Concepts as Devices to Achieve Unit-Economy

An excerpt from chapter 3 on Concept-Formation from Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff.

I have indicated several ways in which concepts expand man’s power of knowledge. The fundamental cognitive role of concepts, however, has not yet been discussed. Fundamentally, concepts are devices to achieve unit-economy. This idea can be grasped most easily by reference to an experiment with crows that is cited in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.

The experiment was an attempt to discover the ability of birds to deal with numbers. When crows were gathered in a clearing in some woods, one man entered the clearing and walked on into the woods. As soon as he appeared, the crows hid in the treetops; they would not come out until the man returned and left the area. Then three men entered; again the crows hid. This time only two of the men left, and the crows did not come out; they knew that one still remained. But when five men came and then four left, the crows …

Read the rest in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.

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