Worthwhile Fundamental Concepts

When it comes to understanding how things work, there is a specific set of fundamental concepts that are well worth absorbing.

Radial Categorization

This concept is explained in detail here, but the basic notion is that we tend to organize information as if it were sets of overlapping wheels (speaking figuratively for the purposes of illustration); for example, some people imagine a rather generic kind of long-legged slacks as a schematic, core example representing the concept of [PANTS], which is then surrounded by an array of more specific and/or less perfect examples, such as golf pants, pajama bottoms, parachute pants, jeans, and so on. The generic slacks act as a hub of a wheel, namely the concept of [PANTS}, surrounded by spokes that radiate outward to the more specific entities on the rim. Each of those more specific entities then acts as the relatively generic hub of its own wheel, where the likes of [GOLF PANTS] would be surrounded in turn by such specific versions as checkered golf pants, linen golf pants, worn out golf pants, miniature golf pants (however parsed), and those that are displayed prominently in movies about golf.

Emergent Property

Examine complex, higher-order entities for properties that emerge from the interaction of their lower-order components, in the sense of “the whole being more than the simple sum of its parts”; for example, when you come across arguments that try to categorize entities as being driven by either nature or nurture (i.e., a false binary), consider instead that some such entities emerge from the interaction of nature and nurture to establish a whole new categorical entity (which is likely radially organized, as above).

Language is just such an emergent property, as thoroughly discussed in the following collection of essays:

Tomasello, Michael, and Slobin, Dan I (Eds.) (2005) Beyond Nature-Nurture: Essays in Honor of Elizabeth Bates. [ISBN 9780805850277] 

Similarly, interpersonal relationships emerge from the interaction(s) of the personalities of multiple people (where the personality of each such person is an emergent property in itself).


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