2. Parts of the Conceptual Universe

The parts of the conceptual universe are called concepts.

It is possible to think (or have concepts) about both the objective and the perceptual domains. Therefore, they are both parts of the conceptual universe. More precisely, references to them (or concepts of them) are parts of the conceptual universe. For example, consider the three phrases: “I am” , “I perceive” , “I think” . To understand these phrases implies that their content (objects, percepts, and thoughts) is brought inside of the conceptual universe (as concepts which reference these things, of course, because only concepts can exist as such within the conceptual universe).

Sentences are singular references to events in the world. The top of the syntactic tree is typically a single concept which is a reference to the world (as opposed to being a reference to language). This single concept is created by the combination of other phrases, which may in turn be complete or incomplete concepts themselves. At the root of the tree, the primary syntactic division of the sentence creates a noun phrase and a verb phrase. These two phrases characterize the spatial and temporal dimensions of an N-dimensional object to which we refer. Within these noun and verb phrases, further syntactic divisions eventually create the various parts of speech. For example, noun phrases often have nouns, articles, and adjectives as parts, and verb phrases are often partitioned into prepositional phrases, verbs, and adverbs. Consider the following example sentences, most of which describe an event:[67]

  1. I ate the apple.

  2. I am eating the apple.

  3. a) The apple tastes tangy.

    b) Apples taste tangy.

    c) Apples are tangy-tasting.

  4. *The apple is a fruit.

The first statement is clearly the description of an event: its boundaries are fairly well-defined in both space and time. The second statement also represents an event, but its temporal extent is spread out relative to the first (this is the nature of the present perfect tense in English). The role of time in the third and fourth statements is less clear, despite the presence of a verb phrase.

Statement (3a), since it is about a particular apple (as indicated by the definite article, “the” ), refers to one or several tasting events. The similar statement (3b), “apples taste tangy” , is not linked to a particular event, and can be viewed in one of several ways. Viewed as a descriptive statement about apples (or an extensional statement), it means that if something is an apple thing, then it is tangy thing. Viewed as an intensional statement about the abstract concept “apple” , it says that this concept is a part of a larger concept: “tangy” .

Statement (3b) might also be understood as statement (3c), where the verb to be has been explicitly introduced. In this rendition, the statement seems more likely to be a definitional statement; as such, it would be a relationship directly between abstract concepts. Finally, statement (4) may also be viewed as definitive of the concept “apple” . However, this reading of the sentence is complicated by the use of the definite article, which seems to convey that this particular apple (i.e. whichever apple is indicated) is a fruit, as opposed to conveying the fact that “apples are fruits” .

The smallest valid reference in the conceptual universe is the sentence.

When we learn the concept “She dances beautifully” , do we first conceive the noun phrase and then the verb phrase, first the verb phrase and then the noun phrase, or do we learn both together as a unitized event? Do we learn nouns and verbs by dividing sentence-concepts, or do we learn sentences by combining noun and verb concepts? It seems somewhat odd that despite our overwhelming familiarity with language, these questions are difficult to answer.

Most people probably accept without hesitation that without a dancer, there can be no dance. With a bit more hesitation they might conclude that without a dance, there is no dancer. A dancer does, will do, or perhaps has done a dance. Similarly, a dance has or will have a dancer. Just as thinking requires a thinker, a thinker (by definition) requires thinking. In some sense, it seems that the dancer and the dance are a singular thing: an event which can only be described with a complete sentence, as opposed to either a noun phrase or a verb phrase. If we are forced to be terse, we might also use the gerund dancing to indicate the presence of both the noun and the verb. “Dancing” may in turn require something else, but let's stop here for the moment.

The combination of nouns and verbs make a reference more complete. Alternatively, the smallest linguistic referent which can be accurately dereferenced is the entire sentence (as opposed to just the noun or verb phrase). Speaking more loosely, “the apple fell from the tree” in some sense exists more than “the apple” : the entire sentence is more meaningful than its noun phrase. Alternatively, we may say that noun phrases and verb phrases are more dependent than an entire sentence: something which has both a spatial part and a temporal part is more independent. For example, the composite doing is an object: the doer and what is done are constituents of this that do not exist as (complete) objects. These constituents can be defined , but they should only be dereferenced in conjunction with a full spatiotemporal specification; they must be combined in order to validly refer to an object of high dimensionality (i.e. an object in the physical universe).[68]

Again, every concept has at least a partial meaning. However, only some of these concepts are valid references to an object (or a percept). Some words may not be validly dereferenced on their own: although they have some meaning, their referents have a dimensionality that is lower than the space in which they exist (they are dimensionally incomplete). In particular, nouns (spatial things) and verbs (temporal things) do not fully characterize an event (which requires both spatial and temporal ordinates), and so nouns and verbs cannot be independently dereferenced in a world that consists only of events (i.e. four-dimensional things).[69] In other words, language carves the world into space and time by collecting the spatial dimensions into the noun phrase and the temporal dimension into the verb phrase, but they exist only in combination.[70]

To say that certain parts of speech are more meaningful than others entails that in some sense they correspond better to reality. If one takes the position that only entire sentences (higher-dimensional events) really exist, what are the consequences associated with falsely believing in the reality of nouns?[71]

The implications of one's answer are potentially significant. If we misunderstand the “natural parts” of reality, then we might be less capable of achieving our desires. Let us assume that if we desire something, then our desire is attached to that thing as we understand it . If we like sugar, for example, and we attach our desire to sugar, then it will be fairly straightforward (even if it is not always possible) to get some sugar. Similarly, if we like sugar but attach our desire to salt, we will be unhappy, but still in a straightforward way.

On the other hand, instead of desiring the right or wrong things (i.e. things which did or did not make us happy), we might desire the wrong type of things. For example, we might desire things which bring happiness in dependence on some indeterminate relationship (i.e. the objects of our attachment and the things which bring us pleasure are somehow intertwined). In this case, we might both end up in an unsatisfactory position, and have some frustration at having done so. To return to the example of sugar, if instead of chasing after sugar we chase after the color red (because we incorrectly associate it with sweetness), then we are in trouble. While we may get lucky by eating red foods in an orchard, outside of the orchard we may suffer upon obtaining bitter red fruits. On the other hand, if our concepts correctly correspond to objects, we can seek out sugar instead of red things, thereby avoiding this problem.

The noun phrase identifies the spatial extent of sentences.

Noun phrases restrict attention to a particular area of space: traditionally, they refer to a person, place, or thing. While they often take relatively simple forms (such as proper nouns that identify a particular individual), they can also restrict spatial attention by picking out instances of a class (such as count nouns) or by applying shapes to some ubiquitous stuff (such as mass nouns). This section explores the ontological priority of concepts corresponding to proper, count, and mass nouns. As a concrete example, we ask which of the following concepts is ontologically prior: a particular apple (a proper noun), the set of apples (a count noun), or apple substance (a mass noun).

This distinction between proper and count nouns is similar to the distinction between tokens and types. The latter distinction is illustrated by an example posed by C.S. Pierce: in the following picture, how many words are there?


Some people say that there is one word, “the” . Other people say that there are two words, one beside the other. The difference between these two points of view is exactly the difference between tokens and types. There is one type of word in the figure, and there are two tokens of that type. In this case, the question becomes: are tokens derived from types, or are types derived from tokens?

The question of which type of noun is ontologically primary is a psychological version of the philosophical debate regarding natural kinds. Historically, the debate about which things are real (i.e. natural kinds) has considered primarily candidates from the set of noun phrases: things which do not have a temporal extent. Ultimately, we propose a model where only event-like things (things with a temporal extent, as opposed to purely spatial things) are candidates for being natural kinds (or things that exist in the physical universe as individuals). Here, however, we restrict our attention to the noun phrase.

The primary notion of identity is called self-identity.

The conceptual hierarchies that we form are rich and pervasive. Initially, however, they are necessarily quite stark: a conceptual foundation must be laid first, and those initial concepts do not appear to be innate. These early concepts are not of inherently greater importance, but presumably they are the first to be learned because they have a high utility to the animal (perhaps they are highly correlated with the perception of pleasure). These concepts may be regarded as simple or primitive, because they are the earliest words in our linguistic evolution, but they are also some of the most influential, in virtue of their role as the edifice of subsequent conceptual structures.

The question of which concepts are learned first is central to the work of the French psychologist Jean Piaget. Piaget studied early human development extensively, which he divided into several different developmental stages . The characteristic property of a developmental stage is the ability to form certain concepts (or at least to behave as if one has formed those concepts). Hence, the order of the Piagetian developmental stages informs the study of ontological priority.

The first Piagetian stage is called the sensorimotor stage, which occurs during the first two years of life. This stage happens in conjunction with developing basic sensory-motor coordination. One of the important hallmarks of this stage is called object permanence : which entails behavior which indicates the understanding that objects persist . Objects may move around, and they may go out of our field of perception, but they are understood to still exist: for example, we could find them again, if we went looking for them. In other words, we develop the concept of “an object which exists independently of its percepts” .

Piaget observed that symbolic representation typically occurs between eighteen and twenty-four months of age, at the end of the sensorimotor stage. This developmental stage is also characterized by learning the concept of self/other. The self, understood as the body, is approximately that part of the world that can be directly controlled (i.e. by one's mind). The thing which the child cannot control directly comes to be known as the non-self, or other.

The next stage is called the pre-operational stage, during which children become capable of actions on objects. This corresponds to the formation of many of the first concepts. These will be introduced later as first-order concepts.

At approximately four years of age, reasoning begins. Piaget theorized that during this stage, other selves are recognized as selves: children overcome solipsism, and recognize others as individuals. In other words, the concept of other comes to be composed of things which are very much like one's self. This is also the stage during which the ability of the child to learn new words begins to increase dramatically: although symbolic representation began prior to four years of age, language acquisition at that earlier stage is relatively primitive. While a number of concepts or symbols are learned at that time, that stage is not characterized by the exponential increase in vocabulary enabled by the definition of symbols using other symbols.[72]

The primary notion of identity is called self-identity.

One of the first concepts to be created is the self , which is formed by partitioning the percept of everything, and which simultaneously creates a counterpart, other . The self/other distinction is quite possibly the first dichotomy that we create in the conceptual universe. It is not the same as the subjective/objective distinction. For example, visual perception, which is a part of the subjective domain, does not distinguish between oneself and others: both have an equal footing as visual objects. Also, there are parts of oneself that ordinarily cannot be perceived (such as the hair on the back of one's head, which is a part of one's self).

If the self/other distinction is conceptual, then we are responsible for choosing the location of the boundary. As an example of how the location of this boundary is chosen, this section examines hedonists. We define hedonists as people who maximize pleasure for their self. So, in virtue of their self-identification (i.e. how they conceive of their self), they will act to maximize the pleasure that this “self” receives. Turning this definition around, we might also define a person's self as the thing that benefits by that person's actions (or at least as the thing that is intended to benefit by those actions).

Clearly, the definition of hedonism used here is different than the regular definition of hedonism, which connotes a person who does not care about anyone else. Although in both cases hedonists care only about their selves, there is flexibility in what constitutes this self (or self-concept). Hence, there is a difference between these two definitions of hedonism when people consider themselves to be other than just their bodies. For example, although hedonists always act in their self-interest, they will end up acting in someone else's interest if they consider that person to be a part of their self-concept.[73]

To begin with, suppose that I believe my self is roughly identical to my material body. When I am happy and loving myself, I might give myself savory foods, or various other physical pleasures. If I care about other people's opinions of myself, this would translate into caring about my physical appearance. The relations that I enter into with other things are understood on a very physical level. If I compete, it may be by running in a race; if I love, it has a physical expression.

Now suppose that I identify closely with my mind; I deeply value the thoughts and ideas that I have, as they are me. My body, its physical pleasures and pains, do not matter as much to me. Caring about other people's opinions might express itself as the desire to communicate my ideas, or to demonstrate my intelligence and originality. Personal intelligence and wisdom (or the lack thereof) become my virtue and vice. I might compete by writing a book, in which I have written a fancy, new-fangled sentence such as this one.

On the other hand, suppose that I identified with my family. This might entail identifying with several people, depending on how big my family is. I take as much pleasure in my brother's gold medal, or my dad's financial success, as if these had been my own successes: I don't care if I personally won the race or wrote the book. This attitude is self-sacrificing , in that I would forego my own welfare for that of my family or partner, but only from the bodily-identified view of a self.[74]

As the boundaries of self-identification continue to increase, I might identify with my country and enter the political sphere, or identify with all living things and strive to manifest charity and compassion for all creatures. At the limit, I would consider all things to be my self. This is semantically equivalent to not having a self at all, in that the property of “self” no longer applies to a limited thing.

Different types of nouns are abstracted from events in different ways, in virtue of which they require different quantifiers.

Most sentences act as references to events in the world; to do this, they employ a calculus of references and abstract concepts. These concepts must ultimately be dereferenced, or made concrete, in order for them to be meaningful and understood: quantifiers serve in that capacity.

One distinction between proper and improper nouns is our familiarity with them. Objects corresponding to proper nouns are literally known on a first-name basis: improper nouns are more abstract. Objects corresponding to count nouns are known to be individuals of some sort, but we do not necessarily have individual names for each one. Mass nouns denote stuff whose substance is known, but whose form is not. The relationship between these different types of nouns is shown in the following taxonomy:[75]


Another distinction between proper nouns and improper nouns is related to uniqueness: proper nouns denote unique individuals, and improper nouns denotes members of a class (they are unique, the opposite of being generic or abstract). For example, although there are a number of people in the world, there is only one of me. So while I am a person, I am also me : I have a name which designates exactly myself. Hence, I am simply me: I am not a me, the me, or a human-sized portion of me.

Proper nouns have a name which designates exactly themselves, so they do not need quantifiers. Improper nouns do not reference unique individuals, so quantifiers are necessary to do so. In English, this quantification (i.e. the dereferencing of concepts) is often achieved by the use of definite and indefinite articles (the words a and the). Both articles take an improper noun as an argument, which they dereference or individuate. These articles serve as the inverse of naming operator, in that they are responsible for the semantic transference from a denotation to the thing denoted (or at least one level closer). For example, when one learns the concept of “cat” , and one further associates that concept with the symbol cat, you have named that thing. Cat exists as a symbol, and in particular a count noun; to dereference it, an article such as “the” is used; “the cat” is less abstract than “cat” . In other words, count nouns are types which are composed of a collection of tokens: alternatively, we may say that there is a dimension of cats, which ranges over particular cats. It is the role of the definite article to pick out a coordinate on that dimension, and thereby dereference the abstract concept.

Mass nouns, as do count nouns, require additional quantification. The indefinite article generally cannot be used as a quantifier for a mass noun: it is insufficient to dereference a mass noun. Using sand as an example, we don't say “ a sand” , presumably because the grains of sand are not easily individuated. On the other hand, the definite article can sometimes be used, presumably because the containing shape is already known if we are referring to a particular volume (e.g. the sand). In general, mass nouns require quantification of their shape or spatial location. For example, “water” is a mass noun whose spatial extent is not discrete: when it is dereferenced, it is typically associated with a particular volume or shape (e.g. “a drop” , “a puddle” , etc). Although count nouns occur in phrases such as “an apple” or “the apple” , mass nouns occur in phrases such as “a drop of water” or “the puddle of water” .

The ability to use shapes and substances to refer to things is efficient in comparison to proper nouns, since we can use the adjectives “drop” and “puddle” as containers for any number of liquids: we do not need a different word for each shape-substance pair. Cow, as an example of count noun, refers to a thing which has a rather characteristic shape. While it is conceivable that cows could have been denoted in English using mass nouns, it seems improbable, since we would end up with some construction like “a cow-shape of cow-stuff” . Very little comes in cow shapes besides cows, so there is little advantage in constructing cows in this way. If cow stuff comes in shapes other than cow shapes, then it is likely that some misfortune has befallen the cow (note the difference between the nouns “cow” and “beef” in this respect).

The abstractness of nouns can be quantified by using the notions of dimensionality and conceptual order.

Apple percepts are necessarily ontologically prior to apple concepts, since concepts are formed in dependence on percepts. This assumes, however, that people learn about apples by direct experience with them (as opposed to defining them using other concepts). Between two concepts, establishing ontological priority is not as easy to decide: most concepts are known through a mixture of experience and definition in terms of other concepts. Relatively few concepts (or words) are learned either entirely through experience or entirely through other words. On the other hand, it may be that certain kinds of concepts are necessarily ontologically prior to other kinds of concepts. This relationship is of particular interest, as it informs us about the structure of cognition.

This section considers three different kinds of apple concepts and their interrelations. Although apples are count nouns in the English language, we will cast apples as three different parts of speech, each of which corresponds to an apple concept (or a kind of apple understanding). The first kind of concept is the particular “apple” , such as “apple1 ” or “apple2 ” , which corresponds to proper nouns (we use numeric subscripts instead of proper names like Bill or Sue, but they amount to the same thing). The second kind of concept is “apples” (or apple-stuff), understood as a mass noun. It requires some container in order to be understood, as it is a substance without a shape (note that this is not the same as the plural count noun “apples” , which has discrete spatial parts). Finally, we have “an apple” , understood as a count noun: although we put quotes around both apple and the indefinite article to indicate that it should be treated as a count noun, we are referring to the concept of apple before it has been counted (or had the article applied).[76]

Before we examine apple concepts, let us look at several different kinds of apple percepts. The following diagram depicts a partitioned perception of an apple orchard: the percept of ‘Orchard’ occurs first (at the top), and we perceive individual apples by dividing this larger whole. In essence, this diagram depicts the hypothesis that percepts are composed hierarchically. It is a meronomy, where a given whole is spatially partitioned: this partitioning is informed in large part by vision.

In this example, individual apple percepts are parts of a percept that covers the entire orchard:


Consider a number of percepts corresponding to two different apple objects at different times, where each apple is associated with many relatively instantaneous percepts of it. These percepts are denoted with single quotes, and subscripted to indicate that there are many different such percepts. In the diagram above, they are represented as terminal nodes. Our question about the ontological priority of nouns is informed by how these many percepts are collected into the various apple concepts.

Concepts are initially very generic, and they become specific through a process of successive approximation. Studies of conditioning show that at first, the discriminations between relatively similar stimuli are poor. In other words, it is initially difficult to tell apples apart from one another; it is only with increasing amounts of experience that individual apples are distinguished. Conceptually, apples can be distinguished from oranges before they can be distinguished from each other.[77]

This could be taken as evidence that the apple type is learned before apple tokens. In contrast to this, we believe that a concrete apple token is learned, which has many instances: in other words, a perceptual apple function which picks put all particular apples (as opposed to just one). This is different in construction from the abstract concept of “an apple” , which is the collection of functions which each pick out a particular apple ( “Apple1 ” , “Apple2 ” , ...). Hence, the abstract concept “an apple” is only indirectly based on these percepts, as it is directly based on the concepts of individual apples. This situation is represented diagrammatically as follows:


There are several points of interest in this diagram. The first row represents percepts, where we have assumed that all percepts are of individual apples at different times. The second row represents the concepts corresponding to two particular apples, which are created from a number of percepts (and are functions which operate on perception). A (concrete) concept which did not distinguish between any of these apple percepts would also occupy this level. The third row depicts a more abstract concept, “an apple” , which is based on other concepts (the ellipsis indicates that these concepts are not necessarily based directly on these concepts). Ultimately, it is based on the percepts of individual apples, as are “apple1-2 ” .

Under this analysis, proper nouns are necessarily ontologically prior to count nouns, as count nouns are constructed by collecting proper nouns. Mass nouns, since they require both articles and a shape to dereference them, are more highly abstract. In other words, since they are syntactically a more refined part of speech, they are almost certain to be learned after count nouns. However, the mass noun “apples” can be based on a percept corresponding to ‘all apples’ : in that case, the mass noun might occupy a lower ontological level.[78]

In any case, the quantification of the informal statement that proper nouns are ontologically prior to count nouns, it is necessary to have some way to formally characterize the difference between them. To do so, the notion of abstract concepts can be replaced with the notions of ontological order and conceptual dimensionality (most of the details of this will be left to the conclusion).

Ontological order is directly related to ontological priority: increasingly abstract concepts have a higher order. We will limit the operation which produces increasing ontological order to an operation which collects its contents, such that the dimensionality of the thing increases every time the ontological order of the thing is increased. In other words, every concept which we form based on previous concepts has a dimensionality one higher than the concepts on which it is based. “An apple” , as represented above, is a concept which references (and ranges over) individual apples. This abstract concept, because it is based upon concepts of individual apples, requires an increase in the conceptual dimensionality (this may be likened to mathematical integration). Similarly, each individual apple ranges over a set of apple percepts, and is therefore also of a higher dimensionality.

Let us assume that each apple percept is three-dimensional, and that there is a generalized concept corresponding to these percepts (e.g. an individual three-dimensional apple such as “apple1 ” ). When a number of these individual apple concepts are collected, it is possible to form a (more abstract) four-dimensional concept (the fourth dimension is essentially an index over the particular apple concepts). Definite or indefinite articles (as in “an apple” or “the apple” ) can be used to reduce this dimensionality, so that it once again becomes a three-dimensional thing. In other words, when articles are applied to count nouns (which are abstract), they move us out of the conceptual realm (or at least one order closer to the perceptual realm): they dereference references. For example, articles make count nouns as concrete as proper nouns: they make them less abstract, and thus closer to our perceptual reality.

The verb phrase is the temporal part of sentences about events.

Verb phrases enable sentences to refer to events by describing the movement of the noun phrase through time. Adverbs further restrict the temporal extent (and action) identified by the verb, just as adjectives restrict the spatial extent identified by the noun. Prepositional phrases modify the verb (was beaten with a stick ), just as adjectival phrases modify the noun (the boy that threw the rock ). This dynamic creation of concepts allows us to bypass creating symbols that represent each individual concept. In this section, we explore a modification of verbs themselves which allows their dynamic construction: transitivity.

Verb phrases may be intransitive, in which case the verbs are semantically complete, or transitive, in which case the verbs require an object.

Verb phrases take part in two basic kinds of sentences. They can add an action (and a temporal aspect) to the noun phrase and thereby create an event which references the world, as in “I ate” , or they can define the relationship between two concepts, as in “an apple is a fruit” . This section considers the role of verbs only in the former type of sentences.

If verb phrases were constrained to consist of single verbs and nothing else, they would be quite limited in expressive power. If only one-word verbs existed, then the number of verbs needed to describe the temporal behavior (or action) of the things referenced by nouns would be enormous. Adverbs allow us to decrease the required number of verbs to express a given amount of information substantially (in fact, by an exponential amount). For example, if we have four adverbs, each of which can apply to four verbs, we must learn eight words. However, this allows us to construct sixteen different verb phrases from these eight words (counting only the verb phrases that can be formed with a single adverb).

Verb phrases can also be constructed by using a combination of a noun phrase and a verb phrase, which offers an expressive efficiency similar to that of adjectives. The verbs which require an object (or noun phrase) are known as transitive verbs. These constituent noun phrases play the grammatical role of the object of the sentence, as opposed to the top-level noun phrases, which play the grammatical role of the subject.

Syntactically, transitive sentences have a part structure which is decomposed into two parts: a noun phrase and a verb phrase. Grammatically, these sentences are broken into three parts: a subject, verb, and object. [79]

Under the assumption that syntactically simpler parts of speech are of an ontologically lower level, intransitive verbs are ontologically prior to transitive verbs. Grammatically, transitive verbs and their objects combine to play the conceptual role played by intransitive verbs. Syntactically, this is equivalent to the rule that a verb phrase and a noun phrase can reduce to play the same part of speech as an intransitive verb phrase. As an example, consider the phrase “Isabella loves bunny” . The deep structure of this sentence is such that “loving-bunny” is a single conceptual unit which is then combined with Isabella.[80]

Considering transitive verbs to reduce to intransitive verbs is an example of using syntax as a guide to ontological priority: generally, simpler syntactic constructions are ontologically prior to more complex syntactic constructions, where the complexity is determined by the fewest number of production rules required to derive a given part of speech. We must learn simple parts of speech before parts of speech which derive from these earlier parts of speech. Concretely, because intransitive verbs play the same conceptual role as transitive verbs in addition to an object, but the former are syntactically simpler, we have good evidence that intransitive verbs are ontologically prior to to transitive verbs.



[67] The linguistic analysis in this chapter is restricted to the English language.

[68] We use the term meaning somewhat loosely in this context. However, the distinction between incomplete and complete (or at least more complete) meaning can be easily understood by an analogy: although the adjective “quick” has some meaning, it is incomplete. It begs the questions “quick what? What is it that is quick?” . For nouns ( “me” , “you” , “the apple” ), to be incomplete entails that they would raise similar questions: “I did what? What did you do with the apple?” For most people, nouns are not recognized as being incomplete. This seems to be a mistaken view: nouns are not just incomplete in terms of sentence structure, but in terms of meaning. Noun phrases are not (merely) conceptual aggregates of smaller parts: they are parts of a larger whole.

[69] At least, nouns and verbs cannot be dereferenced in isolation from one another, since proper parts must have a dimensionality equivalent to the thing that contains them.

[70] It may not be correct to attribute the separation of the world into space and time to language. Perhaps our perceptions are capable of relaying only the spatial part of the world to us, so time itself (even though we hold it to be an aspect of everything) must be reintroduced to our awareness through the operation of cognition (i.e. since perception cannot do so). In this case, it is language which reintroduces time to lower-dimensional percepts. The difference between these two views amounts to whether percepts are considered to have a temporal component.

[71] This question is related to the philosophical question of natural kinds. To ask what things are natural kinds amounts to asking, “Which concepts are naturally-existing objects in the world?” . To believe that there are natural kinds is to believe that the world can be partitioned into into these and only these objects.

The belief in natural kinds creates at least two positions in philosophy: one which asserts the reality of universals, and one which asserts the reality of particulars. The most well known advocate of the reality of universals was the Greek philosopher Plato. For a Platonist, universals (such as appleness) are real, and particulars (individual apples) are products of the mind. The opposing camp (particularists) believes that the characteristic of appleness is an abstraction which lives only in our conceptual understanding, and that only individual apples are real.

[72] Finally, the third and fourth stages take place (the concrete operational and formal operational stages), which enable higher abstract reasoning; these stages are understood in the current work as an ability (through the use of syntax) to form thoughts out of parts of speech which have an increasingly high dimensionality.

[73] Most people say that the self is the body or the mind (or both), and that actions for the benefit of others are done out of love. That is a bit difficult for me to understand (I am told that I don't understand because I am a man). In any case, here we assume that everyone acts in self-interest, and that when someone loves something, that thing is considered a part of their self.

[74] To be clear, the “self” in “self-sacrificing” is not the self-concept that encompasses something larger, such as one's family. Self-sacrificing applies to a limited notion of self, which might more suitably be called body-sacrificing or ego-sacrificing.

[75] Mass and count nouns, besides being less familiar, are syntactically more complicated: they require articles. This fact does not necessitate that proper nouns are conceptually prior to improper nouns, but it does lend a certain amount of evidence.

[76] We do not consider count nouns to be strictly equivalent to proper nouns that apply to multiple objects: the concept of “an apple” is not the same as the spatially-discontiguous object apples . This distinction is subtle but important: apples is the mereological fusion of all apples, but the concept of “an apple” is abstract and must use an article (such as “the” ) to refer to a physical object: it represents the set-theoretic sum of all individual apples.

[77] It seems fair to say that most people, at least implicitly, believe that the abstract concept of “apples” is derived from a set of individual “apples” . Whether people believe in a set of apple objects in the world, as opposed to an object which consists of all of the apples, is less certain. According to the nominalistic or agnostic view, there are no objects inherent in reality: reality is cut into parts by our concepts. However, there are certain parts which are more useful to denote than others; to act in terms of the objects which we name has pragmatic value.

[78] This sort of speculation is of course risky without more linguistic evidence and formal experimentation. The ontological priority in this example may vary from individual to individual, or from culture to culture. For example, if we grew up in an apple orchard and were exposed to truckloads of apples instead of relatively isolated apples, we might be more prone to learn apples as a mass noun.

[79] Conceptually, is the sentence a two-part thing or a three-part thing? In some sense, it seems reasonable to conclude that the transitive sentences have both two and three parts, depending on the level of analysis. From one point of view, only one concept is held in mind at any one time, and as the sentence corresponds to that single concept, it does not make sense to speak of any constituent parts. However, that sentence has a hierarchical structure, and any node in that hierarchy can be viewed as an intermediate concept, which exists during the formation of the final concept (which corresponds to the entire sentence).

[80] Languages such as English dictate a subject-verb-object order where the subject is provided first, the verb is next, and the object (if present) is in the terminal position. The next most common class of languages are those that arrange those parts of speech as subject-object-verb. Languages which separate the verb and the object are infrequent, which provides linguistic evidence for the fact that the verb and the object constitute a single conceptual unit.