Introduction to Objectivist Dictionary

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Introduction to the Objectivist Analytic Dictionary

Craig Tisdale, 2004

§ 1

The intended purpose of any dictionary is to provide the particular meanings of concepts (words). All current dictionaries give only definitions. According to an objective philosophy, a definition is not the meaning of a concept, but an essential statement to give a concept cognitive precision, to differentiate it from all other concepts one knows. The objective meaning of a concept, then, is the sum of all the units (members) which it subsumes; the units from which the concept was abstracted; the existents that possess the same characteristic(s) which distinguishes them from all others things, and allows a concept of them to be formed.

The meaning of a perceptual-level concept (one that refers to a directly perceivable concrete, say chair) is the sum of all objects of its kind (chairs) that exist in reality. In other words, a perceptual-level concept does not have lesser, derived (non-axiomatic) concepts subsumed under it, only the particular existents to which it applies; from which it was, or could, be abstracted.

The meaning of a higher-level concept (one that does not apply to a single kind of perceptual existent) is the set of constituent concepts that are necessarily antecedent to the formation of it. The higher-level concept furniture subsumes various particular, perceptual concepts, such as table, chair, bed, etc., which serve as the units or constituents for this concept. These concretes give the concept furniture its meaning, since there could be no concept furniture without them.

The definition of a concept comes second to grasping its meaning, and in the case of furniture could be: any man-made object small enough to be placed in a human dwelling and intended to support smaller objects. A definition must, therefore, identify the nature of the nature of the units subsumed under a concept.

An analytic dictionary would, thus, contain a list of the constituent concepts one would arrive at through an objective analysis of the term being defined. Within this dictionary, corresponding to each non-perceptual and non-axiomatic concept is a Constituent Concepts List (CCL) that displays the concepts subsumed under it in descending order terminating at the perceptual or axiomatic level.
The reason for ending the analysis of a concept when one has reached a perceptual or axiomatic concept is that at these levels knowledge is irreducible, self-evident, and absolute. The perceptual and axiomatic levels are, therefore, the foundations of objective knowledge.

§ 2

What a Constituent Concepts List (CCL) is:
The CCL corresponding to a non-perceptual, non-axiomatic concept is a list of the necessarily antecedent concepts one would have had to have formed previously in order to have come to understand the concept being defined; they are sequenced in descending order down to the perceptual-level or axiomatic-level.

friend: one whom you have affection for and share values mutually with. Constituent concepts: value, purpose, choice, rationality, man (percept.)

An analysis of the concept friend would yield the concept value. One could not call another a friend unless they valued that person in some way.

An analysis of the concept value would lead one to obtain the concept purpose. One can not hope to achieve a value unless they purposefully acted to gain it.

To reduce the concept purpose would yield the concept choice. One cannot act with purpose apart from choosing what to purposefully act for.

Analyzing the concept choice yields the concept rationality. Man’s rational faculty is what gives him the option to choose, to act apart from what is determined by nature.

Reducing the concept rationality would give the concept man. Man’s distinguishing characteristic is his rational faculty; the characteristic that separates him from all other things, and therefore can only be possessed by him. Man is a perceptual-level concept and, therefore, completes the reduction process so that the concept friend can be grounded to reality and validated as an objective item of knowledge.

Complex CCLs:
A complex CCL is one that contains two or more concepts that are not constituents of one another, and may require separate reductions.
Let there be a term T whose CCL is complex. Let there also be two non-perceptual, non-axiomatic concepts A and B that are both constituents of term T, but do not serve as components of one another and therefore require separate reductions:

T: definition………………. CCL: {A, a1, a2} & {B, b1, b2}

Here, a1 and a2 represent the first and second constituents of concept A, where a2 is either a perceptual or axiomatic concept. Similarly, b1 and b2 represent the first and second constituents of concept B, where b2 is either a perceptual or axiomatic concept. The {‘s indicate that the information contained in them are separate chains of reduction for term T. The ‘&’ symbolizes that the information contained in the second set of {‘s does not analyze out of the information contained in the first set, but that both are the immediate constituents of the term being defined.

Chains of reduction within chains of reduction, or secondary chains, could be represented as follows:

T: definition………………. CCL: {A, [a1, a1a, a1b] & a2} & {B, b1, b2'}

Here, [a1, a1a, a1b] is the chain of reduction for concept a1 within the chain of reduction for concept A, where a2 does not analyze out of a1 or a1b, but, like a1, is an immediate constituent of concept A.

As above , &’s within primary chains (chains generally contained within {‘s) symbolize that the concepts or secondary chains conjoined by them are not to be interpreted as analyzing from one another, but as constituents that are equally immediate to the concept preceding the comma before their conjunction, and so can be learned in any order. This could be represented as follows:

T: definition………………. CCL: {A, a1 & a2} & {B, b1 & b2}

Here, a1 & a2 implies both concepts to be equally immediate constituents of concept A. Similarly here, it is also so with concept B.

Common-sense benefits of the CCLs:
Hypothetical scenario:
Mr. X wants to understand the meaning of a word P, where P is not a perceptual or axiomatic concept. The definition of P isn’t very helpful to him, so he takes a look at the corresponding CCL. According to the list, one would have had to have formed concepts Q before P, R before Q, and S before R to fully grasp the meaning of concept P, where S is either a perceptual or axiomatic concept. Seeing this he realizes that he does not know concepts Q and R, but does know S. Given this information, Mr. X can use concept S as a foundation for learning, first, R and then Q so to reach an understanding of the full meaning of P.