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A concept (abstract term: "conception") is a cognitive unit of meaning— an abstract idea or a mental symbol sometimes defined as a "unit of knowledge," built from other units which act as a concept's characteristics. A concept is typically associated with a corresponding representation in a language or symbology such as a word.

The meaning of "concept" is explored in mainstream cognitive science and philosophy of mind. The term "concept" is traced back to 1554–60 (El. conceptum - something conceived), but what is today termed "the classical theory of concepts" is the theory of Aristotle on the definition of terms.

A vast array of accounts attempt to explain the nature of concepts. According to classical accounts, a concept denotes all of the entities, phenomena, and/or relations in a given category or class by using definitions. Concepts are abstract in that they omit the differences of the things in their extension, treating the members of the extension as if they were identical. Classical concepts are universal in that they apply equally to every thing in their extension. Concepts are also the basic elements of propositions, much the same way a word is the basic semantic element of a sentence. Unlike perceptions, which are particular images of individual objects, concepts cannot be visualized. Because they are not themselves individual perceptions, concepts are discursive and result from reason.

Concepts are expected to be useful in dealing with reality. A concept is basically the main idea. Generally speaking, concepts are taken (a) to be acquired dispositions to recognize perceived objects as being of a certain ontological kind, and at the same time (b) to understand what this kind or that kind of object is like, and consequently (c) to perceive a number of perceived particulars as being the same in kind and to discriminate between them and other sensible particulars that are different in kind. In addition, concepts are acquired dispositions to understand what certain kinds of objects are like both (a) when the objects, though perceptible, are not actually perceived, and (b) also when they are not perceptible at all, as is the case with all the conceptual constructs we employ in physics, mathematics, and metaphysics. The impetus to have a theory of concepts that is ontologically useful has been so strong that it has pushed forward accounts that understand a concept to have a deep connection with reality.

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Reference: This information was compiled on Wikipedia and is presented largely unedited and without bias. This article may contain original research or unverified claims.

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