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Chapter 6. The Parts of Thinking > Thinking with Concepts

Thinking with Concepts

Concepts are like the air we breathe. They are everywhere. They are essential to our life, but we rarely notice them. Yet only when we have conceptualized a thing in some way can we think about it. Nature does not give us instruction in how things are to be conceptualized. We must create that conceptualization, alone or with others. Once it is conceptualized, we integrate a thing into a network of ideas (as no concept stands alone).

Humans approach virtually everything in our experience as something that can be “decoded.” Things are given meaning by the power of our mind to create a conceptualization and to make inferences on the basis of it—hence, we create further conceptualizations. We do this so routinely and automatically that we don't typically recognize ourselves as engaged in these processes. In our everyday life, we don't first experience the world in “concept-less” form and then deliberately place what we experience into categories so as to make sense of things. Rather, it is as if things are given to us with their name inherent in them. So we see trees, clouds, grass, roads, people, children, sunsets, and so on. We apply these concepts intuitively, as if the names belong to the things by nature, as if we had not created these concepts in our own minds.


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