Elias presents ... a worm!    Thoughts on family, philosophy,
and technology


Monday, March 20, 2006

"On" as in on

A friend asked if Elias really gets the concept "on". Elias can say "light on" when he sees a lit bulb, but does he really have the concept of "on", or is it just some sort of a word association for him? This question puzzled me, and maybe I didn't really understand what was being asked, but in hindsight the answer is that he has definitely grasped the concept "on".

The essence of grasping a concept is being able to distinguish the instances of the concept from everything else. This is the purpose and meaning of a concept. So if Elias can sort things (lights, stereos, TV's, etc) that are on from those that are off using this word, he's got the concept. There's nothing else to "getting the concept." Even if he could only apply "on" to lights, and hadn't made the connection to other equipment yet, I would still say that he grasps the concept, just not fully.

I think every word is either nonsense or exclamation for him ("boo!"), OR it stands for a concept. There is no middle ground.

The rate (how many per week) and speed (how many examples per word) of conceptualization are both just ferocious. Who would have thought that someone could learn so much more than he already knows in a single month?

Very often Elias forms a concept when he has only one example to work with. I say this because I've noticed that it is not uncommon for people to misread Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology to be stating that since a concept is an integration of "two or more" units, you cannot grasp a concept before you've experienced two concrete instances. That is a non-sequitur from Ayn Rand's definition, and it's also not true because my son forms a concept from one example all the time!

Related to all this, Amy and I have noticed that Elias's memory is awesome. He broke into a non-musical rendition of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" this weekend even though we can't even remember the last time he would have even heard it (at least a week?), and we've never even worked with him to be able to say it. He also spoke, with no prompting, the alphabet with very few errors, and he counted to 30 with about 70% accurancy -- not bad for 19 months on this planet.

P.S.: Elias really cracks up if I say "Tom, Dick, and Harry"! I think he was saying "Mr. Messy Messerson" to Amy this weekend, too. Ah, becoming just as silly as his parents at a very young age.


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