Re: (longish) Entropy and "semantic domain"

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri May 29 1998 - 05:23:20 EDT

At 8:20 PM -0400 5/28/98, Edgar Foster wrote:
>---Nicholas Corduan <> wrote:
>> >concept. Greek is no different. This can be easily demonstrated by
>> >Grecian concept of love. The Hellenistic concept of love is not, nor
>> >was it (in times of antiquity) expressed by one word. There are a
>> >number of words used to express the concept of love in Greek. The
>> >concept does not "consist of one word."
>> But is there *one concept* of "love," being written by several
>> words in the Greek, or are there several different concepts
>expressed by
>> different words in the Greek, but translated with *one word* in the
>I believe that the former is true. In Greek, there is **one concept**
>of **love** and **knowledge** as well. Love is a universal concept, so
>it is erroneous to make this an English only phenomenon. Knowledge is
>expressed by such Greek words as GNWSIS or EPIGNWSIS (as well as
>OIDA). Think also of the word "epistemology." These words all deal
>with the concept of knowledge, but express it in differing ways. the
>same can be said for love (which is expressed by agape, eros, storge,

You may very well believe this, Edgar, but I rather suspect that this is
going to be a matter on which you'll find considerable difference of
opinion. My own view is--both with regard to "knowledge"and with regard to
"love"--that the words used may overlap to some extent in meaning in Greek,
but that they are significantly different one from another and that it is
perilous to make any un-nuanced equation of the words as pointing to a
single universal concept. I wouldn't want to get embroiled in a medieval
scholastic argument over "Nominalist" and "Realist" conceptions of the
referents of these words groups, but although I do believe in the essential
unitary character of human nature, I also think that human beings
understand their nature in terms of their own cultural traditions and most
particularly in terms of the traditions underlying their word-usage. If our
recent (and almost cyclically re-appearing) discussions of the usage of
FILEW and AGAPAW in John 21 are any indication, I rather doubt you're going
to find a consensus even among B-Greek participants on any universal
concept of love--at least so far as it finds expression in linguistic usage
in any particular human tradition, or more specifically in Koine Greek. How
one views this question may well depend on one's basic philosophical and
theological orientations.

>> >help us to understand and express the concept of righteousness. This
>> But is righteousness a concept or an English word? Just because we
>> find someway of lumping lots of Greke words under the umbrella of a
>> English word does not mean that we are dealing with multiple
>expressions in
>> Greek of a word which English more concisely lays out in a single
>I stick to my original contention that "righteousness" is a "concept."
>The easiest way to prove these claims are (1.) diachronic study (2).
>synchronic study (3.) psycholinguistics. I think Black's claims can be
>proved on all of these fronts. See Black's _Linguistics and NT

I'm afraid I'll have to remain somewhat skeptical. For one thing, I've seen
an awful lot of confusion over the years arising from endeavors to
understand DIKAIOSUNH in Plato's Republic in terms of Hebraic TSEDAKAH as
well as from endeavors to understand DIKAIOSUNH in Romans in terms of what
the word means in Plato's Republic. It may well be that a good argument can
be put up for the proposition you're holding, but I have my doubts that it
can be made wholly convincing.

I would hope that, if this thread --which is certainly very interesting--
continues, theological differences between posters can be left out of the
discussion, but I rather suspect they are likely to emerge sooner or later.
We shall see.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243 OR

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