Chapter 10: The Consciousness of Meaning
and the Formation of Concepts

James Rowland Angell

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In the actual execution of the functions hitherto described another mental operation is involved in addition to those which we have thus far analysed. This operation is contained in a latent fashion in each of these conscious activities with which we have been dealing; but it comes repeatedly to light as a relatively distinct mental process, and we must accordingly submit it to examination. Indeed, many of the acts which we have used as illustrations throughout our previous study could hardly result as they do were it not for the presence of this mental factor, which is known in its most developed form as conception. The mental product which results from it is called a concept. In its more rudimentary form we may call it the consciousness of meaning, and we shall discuss the simpler phase first.

The Consciousness of Meaning.-- On the side of function, the most fundamental property of intelligence is, perhaps, the ability to recognise and employ meanings. Perception could never lead to the establishment of efficient habitual coordinations were we not able to apprehend the meaning of that which we see and hear and touch. Memory would be an abortive resuscitation of the past could we not recognise the meaning of that which we recall. Imagination in all its forms would be a mere mental logomachy were it not for our ability to understand the meaning of the images which occupy our minds. From beginning to end, therefore, of our mental activities the presence of meaning is absolutely indispensable.


That a thing means something to us is equivalent to saying that it symbolises something for us, that we are aware of some

of the relations which it sustains to other things. Now, the mind shows itself from the very outset as a relating activity. We have previously analysed one of the most elementary forms of this relating process, in our account of recognition. On the level of perceptual and sensory activities the crude, vague identifying of one experience with an antecedent one must represent in the infant consciousness the first outcropping in an explicit way of the relational factor, the first appearance of the awareness of meaning. An experience which is recognised, no matter how vaguely, is thereby in our very manner of feeling it connected by us symbolically with something else not present.

The fundamental activities of attention -- i. e., the manipulation of the sensuous material of experience, now in an analytical, discriminative way, and now in a synthesising, associative way-result inevitably from the very first in the disclosure of innumerable relations involved among masses previously sensed in a rude, inchoate manner. Certainty typical forms under which this analytic-synthetic development of relations occurs, we have already described in the chapter on attention, so that we need not repeat the matter at this point. We are emphasising here, -however, as we did Dot do at that juncture, the fact that our noticing of differences and likenesses in the material presented to our senses rests upon our ability to note and employ the relations which these processes of attention throw into relief. It is, in short, because the elements which we thus break out from the total mass of unanalysed sense experience. possess meaning for us, symbolise relations of one and another kind, that we can employ them coherently and efficiently. Without this element of apprehended meaning they would remain disconnected, wholly irrational and inert bits of mentality; curious perhaps, but certainly useless. The element of meaning joins them to one

(205) another in a vital organic union. Probably the most fundamental form of this consciousness of meaning and relation is our previously mentioned awareness of sameness and difference. We know at once without tutelage of any kind when two experiences seem to us the same, and when they seem different. Evidently' the process of recognition is closely related to this sense of sameness, if it be not, indeed, found practically identical.

All that we have said, thus far, about sense perception and the analytic-synthetic play of attention upon such material is true in even more obvious fashion, when we come to speak of images and ideas. The idea is, as such, clearly a symbolic affair, finding its raison d'etre not in itself, but in that which it does, that for which it stands. Evidently meaning is the very essence of the idea. Moreover, we develop the meanings and relations among our ideas by means of just the same kind of attention processes as characterised our manipulation of sensory activities. By focussing our attention now upon one feature of a thought, and now upon another, by " abstracting," as it is sometimes called, one phase or another, we analyse our ideas, compare them with one another, and so come to the discernment of unsuspected relations, of unrealised likenesses and differences.

Psychologists are by no means agreed as to the precise nature of the mental activity by means of which we apprehend relations. Certain writers make the whole achievement a function of attention, and disclaim the necessity for any further explanation. Attention is declared to be in its very essence a relating activity, and consequently, so far as we attend, we always attend in a relational way. Other writers maintain that just as certain moments of consciousness are cognisant of percepts or images, so certain other moments are cognisant of relations. Thus James speaks of our having " feelings of relation," e. q., a feeling of " and," a feeling of " if," and a feeling of " for." Certain psycholo-

(206)-gists of this way of thinking recognise what they call " relational elements" of consciousness comparable with sensation elements.

A complete consideration of this matter would take us too far afield into unsettled principles, and the reader must temporarily countenance the author's dogmatic general statement that the consciousness of relation is a basal factor in all activities of attention; that our attention is sometimes more, and sometimes less, directed toward the extant relations than toward the things related; but that no moment of cognitive consciousness is wholly lacking in the awareness either of relations or objects. The distinction between objects and relations simply names two features, the static and the dynamic, of a common phenomenon. We come next to consider conception, which constitutes the most overt and elaborate form assumed by our consciousness of meaning, a form in which psychologists and philosophers have always been specially interested.

Definition of Conception.-- In our illustrations of the manner in which we consciously avail ourselves of the lessons taught us by experience, we have implied that memory and imagination operate by summoning specific events which apply to the problem immediately confronting us. This is often the case. Thus, I find myself puzzled as to the best method for getting to some very remote country town. I attempt to recall what railroads I employed to get there a year ago, and I solve my problem by applying the recollection which comes to me of this particular achievement. I remember that I took the A and B to junction D, waited two hours and got a train on the X and Y to my destination. But many cases in which we apply the fruits of past experience are of a different order from this. Thus, if I am purchasing scientific instruments from a French firm, I must convert the prices in their catalogue from francs into dollars. This I accomplish by first bringing to mind my idea of a franc,

(207) being approximately a fifth of a dollar, and then performing the appropriate arithmetical operation. In this case I obviously employ my memory in meeting my necessities; but it is memory in the form of reproductive imagination upon which I fall back, and not necessarily the memory of any single event or experience, as in the preceding instance. Again, I am interested in certain philanthropic efforts at social reform, and I find that the programme which I am invited to support involves belief in the hereditary nature of acquired characteristics. The theory at issue maintains that vicious traits are acquired and transmitted from parents to children, and my contribution is solicited in the furtherance of a project to prevent the possibility of such acquirement and transmission. Immediately I find my mind busying itself with the idea of heredity, and my final action is, perhaps, determined by the conclusion which I am able to reach upon this point.

Now in these last two cases my use of the idea of a franc or my idea of heredity clearly does not necessarily involve an immediate reference to any single and specific experience of francs or heredity. I might, of course, make the application in this way, if I chose. I might allow my mind to dwell on the last occasion upon which I saw a franc, and on the last book in which I bad read of heredity. But this is by no means essential, and often would not occur under such circumstances as we have supposed. Accordingly, these ideas, to wit, franc and heredity, are mental devices by which we succeed in symbolising for ourselves in the one case a number of objects, and in the other case a Dumber of relations, without the necessity of calling to mind any particular occasion upon which we have come in contact with them. We use these ideas fearlessly in our reasoning, and when we have reached our conclusions we make the application to the concrete instance in hand, with entire confidence that the event will justify our action-and generally it does. Such ideas

(208) as these are what are usually called concepts, and taking such cases for the moment as reliable illustrations, we may say, following the common usage, that conception is that mental operation by means of which we bring together the common points of our various experiences and mentally consolidate them into ideas; ideas which we are then able to use as symbols, or representatives, of these manifold items.

It should, perhaps, be remarked at this point that the scientific and logical concept is generally credited with a higher degree of exactness and precision than our definition suggests. The concepts of science, such as "metal," are gotten by a process of abstraction and comparison, the result of which is then expressed in the most rigorously exact verbal definition. Evidently, however, these are not the concepts of practical life. The derivation of the word concept (from concipere, to take in) may assist us to bear the facts in mind. Conception is thus, as we shall presently see in more detail, the great simplifier of our knowledge, the great labour-saving device by means of which a single idea may do the work of hundreds of other ideas. We apply the term "concept" to this idea, the term " conception " to the mental operation in which the idea is produced.

Analysis of Conception.-- If concepts are general ideas of the kind we have indicated it is evident that we must possess them in large numbers. Concepts of men and horses, houses and trees, hats and tables, with others of like ilk, must constitute a large part of our mental furniture. We must also have concepts of such things as colour, odour, and sound; concepts of physical relations, like position, order, and time; concepts of moral attributes, such as good and, evil, and dozens of other forms too numerous to mention. We shall probably get ahead most rapidly in our analysis if we take some special instance of conception and examine the mental processes involved in it. Take in this way one's general idea of horse.


Concept and Image.-- If I say to a group of persons, "Fix your attention firmly upon your idea of horse," a certain number of them are certain to find a visual image of a horse arising in their minds. Another group will find that the auditory-motor word-image " horse " is present in their consciousness. Now, according to our definition, the concept of horse must not apply to any special horse, but it must represent all horses. How can the persons who are eonfronted with a visual image of some particular Bucephalus, or Rosinante, be said to have any concept of horses in general ? The correct answer to this question is at once suggested by a reference to the imagery of the second group of persons.

The word-image "horse" evidently does not pretend to refer to one specimen of the class more than to another. It is purel{ symbolic. When it comes into our consciousness to serve as a concept, it is as though we had agreed mentally with ourselves to accept it as a representative of the physical equine genus. Just as in algebra we allow the early letters of the alphabet to stand for certain quantities in our problems and the later letters for certain others, making the appropriate practical substitutions at the completion of our computation, so here we symbolise certain objects to ourselves by means of auditory word-images. We mentally manipulate these images, draw certain inferences and then execute the substitutions, which in these cases are commonly overt acts. Having, for example, reflected by means of such concepts upon the shortcomings of horses, we decide to purchase an automobile. The concept, which is primarily mental, is eventually converted into movements which are physical.

Now, the case of the persons who use visual images is in no respect fundamentally different from that of these users of word imagery. The visual image is, to be sure, for better or for worse, a kind of copy of an individual in the class

(210) which it is supposed to represent. At least it is often a recognisable copy of one of our perceptions of such an individual. But provided that, in our use of an image, we recognise it as really symbolising the class, and not an individual, and use it, intending it to accomplish this purpose for us, it is a matter of essential indifference what special kind of imagery we happen to employ, whether visual, or auditory, or motor.

Two important points emerge from the examination of of (sic) this case. (1) The concept apparently involves an image; and, (2) whatever image we use, it is the specific meaning which we attach to it that constitutes it a concept. These two considerations make clear bow it comes about that our thought processes seem often so different on different occasions, even when we have been thinking about the same subject. Of course, the order of our thoughts might easily vary at different times, and our conclusions might vary. But how is it that we can think about the same things when the content of our thought is so different? The content of our thought is, so far at least as concerns the knowledge process, always made up of imagery. To-day this may be largely auditory and verbal, to-morrow largely visual. But provided I use the different images to stand for the same meanings on the two days, I shall come out perfectly well and my thought will unquestionably have been about the same object and its relations. Thus it comes to pass that, although we never have literally the same image present twice in our consciousness, we nevertheless can think the same meanings again and again.

The Generic Idea.-- This seems the appropriate place to refer to a theory which certain eminent psychologists have espoused, i. e., the theory of generic ideas. The hypothesis upon which the theory rests is that our repeated visual perceptual experiences of tables, for example, result in producing a kind of composite mental photograph of tables. Such a

(211) composite photograph would evidently serve us whenever we wished to think of tables in general; that is to say, it would serve -as a concept. We might use other images for the same purpose, conspicuously our word-images; but we might equally well use this composite visual image.

We shall make only two comments upon this theory. In the first place it is extremely difficult to determine whether or not we really have such composite images. It would obviously be very difficult to say with entire confidence whether an image possessing the indefiniteness of outline and the indistinctness of detail which a true composite would undoubtedly possess were actually a representative of innumerable individual perceptions; or simply a blurred, vague, imperfectly reinstated image of some single perception. Introspectively, that is to say, the evidence can hardly be made conclusive in support of the theory. Moreover, the brain processes involved in the production of such an image are somewhat difficult to understand when brought into connection with our supposed ability to call up images of specific objects belonging to a given class, of which we might also have a generic image.

In the second place, so far as concerns the function of conception, it appears at once that such a generic image would belong to the class of images which we may call " copyimages," in distinction from images which purport to be merely symbols. All images are, of course, symbolic, so far as they stand for something not themselves, and all images are copy-images so far as they serve to reinstate special forms of sense perception. An auditory image may be in this way a copy, good, bad, or indifferent, of an acoustical perception. A visual image may likewise simulate some visual perception. But the auditory image may, on the other hand, serve to symbolise some visual experience, and the visual image, e. g., the visual image of a word, may also symbolise something of a non-visual character. Evidently, copy-images may be hope-

(212)-lessly inadequate, as copies, to stand for generalised relations. So, to revert to our original illustration, a visual image of a table would, as a mere copy, be an unsatisfactory representative of the class " table," for no single image could embody all the peculiarities of all tables. This limitation would be as true of the composite image, supposing it to exist, as of any other. It is only as such an image is employed symbolically that it serves satisfactorily as a concept of the class "table." But an image of any table whatever would serve this purpose well enough, provided only that in our thinking we used it with this recognised intention. Furthermore, the word-image, which commonly has no resemblance whatever to the objects symbolised, is always available. So that taking account of these considerations -- the doubt as to the actuality of the generic image, and the absence of any special fitness in it for service as the basis of a concept -- we may safely omit further discussion of it.

Conception and Language.-- Our analysis of conception has brought out the fact that it is by means of this mental process that we are able to make our thoughts the vehicles of definite meanings. It is a familiar fact that language has a precisely similar function. The inference at once suggests itself that language may be nothing but an elaborate conceptual system, and this inference is essentially correct. When we communicate with others we give our ideas outward expression in spoken words, which serve as concepts to the hearer. When we are engaged in reflective thought, we shall often find that we are thinking in terms of word-images, and these word-images in such cases serve as our concepts. Language is thus not only the great social medium of thought exchange, it is also in large measure the medium of subjective thought processes.

Some psychologists maintain that all concepts are of the language variety, and philosophers formerly contended that no reasoning would be possible without language. Both of these

(213) views are undoubtedly too extreme. We do sometimes reason, and we may have a considerable number of concepts, without resorting to language. Nevertheless, the supplementary statement must be made that language is the great conceptual mechanism, and that we depend upon it far more than upon any other mental material for conveying our meaning, not only when we commune with others, but also in our own private thinking.

In the use of spoken language, as well as in the use of verbal images when we are reflecting, the thought process is often so rapid that we have no distinct consciousness of the words as such. The stress of our interest and attention is upon the meaning which we are seeking, and this seems often to attach to the verbal activity in its entirety as a sentence, or a series of sentences, rather than to the isolated words. This fact does not, however, prejudice the truth of our general assertion that words serve as our most important conceptual symbols.

The use of words as concepts brings readily to our notice certain facts which bear significantly upon our present topic. We defined conception as a process of forming general ideas, and this seems to be the most striking feature in the process. But if all words are essentially concepts, we must have concepts of individual objects as well as of classes; or at all events our method of thinking individual objects must be the same as our method of thinking classes. This is, indeed, the fact. We really have a concept of Jupiter, as well as of gods; a concept of earth, as well as a concept of planets; a concept of this particular book, as well as of books in general. We have only to remember that conception is after all at bottom simply a mental process of designating meanings, to see that we can in this way indicate any meaning we wish; e. g., the meaning of a single object or a dozen; the meaning of a mathematical relation, or of an historical relation; the meaning of a familiar object, or of an impossible one. In

(214) we shall have a concept, and in most each and every case cases a word, or a word-image, will be a very convenient device by means of which to think it.

We may easily connect the process by means of which we gain concepts of single objects with the process by means of which we obtain general ideas of classes of objects, if we observe that in both cases we have simply set a boundary line about certain things; in the one case the boundary contains one object, in the other it contains an indefinite number. But in both cases our mental act has been the distinguishing of one kind of meaning from all other kinds of meaning. That form of the process in which our idea refers to some common property, or properties, of a number of experiences has commonly been regarded as the true type of conception because we appear in such cases to have abstracted the common qualities of a number of events, then generalised upon these, and so obtained the concept, or general idea. But the process by which we reach a concept of a single object involves abstraction just as truly, if not so extensively, as the previous form of operation. To obtain a concept of London involves setting the idea of London off against all other ideas; involves abstracting it in a perfectly definite way. In a sense, too, our concept of London is just as complete, just as universal, as is the concept city. It applies to all of its object, as truly as does the concept city, and it is in a measure an accident, an irrelevant incident, that the total object referred to is singular and not plural.

The process by which we actually come into possession of some of our more abstract general ideas is, perhaps, more complicated than that by which we gain our concepts of particulars. But the fundamental distinction between the two kinds of concepts, after we have attained them, resides in the fact that the one emphasises points of identity and sameness among the various elements of our experience, the other emphasises primarily points of difference. Strictly speaking,

(215) then, we may be sure that we have concepts of single objects, as well as of classes of objects. We have, also, concepts of abstract attributes, concepts of relations of all kinds. There is no meaning of any sort accessible to our intelligence for which we may not have a concept. Indeed, in the broad sense of the term, every idea is a concept.

On the whole it is, perhaps, easier to follow the older usage and to retain our original provisional definition of the concept as a generalising idea, and then to remember that such ideas sometimes generalise, so to speak, upon single objects, qualities, or relations, rather than to recast our definition which would then vary somewhat ambiguously from that traditionally employed. After all, the fundamental points about concepts are those we have already mentioned, which evidently remain untouched by these questions of the number and character of the objects to which the concepts refer: that is, (1) the existence of the concept as a concrete thought, which we call an image; and (2) the use of this image to convey to ourselves, or to others, some definite, recognised, and intended meaning.

The General Function of Conception.-- The general function and value of conception in the economy of the psycho-physical organism is probably so obvious as to require no further elaboration. It has already been described as the great simplifier of mental operations, the labour-saving device by means of which we are enabled to accomplish with single ideas the work which otherwise might require the cooperation of many. It only remains to call attention afresh to the fact that the mental capacity which permits this condensation of the meaning of many experiences into the meaning of a single image is generically one and the same with that apprehension of meaning which renders perception intelligible, imagination significant, and memory coherent.

Neural Process and Conception.-- So far as conception involves imagery, it necessarily follows that it depends upon the

(216) reaction of those areas in the cerebral cortex with which the several sense organs are most immediately connected. Beyond this we can say very little, save that there seems some reason to believe that all the more reflective and ratiocinative forms of thought process involve in an important way the action of the Flechsig association centres. It must be frankly admitted that at the present moment the neural counterparts of these higher and more recondite phases of psychical activity are practically unknown. It seems clear that they must in large measure involve the action of the same areas that are concerned in perception and in simple acts of memory. But the nature of the differences in the form of the nervous action, when the psychical act is one of prolonged reasoning with the use of elaborate concepts, as contrasted with the mere accidental calling to consciousness of some familiar visual image, for example, is still altogether a matter of speculation and hypothesis.

Development of Conception.-- We have repeatedly seen reason to believe that mental life is in all essential respects like other life phenomena, manifesting periods of growth, maturity, and decay. This view leads us to expect a gradual unfolding of the typical phases of consciousness, which are at the outset latent in the infant mind, rather than the sudden appearance at different times of totally new kinds of mental operation. The development of conception is no exception to this rule.

The appearance of a rude type of recognition, which we have discovered to be the prototype of the developed act of conception, may be detected very early in infant consciousness. But it is exceedingly difficult, not to say impossible, confidently to designate the precise moment at which the first general idea is elaborated. The facts suggest that babies generalise in a rough way upon their experiences at a very early date. Or, if they do not positively generalise, they accomplish the same result negatively, by failing adequately

(217) is distinguish and analyse. Infants a few days old, if given to distinguish some distasteful medicine, will often refuse utterly for hours afterward to take anything into their mouths, and for indefinite periods will reject the medicine itself. It would probably be absurd, however, to suppose that the baby has at this time a general idea of medicine, although one might with propriety speak of a generalised motor reaction. Nor would such a description detract from the genuinely conceptional nature of the reaction, for the concepts of adults may also be considered as forms of generalised motor activity. As soon as language appears, from the fourteenth to the twenty-eighth month, the formation and growth of general ideas is immensely augmented. But our previous assertion about the connection of concepts and language holds true here, and it is certainly reasonable to suppose that crude general ideas antedate the use of adult language forms. In this connection one must not forget that gestures-for example, smiling, scowling, clenching the hands, etc-- are often vehicles for conveying conceptual relations, and that the inarticulate cries and vocalisations of various kinds which precede the intelligent use of words may also be regarded as primitive linguistic concepts. Thus, a certain sound means water, another means milk, and so on. The sign language of deaf-mutes affords admirable illustrations of the same type of expression for concepts.

Formation of New Concepts.-- Turning to the development of our concepts after the period of infancy, we find that their transformation proceeds along two main lines, which we can best discuss separately: first, by the creation of essentially new concepts; and second, by the enrichment of old concepts with new material. An important factor in the formation of our concepts, i. e., the process of judgment, cannot be discussed until the next chapter, where we shall however, revert briefly to the conceptual activity.

We have already seen that concepts are primarily based

(218) upon perceptual processes, just as memory and imagination are. We have also observed the way in which every perception, even the freshest and most novel, involves past experience. We shall, therefore, be safe in assuming that what we call new concepts are only partially new, and really contain a measure of familiar material. For example, when a boy first studies algebra he is introduced to the concept of the equation, to the concept of symbolism in quantitative procedure, to the concept of negative numbers, etc. Now, we speak of such concepts as being new to the boy, and so in a sense they are. But we must also recognise the fact that they are not wholly new, and that if they were they would be entirely unintelligible to him. The significance of the equation as a mathematical tool could never be grasped were the boy's previous experience incapable of furnishing him the notion of equality as a starting point. So, too, the concept of negative numbers could never be mastered were there not the foundation of knowledge about positive numbers to build upon. Granted the rudimentary idea, or concept, of equality, and the concept of the equation becomes a possible intellectual possession. Moreover, once it is gained it takes its place as a perfectly distinct concept, related to the concept of equality and to many other concepts, but still mentally an independent idea.

What the boy really does in getting bold of such a new concept as that of negative numbers is to compare the new notion with his old idea of number, to remark their likenesses and differences, and to throw into the foreground, by this process of discrimination, the most practically important features of the new case. The result of this procedure is the boy's first concept of negative numbers. These abstracting, discriminating, and comparing activities of attention are present in varying degree in all self-directed attainments of new concepts.

This form of development of ideas displays in an unmistakable manner the essentially organic nature of our knowl-

(219)-edge. Each idea springs out of other ideas, which have gone before, and in turn gives birth to new successors. The connection is not merely one of sequence in time; it is a connection of the genuinely developmental type, in which one idea is, as it were, unfolded from, and given off by, another. ultimately, therefore, each of our ideas is related, however remotely, to all the others, a fact which constitutes one illustration of the so-called doctrine of the total relativity of knowledge. Speaking metaphorically, but within the bounds of literal fact, we may say that the great tree of knowledge springs from the seed of that vague consciousness with which the infant's life begins. Differentiation followed by fresh synthesis, old experiences blended with new ones, each modifying the other-such is the course of progress.

The natural incentive to the development of these new concepts is to be found in the needs of the individual. We find ourselves confronted with a situation in which our old ideas are inadequate and unsatisfactory. We cannot get ahead. We are thwarted, and find ourselves obliged to set about the securing of new notions to meet the case. The child whose toy refuses to go resorts first to the familiar idea of assistance from parent or nurse. Some day this assistance fails and the child, thrown back upon his own resources, may hit upon the idea of helping himself. The same sort of thing characterises adult procedure. Thus, the frequent disaster arising from surgical operations under the old ideas of clinical cleanliness led to the examination of tissues affected by such operations, and in the light of the modern knowledge of bacterial life a wholly new and more drastic concept of surgical cleanliness has arisen, resulting in an astonishing diminution in the fatal consequences of operative surgery.

When we seek illustrations in the range of our formal educational procedure it is not always so clear that the new concepts are gained in response to felt deficiencies in our existing stock of ideas. The boy confronted with the con-

(220)-cepts peculiar to the study of Greek and Latin and mathematics would often forego the attainment of them with definite complacency, not to say enthusiasm. It is evident that if he is to master these subjects he must first secure these concepts; but it would sometimes be a sad perversion of the facts to say that the concepts are obtained as the result of a need felt by the boy. A child caught thus in the educational machinery is often whirled about among needs, for which the ideas held out do indeed afford relief, but they are not always needs which the child himself feels. One has, however, only to glance at the history of any specific educational system to recognise that in its inception each system was intended to fit its pupils for some special form of life, and in this vocation the studies offered really had a place. The adult has here attempted to anticipate in the most effectual way the needs which at some time the child is sure to feel. Fortunate the child who is brought up in a system which affords him ideas fitted to his own day and generation, instead of those appropriate to the times and conditions of his great-grandparents.

The concepts which we get in the educational system may not always, then, reflect needs and difficulties of which we personally are as yet cognisant. But the system itself is an effort to epitomise the satisfaction of just those needs which in the human experience of the leaders of our race have been felt to be most imperative. Our general statement remains, therefore, essentially true, i. e., that our new concepts arise out of the inadequacy of those already on hand to cope with the conditions in which we find ourselves.

The Petrifying of Concepts.-- This doctrine gets a depressing confirmation by observation of persons who have once settled down into a fixed and narrow vocation in which radically new demands are rarely encountered, and when encountered, are found hopelessly baffling. In a degree this condition overtakes everybody as middle age passes by. The

(221) result is too often the pathetic person of inflexible sympathies, circumscribed and dogmatic ideas-the person who is sure the world is going to the bow-wows, and who knows it was all much better in his own day. Such persons have ceased to get new concepts, and the old ones are inadequate.

Enrichment of Old Concepts.-- Hand in hand with this appearance of relatively new concepts goes the development of our old ideas. This development might be described as having two directions, but in reality the two are one. Our concepts seem sometimes to widen and sometimes to grow more narrow. Thus, we learn more every day about men and women, and so we may truly enough say that our concept of humanity broadens as our experience becomes richer. On the other hand our concept of science may, as our knowledge increases, become more and more restricted in its scope. Many branches of inquiry which would originally have found place under this heading may, in our maturer judgment, belong elsewhere. Both these processes are, however, simply different modes of reaching an identical result, i. e., the clarification of the precise meaning of our concepts.

Every concept is in a sense a working hypothesis, a tentative manner of thinking about things, and is subject at need to revision. Our idea of right is gained in childhood from parental precepts. If we do not stagnate morally, a time must come when we are obliged to reconstruct and modify this childish concept. As our knowledge becomes broader this process of reconstruction may go on indefinitely. This does not mean that we necessarily discard wholly the idea of right which we received from our parents. Far from it! It means that this idea was necessarily a child's idea, and so inadequate to certain adult experiences; and it becomes necessary to develop it in accordance with the new needs. The incentive to this form of growth in our concepts is, then, precisely identical with that which led to our getting what we call new concepts. It is clear that in a certain sense the

(222) process we have just described really gives us new concepts. But practically we think of the new idea as a modification of the old one.

The doctrine is sometimes held that our concepts are unchangeable. The difference between this view and the one, we have been presenting is largely verbal. In a certain sense our concepts are unalterable. To use our last illustration again, I can remember what I meant by my childish idea of right, and can recall the idea when I will. In this sense the concept does remain a permanent part of my mental equipment, undergoing only such changes as may be due to failing memory. But practically my adult concept. which I call my idea of right is, as has just been shown, very different from this childish one out of which it has grown.


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