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Man thinks in concepts. A concept is a classification that helps us to understand the world around us. The idea of ‘car’ is a concept. You haven’t seen all the cars in the world but because you have a concept of ‘car’ in your mind you can recognize a new vehicle that fits your criteria for ‘car’ immediately.
A person forms a concept in order to think more conveniently - he doesn’t have to describe every car to himself, he just thinks ‘car.’ The concept is also valuable as a means to communicate conveniently - however the success of the communication depends on the closeness with which our concepts agree. We get into trouble when one person and another use the same word to means different things, especially since not all concepts are so straightforward as ‘car’ - how about beauty or sin?
In everyday speech we are quite careless about the words we use and the meanings we attach to them. We may have just a vague understanding, but in the situation of studying a subject we need to do better than that. We need to ensure that we know precisely what the author means by the words he uses. Only then can we understand the author’s arguments. Equally, we need to be on the lookout for ill-defined words which may have lead the author to unjustified conclusions.Creative Definition Procedure
The purpose of this procedure is to handle an area where the student’s understanding is incomplete. It examines the known and unknown assumptions behind the meanings and definitions of symbols, words and language. You will learn to creatively generate clear definitions that can be used to comprehend and communicate about any term precisely.
Sometimes a given word can be run through this procedure several times with benefit, because some words and symbols are so identified with that the student cannot distinguish, intellectually and emotionally, between the word and the thing that it symbolizes.
Chose a word that is causing difficulty or of which your understanding is vague.
- First look the word up in a good Dictionary and provide example sentences of the word being used, for each of the definitions that the dictionary provides.
- Next look up the word in Roget’s Thesaurus and find out what words are synonymous with the word in question, and what words are antonyms.
- Look up the word in an Encyclopedia (if an entry exists) to see how the word is applied in the real world.
- Now answer the following questions and continue until you have a new enlightened definition of the word in question:
What are some things the word (....) does not mean?
What are some things the word (....) can be used to describe?
What are some things the word (....) cannot be used to describe?
What can the word (....) be associated with (connected with)?
What words, symbols or things can the word (....) be differentiated from?
What is the word (....) similar to?
Provide a deliberately misunderstood example of the word (....) in a sentence.
Is there an earlier subject or are there earlier ideas that affect or influence your understanding of the word (....)?
What prior assumptions or beliefs are necessary to understand or give meaning to the word (....)?
Exactly how would you convey your understanding of the word (....) to another person?
Compare your understanding of the word (....) at the beginning of these questions to the understanding you have now.
Copyright © 2004 Gregory Mitchell - Published by Trans4mind
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