- Language

The Concept of a Concept

All human beings are endowed with certain basic spiritual capacities – derived from the soul, which is the element of the individual that is responsible for spiritual nature. Chief among these capacities is that of intellect, consciousness, the power of thought. In fact, the human mind (a faculty of the soul) cannot exist without thinking. Try it. Try not thinking. When these thoughts, most of which are vague and fleeting, start to take shape, form, structure, and substance, they give rise to ideas. What, really, is an idea?

One particularly important idea is a concept. It allows a mind to distinguish one named thing from another named thing. There is the concept of a “keyboard”, for instance, that is different from a “monitor”, though both can be included in the concept of “computer device”. Most things are associated with multiple concepts – and their uniqueness becomes apparent in the particulars of the interaction of combinations of concepts. These concepts have formed after countless observations using the mind’s ability to categorize according to patterns, commonalities, and characteristics, . Over thousands of years, using language, individuals are able to discuss and refine their conceptions of objects of study, to the point where, now, we have names and definitions for everything – and with concrete objects, like a lamp, only a few words suffice to share one mind’s understanding with another.

With abstract objects of study, however, it is much harder to precisely define them with a handful of words; yet these abstract things are arguably much more important. The concept of space, for instance, is fundamental to thought – it is within a specific position or location that observable phenomena take place. We cannot think outside of the concept of space. Similarly with the concept of time – it is indispensable to human thought. All things are observed to change, and change implies time. Our understanding of reality cannot exist outside the concept of time. And finally, and very closely related, is the concept of causality, which enables the mind to understand relationships between multiple objects within space and time. Otherwise, the world would be a collection of disconnected events.

Concepts, just like language, are social constructs; albeit highly important ones. They help organize thoughts and words so that groups of individuals can reach shared understandings, can form relationships, can build communities, can raise social structures – civilization, on one level, is the expression of concepts into social reality.

What is your conception of a “concept”?



History of the World, Part 1

In previous posts, we read about various fragmented and incoherent conceptions of the individual and her or his relationship to society.  We also looked at an example of the evolution of conceptions of the individual over a historical perspective.  The concept of the oneness of humanity, woven throughout our earlier posts, has helped illuminate our understanding about the nature of social relationships.  Drawing on the analogy of the human body has helped us avoid fragmented conceptions of social reality.  As we delve deeper into the metaphor, refine our understanding of the relationship between cells, tissues, organs, and systems of the human body, we behold a rich model materializing before us of how to avoid extremes of unfettered individualism and suffocating collectivism – a topic of heated contention in western political theory.

Oneness is our foundational principle, which we use as the context to understand our interconnected and collective life on the planet.  It is through the lens of this principle that we analyze and interpret human history.  The next few posts will provide a perspective of history that is consistent with a conception of global and temporal human oneness.

The first point we consider, is that all things are on a path, evolving and developing towards maturity.  This is true of plants obviously: the progression from seed to sapling to fruit-bearing tree. It is true of the human being: from embryo to infancy and childhood to youth and adulthood. And it is even applicable to a conception of society and the path of human civilization: from family to tribe, to city to nation-state, and to planetary civilization.  Each stage betokens requirements and characteristics, each stage expresses powers and limitations, each stage engenders conditions that the subsequent stage supersedes.  From stage to stage, new capacities are trained and awakened, new limitations wax and old ones wane, and novel challenges are confronted.  The progression is not linear, but rather goes through cycles, characterized by ebbs and flows of tragedies and triumphs, of crisis superseded by victory.


Oneness through Time and Space

Following the last post’s foundational conviction that society should be organized according to the principles of reciprocity, cooperation, and interconnectedness, that oneness is the operating principle of civilization – as well as following a previous post’s idea that oneness is an ontological truth of reality – our perspective takes on dimensions of time and space.

On a spatial level, these principles imply the need for a global perspective.  The well-being of geographically distant people is taken into account for personal and collective decision-making.  If, indeed, oneness of humanity is the principle by which civilization operates, then the well-being of the entire earth’s population needs to be accounted for in decisions made by any one part of the world.  (And this is precisely how human physiology operates.)

On a temporal level, our perspective needs to be intergenerational.  In other words, the well-being of future generations of people is taken into account for any personal, local, collective, or world-wide decision-making.  If one thinks more deeply, this is also a feature of human physiology, particularly during embryonic and infant stages of development.  This temporal dimension to the oneness of humankind provides the foundation for the concept of sustainability – concern for future well-being – a concern that is more fully understood when adopting a vision of the body of humanity over time.

The environment crisis is one practical example of ignoring these two dimensions of oneness.  Can you think of others?  How can these issues be addressed through this richer understanding of oneness?  Any daily life examples of the operationalization of the principle of oneness?