Chapter 3 – Understanding Concepts

“A concept is not an unclassifiable mental construction, it can be decomposed taxonomically. It is not just an attribute of some phenomenon that cannot in itself be decoupled.  It does not only refer to a variable.  It is not without meaning, a concept is meaning-laden, not meaningless.” –    Chimezie A.B. Osigweh

LOGO FINALQuality IS… an abstract concept.

Why identify the mental glue that secures our past experiences?

If the meaning of concepts is understood, the meaning of quality will follow.


Our world, our professions, our schools, and our working environments are all conceptually constructed. Gregory L. Murphy (Professor of Psychology at New York University) contends that “concepts are a kind of mental glue that secures our past experience to our present interactions with the world and relationships, because concepts are connected to our larger knowledge structures.”

Concepts play a critical role in the transmission of ideas. How many of us have been mistaken when ideas have been transmitted without clarification regarding the concepts that were used to convey the idea?  Or, the concepts are emotionally defined to conceal a hidden agenda.

Richard Paul (Director of Research and Professional Development at the Center for Critical Thinking) and Linda Elder (an educational psychologist) assert that concepts are one of the basic fundamentals of human thinking.  “We cannot think and consequently communicate without them.  They form the classifications, and implicitly express the theories through which we comprehend and interpret and what we see, taste, hear, smell, and touch.”

A concept is typically labeled with a word. To be more specific, a concept is typically a noun. Nouns come in different forms; concrete nouns refer to physical entities that can be observed by at least one of the senses; tree, orange, rock or molecule. Abstract nouns refer to abstract objects: that is, ideas or concepts, such as democracy or goodness.  Nouns have meaning. But, is this just another way of saying that nouns can be defined? The dictionary or the lexical definition of a noun is the “meaning” in common usage. The common usage definition is intended to appeal to the widest audience; it is intentionally kept brief, uncomplicated, and may be expressed in different ways in the variety of dictionaries that are available. Concept nouns are also defined by other or allied concept nouns.

More on Nouns and Definitions in my next post. – it will get you thinking!

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