When is circularity in definitions benign?

Philosophical Quarterly 58 (231):214–233 (2007)
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Abstract

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.

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John Burgess
Princeton University

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References found in this work

Two types of circularity.I. L. Humberstone - 1997 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 57 (2):249-280.
Two Types of Circularity.I. L. Humberstone - 1997 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 57 (2):249-280.
'P, therefore, P' without Circularity.Roy A. Sorensen - 1991 - Journal of Philosophy 88 (5):245-266.
'P, therefore, P' without Circularity.Roy A. Sorensen - 1991 - Journal of Philosophy 88 (5):245-266.

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