An idea or thought, especially a generalized idea of a thing or of a class of things. Humans think within concepts or ideas. We can never achieve command over our thoughts unless we learn how to achieve command over our concepts or ideas. Thus we must learn how to identify the concepts or ideas we are using, contrast them with alternative concepts or ideas, and clarify what we include and exclude by means of them. For example, most people say they believe strongly in democracy, but few can clarify with examples what that word does and does not imply. Most people confuse the meaning of words with cultural associations, with the result that “democracy’’ means to people whatever we do in running our government-any country that is different is undemocratic. We must distinguish the concepts implicit in the English language from the psychological associations surrounding that concept in a given social group or culture. The failure to develop this ability is a major cause of uncritical thought and selfish critical thought.
See logic of language.« Back to Glossary Index