From proofs in any classical first-order theory that proves the existence of at least two elements, one can eliminate definitions in polynomial time. From proofs in any classical first-order theory strong enough to code finite functions, including sequential theories, one can also eliminate Skolem functions in polynomial time.
In the history of philosophy, especially its recent history, a number of definitions of necessity have been ventured. Most people, however, find these definitions either circular or subject to counterexamples. I will show that, given a broadly Fregean conception of properties, necessity does indeed have a noncircular counterexample-free definition.
Re-activating the philosophical quest for real definitions, I dare propose that its fulfillment is most convincingly represented, close to home, where one probably least expects it, notably in the first half of Section 36 of Word and Object, in the pages of Quine. Aristotle must inevitably remain our guide even as we insist on respecting Quine's anti-essentialism, and I must then explain how Aristotle, truncated, can be put here to use. Well, we may begin, appropriately, with a definition or with (...) what, nearly enough, smacks of being one, namely the Aristotelian slogan, definitio fit per genus proximum et differentiam specificam. Although that may be itself a real definition (of real definition), I shall not pursue this scholastic point, preferring to concentrate on my principal task which I take to be to vindicate the feasibility of formulating a real definition of some mind-independent reality. Such a vindication can scarcely succeed today unless it is recognized from the outset that we have here at hand one of those cases where the very (logical) possibility of a problematic thing can be established only by having recourse to the modal principle that actuality entails possibility. Nothing less than a concrete instance of a real definition will then suffice, and I thus expect my sceptical reader (I count on her scepticism) to be in doubt whether the scholastic bit of jargon 'real definition' picks out one of the concepts in her repertoire. (shrink)
According to the standard view of definition, all defined terms are mere stipulations, based on a small set of primitive terms. After a brief review of the Hilbert-Frege debate, this paper goes on to challenge the standard view in a number of ways. Examples from graph theory, for example, suggest that some key definitions stem from the way graphs are presented diagramatically and do not fit the standard view. Lakatos's account is also discussed, since he provides further examples that suggest (...) many definitions are much more than mere convenient abbreviations. (shrink)
I aim to show how and why some definitions can be benignly circular. According to Lloyd Humberstone, a definition that is analytically circular need not be inferentially circular and so might serve to illuminate the application-conditions for a concept. I begin by tidying up some problems with Humberstone's account. I then show that circular definitions of a kind commonly thought to be benign have inferentially circular truth-conditions and so are malign by Humberstone's test. But his test is too demanding. The (...) inferences we actually use to establish the applicability of, e.g., colour concepts are designed to establish warranted assertability and not truth. Understood thus, dispositional analyses are not inferentially circular. (shrink)
In the present paper I shall first summarize Popper's criticism of the traditional method of definition, and then go on to comment critically on his own views on the form and function of so-called nominalist definitions.
Socrates' greatest philosophical contribution was to have initiated the search for definitions. In Definition in Greek Philosophy his views on definition are examined, together with those of his successors, including Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, Galen, the Sceptics and Plotinus. Although definition was a major pre-occupation for many Greek philosophers, it has rarely been treated as a separate topic in its own right in recent years. This volume, which contains fourteen new essays by leading scholars, aims to reawaken interest in a (...) number of central and relatively unexplored issues concerning definition. These issues are briefly set out in the Introduction, which also seeks to point out scholarly and philosophical questions which merit further study. (shrink)
Those who have a brief against the analytic-synthetic distinction raise problems for what seem to supporters of the distinction to be some of the clearest cases. That bachelors are unmarried seems to many to be analytically true. But to hold this seems to imply that there is a definition of "bachelor" that includes being unmarried. But critics of the analytic-synthetic distinction, such as Jerry Fodor, deny that there are true definitions (reportive, not stipulative). So there can be no definition of (...) "bachelor". And many have noted that defining "bachelor" is not as easy as appears at first blush. (shrink)
Jerry Fodor (Concepts: Where cognitive science went wrong. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998) famously argued that lexical concepts are unstructured. After examining the advantages and disadvantages of both the classical approach to concepts and Fodor's conceptual atomism, I argue that some lexical concepts are, in fact, structured. Roughly stated, I argue that structured lexical concepts bear a necessary biconditional entailment relation to their structural constituents. I develop this account of the structure of lexical concepts within the framework of Pavel (...) Tichy's (The foundations of Frege's logic. Berlin, New York: De Gruyter, 1988) theory of constructions. I argue that concepts are constructions which can be combined by way of Tichy's construction-forming operations of composition and closure and an additional operation, simplification, which I propose in section 6. The last of these construction-forming operations plays a central role in my account of lexical concept structure. Stated generally, structured lexical concepts are a result of simplifying their structural constituents. (shrink)
Paul Boghossian advocates a version of the analytic theory of a priori knowledge. His defense of an "epistemic" notion of analyticity is based on an implicit definition account ofthe meaning of the logical constants. Boghossian underestimates the power of the classical Quinean criticisms, however; the challenge to substantiate the distinction between empirical and non-empirical sentences, as forcefully presented in Two Dogmas, still stands, and the regress from Truth by Convention still needs to be avoided. Here, Quine also showed that there (...) are no implicit definers for the logical constants. Moreover, even if they existed, their epistemic analyticity would, on Boghossian's own account, be doubtful. (shrink)
Operational definitions were once considered the backbone of semantics of natural science. Still in 1955 A. W. Burks published an explication of the general scheme of these definitions. In the fifties of the last century however they became outmoded, while high school teachers for presumably good reasons were still in favour of them. I consider the banishment of this kind of definitions premature, and try to improve the explication of Burks in a way which qualifies them for a rehabilitation. In (...) the improved explication the concept of intrinsic property becomes important, for which I give a new definition on the basis of a structuralist account of physical processes. German Die operationalen Definitionen galten einst als der Kern der Semantik der Naturwissenschaft. Eine letzte Explikation des allgemeinen Schemas der operationalen Definitionen hat A. W. Burks noch 1955 vorgelegt. In den fünf ziger Jahren kamen sie indessen aus der Mode, während sie noch weiterhin von Gymnasiallehrern - wohl aus berechtigten Gründen - geschätzt wurden. Ich halte die Verbannung dieser Art von Definitionen für voreilig und versuche die Explikation von Burks in einer Weise zu verbessern, dass man sie wieder in der Wissenschaftstheorie rehabilitieren kann. In der verbesserten Explikation wird der Begriff der inneren Eigenschaft eines Dinges oder Vorgangs wichtig, den ich auf der Basis einer strukturalistischen Darstellung physikalischer Vorgänge neu definieren möchte. (shrink)
The neo-Fregeans have argued that definition by abstraction allows us to introduce abstract concepts such as direction and number in terms of equivalence relations such as parallelism between lines and one-one correspondence between concepts. This paper argues that definition by abstraction suffers from the fact that an equivalence relation may not be sufficient to determine a unique concept. Frege’s original verdict against definition by abstraction is thus reinstated.
Kripke maintains that one who stipulatively introduces the term ' one meter' as a rigid designator for the length of a certain stick s at time t is in a position to know a priori that if s exists at t then the length of s at t is one meter. Some (e.g., Soames 2003) have objected to this alleged instance of the contingent a priori on the grounds that the stipulator's knowledge would have to be based in part on (...) substantive metalinguistic knowledge. I examine Soames's argument for the a posteriority of the relevant metalinguistic knowledge, and I argue that its main premise is false. (shrink)
Kripke maintains that one who stipulatively introduces the term ‘one meter’ as a rigid designator for the length of a certain stick s at time t is in a position to know a priori that if s exists at t then the length of s at t is one meter. Some (e.g., Soames 2003) have objected to this alleged instance of the contingent a priori on the grounds that the stipulator's knowledge would have to be based in part on substantive (...) metalinguistic knowledge. I examine Soames's argument for the a posteriority of the relevant metalinguistic knowledge, and I argue that its main premise is false. (shrink)
The first part deals with the problem of the external form of ostensive definition. It is concluded that the definition statement is not complete. The proper form of this statement is not a sentence, but a sentential function, namely a sentential function of the type: ``Π x [N(x)=x is in the respect R and in the degree D such as A, B... and not such as K, L...]" where "N" stands for the term being defined. Thus the ostensive definition informs (...) about the criteria of applicability of the defined term in a partial way only, and the rest must be supplied by the addressee for whom the given definition was destined. In the second part the conditions are analysed on which depends the possibility of solving that problem, and consequently the conditions on which depend the informational value and the efficacy of ostensive definition. The concluding remarks deal with the properties of the terms introduced by the ostensive method. (shrink)
Much of The Reason’s Proper Study is devoted to defending the claim that simply by stipulating an abstraction principle for the “number-of” functor, we can simultaneously fix a meaning for this functor and acquire epistemic entitlement to the stipulated principle. In this paper, I argue that the semantic and epistemological principles Hale and Wright offer in defense of this claim may be too strong for their purposes. For if these principles are correct, it is hard to see why they do (...) not justify platonist strategies that are not in any way “neo-Fregean,” e.g. strategies that treat “the number of Fs” as a Russellian definite description rather than a singular term, or employ axioms that do not have the form of abstraction principles. (shrink)
Merely conceptual knowledge, not based on specific sensitivity to the referential domain, is not seriously a priori. It is argued here that it is either weakly and superficially a priori, or downright a posteriori. This is done starting from the fact that many of our definitions (or concepts) are recognizably empirically established, and pointing out that recognizably empirical grounding yields superficial apriority. Further, some (first-order) concept analyzing propositions are empirically false about their referents and thus empirically refutable. Therefore, our empirical (...) definitions (or concepts) are fallible and empirically revisable: they can turn out to be incorrect about the intended satisfiers of the concept defined, and their concept analyzing propositions to be false. Now, empirical revisability is incompatible with strong apriority (and entails at best a weak apriority or aposteriority). The result is quite shocking: analyticity does not entail apriority. (shrink)
Gupta's and Belnap's Revision Theory of Truth defends the legitimacy of circular definitions. Circularity, however, forces us to reconsider our conception of meaning. A readjustment of some standard theses about meaning is here proposed, by relying on a novel version of the sense-reference distinction.
The traditional definition per genus et differentiam is argued to be cognitively grounded in perception and in order to avoid needless argument, definitions are stipulated to assert boundaries. An analysis of the notion of perspective shows that a boundary is a composite of two distinctions: similarity that includes and difference that excludes. The concept is applied to the type-token distinction and percepts are shown to be the result of a comparison between a token as representing some phenomenon and a type (...) as representing the kind of object the phenomenon might be. The Principle of Connection is proposed as the mental architecture that gives rise to percepts. The value of a percept is shown to be one of Identical, Similar, Different or Contrary and its perceptual aspects represent the cognitive schema of Essence, Quality, Quantity and Relation. The two notions of similarity and difference are claimed to constitute the necessary and sufficient conditions for definitions. Accordingly, the qualitative elements of a definition signify the genus as representing the similarity of the defined entity in terms of others of its kind and the quantitative elements signify the differentia as representing the difference it has from everything else. Paying proper attention to both qualitative and quantitative aspects will enable formulation of definitions that are ‘good’. (shrink)
The arguments of Fodor, Garret, Walker and Parkes [(1980) Against definitions, Cognition, 8, 263-367] are the source of widespread skepticism in cognitive science about lexical semantic structure. Whereas the thesis that lexical items, and the concepts they express, have decompositional structure (i.e. have significant constituents) was at one time "one of those ideas that hardly anybody [in the cognitive sciences] ever considers giving up" (p. 264), most researchers now believe that "[a]ll the evidence suggests that the classical [(decompositional)] view is (...) wrong as a general theory of concepts" [Smith, Medin & Rips (1984) A psychological approach to concepts: comments on Rey, Cognition, 17, 272], and cite Fodor et al. (1980) as "sounding the death knell for decompositional theories" [MacNamara & Miller (1989) Attributes of theories of meaning, Psychological Bulletin, 106, 360]. I argue that the prevailing skepticism is unmotivated by the arguments in Fodor et al. Fodor et al. misrepresent the form, function and scope of the decompositional hypothesis, and the procedures they employ to test for the psychological reality of definitions are flawed. I argue, further, that decompositional explanations of the phenomena they consider are preferable to their primitivist alternatives, and, hence, that there is prima facie reason to accept them as evidence for the existence of decompositional structure. Cognitive scientists would, therefore, do well to revert to their former commitment to the decompositional hypothesis. (shrink)