Concepting Hammers

2 Mar


As you can see the concept of a hammer is extensive.

As you can also see we could have ten thousand different names that label every tiny difference in any given concept of hammer. We can name claw hammers, for instance, by the shapes of their heads, the degree of curve to the claw, the weight of each, the length of the handle, and the various compositions of each. We could do this until it would require a month just to memorize the names of each possible variation of claw hammer.

And then we could declare that each “different” claw hammer was distinct and separate from all the others and you should never confuse them.

It would take a lot of study to master all of the terms. Many of those who had accomplished this would feel superior in their knowledge and education over those who did not know the “correct” terms. Even though those with the “superior” education might not be able to do the physical work half as well.

An example of this would be my late father-in-law. He lived well into his eighties and was a general contractor since the end of WWII. Bill could barely read and write. He had only a 3rd grade education and had worked on the farm all of his life. When the war came he went to France. When he came back his best friend, who had been studying for his contractor’s license, was set on consolidating his future. His friend had been better off as a child than Bill had been. He had a high school education, which was higher than most in those days. Remember in those days all you needed to get a job on any police department was an honorable discharge. He had studied hard for his contractors license and had received good grades. He had never done the work.

When it was time to go to San Francisco to take the test he did not want to go alone. He badgered Bill into going with him. Bill did not understand the need for his presence. Even though they had fought in the war together and had seen battle together, Bill was a man who could stand on his own. He had plowed the back forty for ten hours straight as a child, all alone, without any need for company. His friend had never been alone in his life.

So Bill went along. As long as he was there he went ahead and put up his three dollars to take the test.

Bill passed.

He friend did not.

They were never friends again.

His friend relied on his education to pass the test.

Bill simply pictured what he would do in any given situation, gave that as the answer, and passed.

His friend was enraged that an ignorant back woods boy had passed the test when a refined, educated, city boy like himself had not. He never forgave Bill. Nor would he ever lower himself to work for Bill.


Bill often drove me crazy because for many things he used the same words. I often did not know what he was talking about. For example: He called any thick liquid “Mud”. Coffee was mud. Cement was mud. Stucco was mud. Plaster was mud. Clay was mud.

For Bill “Mud” was a concept.

In order to know what kind of mud Bill was talking about you had to know the job. Thus Bill could go to the supply store, tell the proprietor, “I’m puttin up a wall in Mrs. Duncan’s kitchen and I need a couple a buckets of mud.” And the proprietor would get him the right thing.

In order to understand what his friend would say you would have to understand the nomenclature.


In a less extreme case, my wife, Pepper, was an artist who ranged across many areas. She did fine art painting, worked with glass, ceramics, and jewelry.

With jewelry and ceramics she often worked with wire wrapping.

Rather than naming each different kind and type of wire they are described by their qualities: Hardness, Shape, Size, and Material. Using this graded method the wire wrapper can describe thousands of different wires using only a few concept oriented words.

They do the same thing with clay with a few exceptions.

By the way jewelers use a chasing hammer, which is very like a ball pein hammer.


The point of this is that when dealing with a concept you can define its elements in many different ways, or degrees of ways, to obtain the degree of accuracy needed that is necessary to the purpose.


We could use different names for each possible difference in claw hammers.


Or we could simply call them all claw hammers and describe the pertinent differences to each and what made that claw hammer better for a specific reason. Such as the fact a lighter hammer is easier for a weaker person to lift while a heavier hammer delivers more force. Perhaps the materials of one makes it cheaper while the materials of the other make it more durable but more expensive.


Hammers are a concept.

Wire is a concept.

Mud is a concept.


Seen as you can make thousands, even millions, of words to describe the most tiny degrees of difference in concepts, there are far fewer concepts in existence than there are words.


Next blog will be about concepting concepts. A Meta Concept.


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