1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Concept

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CONCEPT[1] (Lat. conceptus, a thought, from concipere, to take together, combine in thought; Ger. Begriff), in philosophy, a term applied to a general idea derived from and considered apart from the particulars observed by the senses. The mental process by which this idea is obtained is called abstraction (q.v.). By the comparison, for instance, of a number of boats, the mind abstracts a certain common quality or qualities in virtue of which the mind affirms the general idea of “boat.” Thus the connotation of the term “boat,” being the sum of those qualities in respect of which all boats are regarded as alike, whatever their individual peculiarities may be, is described as a “concept.” The psychic process by which a concept is affirmed is called “Conception,” a term which is often loosely used in a concrete sense for “Concept” itself. It is also used even more loosely as synonymous in the widest sense with “idea,” “notion.” Strictly, however, it is contrasted with “perception,” and implies the mental reconstruction and combination of sense-given data. Thus when one carries one's thoughts back to a series of events, one constructs a psychic whole made up of parts which take definite shape and character by their mutual interrelations. This process is called conceptual synthesis, the possibility of which is a sine qua non for the exchange of information by speech and writing. It should be noticed that this (very common) psychological interpretation of “conception” differs from the metaphysical or general philosophical definition given above, in so far as it includes mental presentations in which the universal is not specifically distinguished from the particulars. Some psychologists prefer to restrict the term to the narrower use which excludes all mental states in which particulars are cognized, even though the universal be present also.

In biology conception is the coalescence of the male and female generative elements, producing pregnancy.


  1. The word “conceit” in its various senses (“idea,” “plan,” “fancy,” “imagination,” and, by modern extension, an overweening sense of one's own value) is likewise derived ultimately from the Latin concipere. It appears to have been formed directly from the English derivative “conceive” on the analogy of “deceit” from “deceive.” According to the New English Dictionary there is no intermediate form in Old French.