On Concepts

Jeremy Trombley on Struggle Forever comments on the “ontological turn” in anthropology, and provides some insight on concepts:

 A concept is not a frame for understanding – something that brings a picture into (or out of focus). Concepts are tools and pieces of an assemblage of knowledge. They don’t help us see better, but they attach to things and reassemble them in novel ways – like legos where attaching one piece to another suddenly makes possible a whole new arrangement of attachments. In that sense, a concept or conceptual assemblage – ontology, feminism, queer theory, post-colonial theory, etc. – enables us to understand differently, and in understanding differently, it enables us to also be differently

 A concept is a not a frame for understanding.  It is not a Procrustean lens with which we scan our worlds, lopping off the elements that don’t fit, or twisting them to accommodate its mold, although this seems to be one way it may operate, particularly in the hands of a Hedgehog, as Isaiah Berlin put it.

The way Trombley describes it, “they [concepts] attach to things and reassemble them in novel ways,” incites a novel concept of concepts.  Concepts as enzymes, as catalysts.  A novel concept is a catalyst that binds to current knowledge and transforms it, allowing us “to understand differently, and in understanding differently, it enables us to also be differently.”

A novel concept is unearthed by the Imaginary digging in the Real, excavating artifacts to return to the Symbolic.

A concept of evolution over time is unearthed by Darwin digging in the Galapagos, setting the stage for a novel thought trajectory, conceiving (who is the father?) entire disciplines of evolutionary psychology, biology, anthropology.

Concepts catalyze concepts.

The Revolution concept catalyzes the concept of God in the minds of Liberation Theologists.

The Network concept catalyzes the concept of Mind in the minds of cyberneticians.

The Text concept catalyzes the concept of Culture in the minds of cultural anthropologists.

Concepts connect two or more prior concepts (revolution/God, network/mind, text/culture) to catalyze new thought and, thus, new realities.

What are the concepts of our time that appear flattened and dulled through overuse?  God? Love? The End (of thought, life)?

Perhaps what may come in handy is more free association.  Free association of apparently disparate concepts.

What about a community of gods?

A process of objects?

Free association of concepts, following the principles of biology.  The concepts that form operative, catalytic functions will persist, catalyzing thought until they are worn, returned to the manure of conceptual raw material.

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