by David King

Anti-conceptual Mentality

by David King

The anti-conceptual mentality treats abstractions as if they were perceptual concretes. It regards a concept as a self-contained given, as something that requires no logical process of integration and definition.

This syndrome is motivated by the desire to retain the effortless, automatic character of perceptual awareness, and to avoid the mental independence, effort and risk of error that conceptual integration entails. In the anti-conceptual mentality, the process of integration is largely replaced by a process of association.

The anti-conceptual mentality breeds an identification with and dependence upon the group, usually a group united by such concrete traits as race, sex, or geographical proximity. The moral universe of such people consists of concrete substitutes for ethical principles: customs, traditions, myths, and rituals.

The anti-conceptual mentality is incapable of abstracting from concrete differences among people and formulating general principles of common human rights, or common standards for judging an individual's moral character and conduct. Its sense of right and wrong is anchored not in reason but in loyalty to the tribe and its practices. The solidarity of the tribe is sustained in part by xenophobia - thus the bigoted racism frequently manifested by these people.

For the anti-conceptual mentality, relativism is the only possible alternative to tribal prejudice because for him the refusal to judge is the only alternative to judging by concrete-bound criteria. If one does not think in terms of principles, one has no way of distinguishing those aspects of human conduct and character that are essential from those aspects that are optional.

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