Concepts – Components of Thought

Have you ever stopped to wonder how the mind immediately envisions a thing upon hearing its name? As soon as we hear the words: forest, mountains, night sky, stars, moon light reflected on a calm still pond… then there it is. Somehow we are able to instantly conceive of this natural landscape. How amazingly brilliant this power, that our minds can conceptualize these images into one beautiful whole.

What makes this phenomenon even more wondrous is that pretty much all humans who have ever lived have the same capacity to form such a concept, and not just any random abstract idea, but a concept that is similar and consistent with others. So for instance when we add 2 plus 2 to get 4, the answer remains the same, it doesn’t morph into something else over time. If someone should say look out for the flying bird, you are not going to look down on the ground for a snail, but for something above that glides through the air.

Concepts are essential for helping us to understand things in relation to other things. They help us to group things together and detect when something doesn’t add up or belong. Every field of study, all the ways down to simple interactions or the use of mechanical devices, are composed of concepts of various sorts. Understanding how these components work together will add to our breadth of knowledge, making its application possible.

For instance, if a person wishes to specialize as a brain surgeon but is unable to tell the difference between the concept of a scalpel and a screwdriver, then it’s unlikely that they’ll have much success in reaching their career goal. Even if a medical doctor should learn everything there is to know about brain surgery, and become the most competent in their skill, if they fail to grasp the concept of what it means to have a good bedside manner, then it may become difficult for them to keep their job.

No matter the discipline, or the object of investigation, it is necessary to understand all relevant concepts. In order to attain clarity of such terms it will be helpful to carefully define them, as well as compare and contrast them with similar concepts. By analyzing a concept thoroughly we not only get a better idea of what it is & is not, but we can also take a closer look at how it interacts with other parts of a system, as well as explore its implications, thus enhance our overall comprehension and ability to deal with whatever life throws our way.


About Philosopher Muse

An explorer of volition and soul, a song under a night sky and a dream that forever yearns to be.
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3 Responses to Concepts – Components of Thought

  1. Hi Jason,
    I agree with your clear defence of concepts. But what about thought beyond conceptual thought – and its usefulness, its importance, its necessity? Hegel noted that we are always thinking, including in our sleep. How do we do this? Through our dreams – of colours, smells, sights and sounds impossible to experience, let alone bring together in the conscious world. And the ‘Eureka’ moment which wakes us, ’till then denied to us in conceptual thought.
    When two strangers round a corner and bump into the other they each have a myriad, a richness of thoughts and feelings which may well be defining and in which experience concepts have no place because conceptual thought is too slow, structured and defined, but intuition, drawing on the unity of all that we are and know, there rules the roost.
    Again, one can consign a problem to the unconscious and, denying every urge to raise it to consciousness and conceptual thought, keep it there to bake like a cake (ferment like a good wine?). When the time is right, we open the door and a solution or insight presents to us that our conceptual thought has not or could not have given us.
    This thought is the thought of creators.
    Best regards as always, Phil

    • Yes of course Phil, thought beyond conceptual thought certainly has its place.
      Even Marcus Aurelius acknowledged that ‘remedies have been given to [him] through dreams’. Thank you for sharing your perspective on the matter. Good ol Hegel always got an ace up his sleeve doesn’t he.

    • Anna says:

      Phil, I have something baking like a cake for a while now and this cake appears and reappears in my dreams. The cake along with its baker, shows up to remind me I’m missing all of the ingredients I need to make an edible masterpiece. I’m not certain why my door hasn’t opened up yet with a “solution or insight” that my conceptual thought can’t give me during waking hours. The “Eureka” moment you mentioned, I’ve had many times in solitude, but this recurring dream insists on tempting me with the thought that there’s still yet unfinished business with the baker.

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