalizes the process.


You are broadening your question. In OPAR, near the end of page 113 there is a section on types of concepts mandatory to conceptualize, followed by some examples that would frustrate rather than satisfy the requirements of cognition.

The example of small dogs is not really a case of a new concept, but a delineation or identification of a subset within the category of dogs such as toy poodles, or toy collies, using a modifier that segregates by size.

answered Oct 10 '12 at 06:35

dream_weaver's gravatar image

dream_weaver ♦

edited Oct 11 '12 at 18:52

I think you mean to say "Assigning the word "pencil" to that concept finalizes the process."

(Oct 11 '12 at 12:17) la_phil ♦ la_phil's gravatar image

To answer the main question as it now stands:

A word is a symbol for a concept. Without a word, you cannot refer to a concept, and so you cannot use a concept.

This is why the choice of a word completes the process of forming a concept.

If you do all the differentiation and integration required to form a concept, but then fail to assign a word to it, you end up losing that work, because there's no productive result.

The word lets you use and keep a concept.

What word you use for what concept is, in principle, arbitrary -- it doesn't matter. But usually related concepts have similar roots and different suffixes.

Expanding a concept more precisely defines it so that it remains useful in the context of more knowledge.

In your first situation with your redefinition of the word "dog", the old concept (which involved a lack of a tail) fades away from disuse.

Regarding "mini-dog" (I prefer the word "toy"), yes, it is a new concept. Of course, whether it is really a useful concept will determine how long the concept will persist.

Sometimes people intentionally create "concepts" which are worse than useless, like "extremism" or "simplistic", which get legs and become tools of the enemies of rationality. Ayn Rand called these anti-concepts.

answered Oct 11 '12 at 09:36

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦

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Asked: Oct 10 '12 at 02:33

Seen: 2,200 times

Last updated: Oct 11 '12 at 18:52