Concept permanence

This idea is a trivial extension of object permanence.

Object permanence is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed (seen, heard, touched, smelled or sensed in any way). This is a fundamental concept studied in the field of developmental psychology, the subfield of psychology that addresses the development of infants’ and children’s social and mental capacities.


Object permanence is an internalization of naive philosophical realism, which is the understanding that stuff exists beyond what our minds are currently perceiving (the other possibility being The Matrix, where the external world only exists as an extension of the mind’s processes).

Rather than speaking only of physical noumena, we might consider whether a similar psychological mechanism exists for phenomena.

Thus, we shall say “concept permanence” is the internalized understanding that there exist ideas and concepts outside of what is currently being thought by human minds. Most mathematicians are Platonists of this sort. They generally believe that math is discovered and not invented, and that mathematical ideas can exist, be valid, and be true without anyone knowing it. One does not “create” theorems, but rather “discovers” and “proves” them.

I believe this faculty (or facility, at least) is not present in extraverts and neurotypicals to the same extent as it is in introverts and people with Asperger’s syndrome. Perhaps it is not present at all in those personalities driven to censorship, who care so very strongly a priori about the thoughts and opinions of others. Thus, it makes perfect sense to an ordinary person that “bad” ideas ought not to be even held in the fore of the mind, much less spoken aloud (which risks spreading the ideas to others, as well as inevitably bringing the idea to the fore of the mind).

Furthermore, I believe that this tendency may be explained by evolutionary psychology (of which I am usually skeptical). It is certainly true that the safest way to ensure a particular thought does not have any effect on human affairs is to exterminate anyone who has had it previously. “Two men can keep a secret if one of them is dead.” A strong argument can be made that some knowledge, such as the knowledge of how to breed a biological weapon of mass destruction, ought to be suppressed by law- with the overwhelming threat of government violence. Suppression by force is not a guarantee that the idea will not be rediscovered, but within the normal human range of intelligence it is a near guarantee (i.e. good enough for government work).

Thus, I believe large societies naturally select for conformist personality types that lack the facility to develop concept permanence.

It has been noted by many others that the modern belief in “science” amounts to no more than dogmatic faith in the scientific profession and body of knowledge. This modern faith could be reasonably described as “scientific idealism” (as opposed to scientific realism). So it makes perfect sense to ordinary people (who by and large subscribe to this faith) for “bad” science to be suppressed, rendering it effectively nonexistent within the human memetic network, and more importantly (to utilitarians) suppressing its influence on human affairs.


About Aeoli Pera

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25 Responses to Concept permanence

  1. Edenist whackjob says:

    Creating a theorem = laying a puzzle. The puzzle can only be laid one certain way. But doesn’t mean it already exists.

    The universe contains the potential for that pattern, is more like it. So, we need a word that combines “create” and “discover”.

    Do ideas come ex nihilism or do they already exist? Both.

    • Edenist whackjob says:

      An idea is like a cryptographic hash. It’s a piece of entropy. A lattice of components.

      No one else has ever used the string “hjFhyRy53VfIjgSdw453!+×:2$%fbnoSgc98@#×:rfasm”. Did I invent or discover it?

    • Edenist whackjob says:

      *Ex nihilo LOL

    • Edenist whackjob says:

      For instance the pattern of evolution:

      Progress + diversity + time


      Fitness + species + generations

      Fitness subdivides to

      Capabilitirs + resource needs + environment + strategy + drive to survive

      Ultimately everything is reducible to a few base patterns like life, time, plurality, place, knowledge, etc. Beyond this there is one unified Good, I suppose.

      • Edenist whackjob says:

        What is the pattern of “pattern”? For me it’s just a mental image with a certain “isness” that doesnt subdivide. One can say it’s a graph or a puzzle but that depends on the pattern of “pattern” so circular reference.

        Maybe base patterns are like prime numbers.

  2. Young Heaving Bosoms of Liberty says:

    “Thus, we shall say “concept permanence” is the internalized understanding that there exist ideas and concepts outside of what is currently being thought by human minds.”

    Cf. Karl Popper’s “World 3”, the world of objective contents of thoughts.

  3. Jdc says:

    Pretty killer post. I am a Christian NeoPlatonist myself. I think you’re right that for neurotypicals/extroverts the world of forms is inaccessible, just as for us the world of matter is a difficult place.

  4. Jdc says:

    Also scientific idealism just sounds like a fancy way of rejecting God or any sort of teleological principle.

  5. Aeoli Pera says:

    > This is a good litmus test for finding other outsiders.

    An even easier way is to ask them about a relatively tame conspiracy theory, like the moon landing. If they dismiss it because it’s “crazy”, or something similarly boring, then you know they’re stuck firmly within the Matrix.

  6. Pingback: Identity and human action | Aeoli Pera

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