A Philosophical Glossary

Publicaciones Textos
para investigar por temas

Salud Humana
La Mujer y su mundo
El Hombre y su mundo
Sexualidad Humana
Derechos Humanos
Filosofía Conceptos Filosóficos

ACCIDENT: See essence.

ANALYTIC: A sentence, proposition, thought, or judgement is analytic if “it is true in virtue of our determination to use (consistently) a particular symbolism or language.” True, it is sometimes said, because we assign the words of language the meanings that we assign them. Example: All bachelors are unmarried males. Some philosophers have maintained that all the truths of mathematics are analytic, and that all necessary and a priori truths are analytic.

ANTINOMY: Kant believed that when reason goes beyond possible experience it often falls into various antinomies, or equally rational but contradictory views. Reason cannot here play the role of establishing rational truths because it goes beyond possible experience and becomes transcendent. E.g. Kant thought that one could reason from the assumption that the world had a beginning in time to the conclusion that it did not, and vice versa. This was part of Kant’s critical program of determining limits to science and philosophical inquiry.

A POSTERIORI: A sentence, proposition, thought, or judgement is a posteriori (literally “after”) if its truth is dependent on how our actual experience (experiment and observation) turns out. Many have thought that the truths of the empirical, or nonmathematical, sciences are entirely a posteriori, though the rationalists and some recent philosophers such as S. Kripke & N. Chomsky seem to deny this. Some take synthetic and a posteriori to be equivalence. See a priori.

A PRIORI: A sentence, proposition, thought or judgement is a priori (literally “before”) if its truth is not dependent on how our actual experience (experiment and observation) happens to turn out. Many have thought that the truths of logic and mathematics are a priori, though J. S. Mill and W. V. O. Quine might be thought to maintain the contrary position. Some equate a priori and analytic.

ATOMISM: Generally, the view that the whole is nothing more than the sum of its parts. Physically, the view that the univers is composed of independent, self-sufficient atoms (nothing more), and that a complete description of the universe might be given by sepcifiying the location and movements of all the atoms composing it. This view may also be put in phenomenalist terms (David Hume) or in logical terms (see extensional).

BEHAVIORISM: The view that psychology should, or must, confine itself to describing observable physical behavior. Analytic behaviorism expresses this view as a view about the meaning of psychological words (i.e. that all such words can, and are implicitly, definable in terms of observable human behavior). B. F. Skinner, the Harvard psychologist (Verbal Behavior, Walden Two, etc.) is a psychological behaviorist. Gilbert Ryle might be considered an analytic behaviorist.

CARTESIAN DOUBT: In his Meditations, Descartes (1596-1650) proposed discarding any kind of belief that could be doubted, that might be false. Initially, he was inclined to doubt all the evidences of his senses (pointing out that it seemed impossible to tell for sure whether he was at any point aswake or asleep). The doubt that Descartes introduced into philosophy has been a characteristic feature as many philosophers since have supposed that we have no secure rational basis for believing in the existence of a world external to our sense experience, etc. See the Private Language Argument.

CAUSATION, Hume’s argument against: How can know that (sensory event) A is the cause of some (sensory event) B? Since A and B are distinguishable, we do not think of one being the cause of the other until, through experience, we find constant conjunction between A and B (coupled with “continguity” (closeness) of A and B, and the priority of A to B). This constant conjunction gives rise to a superstition that there is a necessary connection between A and B but this notion is just superstition, in that we might have had a long run of coincidences. Since A and B are separable, and we can conceive them existing apart, there is no purely rational basis for deriving B from A; and appeal to some general principle derived from experience (i.e., the future will be like the past) is not helpful because any such principle suffers from the same problem as “A causes B” -- because this too can be coincidental.

COHERENCE theory of truth: See Truth, theory of.

COMPLETENESS: A (logical) language is said to be complete if and only if all the formulas in the language that must be true (in any world in which the axioms of the language are true) can be proved from the axioms. Godel’s incompleteness theorem shows that any language in which the truths of basic arithmetic can be formualted cannot be complete (unless the number of axions is infinite).

CONTINGENT: A sentence proposition, thought or judgement is contingent if it is true of this actual world, though it is not true in all possible worlds. Some philosophers claim that contingent, a posterori, and synthjetic are equivalent, holding that the notion of synthetic explains the other two. See necessary.

CORRESPONDENCE theory of truth: See Truth theory of.

DECIDIBILITY: A (logical) language is said to be decidable if and only if all of its theorems (or logical truths) can be shown to be true through a finite mechanical procedure. Propositional logic is decidable; predicate logic is not.

DEDUCTION: A presumably valid argument in which the argument proceeds from premises to conclusion in such a way that if the premisses are true, the conclusion absolutely must be true. An inductive argument is one that does not meet this standard, its premisses giving at best some assurance, but not complete assurance, to its conclusion.

DEONTOLOGICAL: [De=obligation + logical] A deontological ethics is one that claims that it is something in the natue or structure of actions that makes them obligatory or impermissable (essentially ignoring consequences). Kant’s categorical imperative (“act so that the maxim of your action could be a law for all rational beings”) is often though to be a deontological rule. Kant once remarked that if a killer asks where your friend is, you have to tell him the truth. See teleological.

DIALECTIC: The process, particularly employed in Plato’s dialogues, of discovering first principles, or underlying realities, through digging out, possibly through Socratic questioning of another, what is presupposed by our common sense beliefs about, and experience of, the world. The Socratic, or negative, dialectic would be one practiced in the early dialogues where the demolition of wrong opinions is all that is desired; the Platonic dialectic proper would aim at also unearthing supersensory realities (Platonic universals). The Hegelian dialectic is a process through which mind (or reason) moves through history, acting and reacting, toward some final resolution; the Marxist dialectic sees this historical process as fundamentally economic, and material, in character.

EGOISM: See psychological egoism.

EMPIRICIST: Specifically, a British philosopher of the 17th and 18th centruy such as Hobbes, tended to believe that knowledge derives from our sensory experience and its ramifications. Berkely and Hume, in particular, maintained (as nominalists) that the mind has no essentially abstract, rational ideas of the sort that were supposed to form the basis of science for the rationalist (which see along with neo-empiricist and neo-rationalist).

EPISTEMOLOGY: Traditionally, the theory of knowledge. Ansering the question: what kinds of knowledge can we have of the external world of objects, of minds other than our own, of mathematical objects, and so on.

ESSENCE: Those features of an object that make it the kind of object it is, as opposed to its accidents (e.g. a person’s ability to reason is an essential human feature, while hair color would be an accident) - Essentialism is the view that the accident - essence distinction is not arbitrary but rooted in the nature of reality.

ETHICAL EGOISM: See psychological egoism.

EXISTENTIALISM: A philosophic movement primarily associated with the mid-20th century, in part arising from phenomenology (see J. P. Sarte, M. Heidegger, K. Jaspers, A. Camus, etc.) that insists that human beings have no essential purpose or nature, but simply exist, having the “terrible freedom” of arbitrary decision.

EXTENSIONAL: Having, or presupposing, a use of terms that is wholly determined by what falls under them (in this actual world). The meaning of a term in the extensional sense is given just by listing, or somehow indicating what things are referred to by the term. The extensional meaning of “Evening Star,” “morning Star,” and “Venus” is the same because they all refer to one and the same planet, though the sense, or intension, might be different. Some philosphers (see nominalist) have hoped that we could describe the world in wholly extensional terms. See intension.



1) The Ontological argument: literally, from the “logic” of God’s “being” (onto). the claim is that God is a necessary being. Just as a round square is necessarily non-existent, so if we consider the definition of God we realize that he must exist. God is defined as the perfect being, but existence is a perfection; therefore God exists. The argument is scored in the slogan that existence is not a predicate; mathematical logic makes it impossible to use existence in the predicate position.


2) The argument from first cause, or the unmoved mover: Everything we are familiar with was created by and set in motion by something else. But if we are to avoid an infinite regress, there must be some first cause which is not itself set in motion by anything else; this first cause, or prime mover, is God.


3) The watchmaker argument: The world is an orderly and beautiful structure; we can tell that it must have been made by someone, just as if you found a watch on an empty beach, you would know, even if you had never seen a watch before, that it must have been made by someone.



IDEALISM: Generally the view that there aren’t, or can’t be, material objects existing independent of thought. E.g. Berkeley thought that only minds existed. There is some disagreement as to whether phenomenalists should be labeled “idealists”. Generally “idealism” has now unfavorable connotations so its use as a label is often just an expression of distaste.

IMMANENT: Given directly in my experience. As opposed to “transcendent.” A transcendent God, for example, would be one that would not be present in my actual experience.

INDUCTION: Ideally, a form of reasoning in which one moves from one or more premisses to a conclusion in such a way that while the conclusion seems to have been given some justification, it is logically possible for the premisses to be true and the conclusion false. E.g. “Most of the philosophy majors have seen Rocks in the Throat, featuring Dawn Demosthenes... Igor Metchnikov is a philosophy major. Therefore Igor Metchnikov has seen Rocks in the Throat.” See deduction.

INTENSIONAL: Having, or presupposing, a use of terms that relates not to the extension (that is, the individual things that actually happen to fall under these terms in this world) but determines what could or could not fall under the term (in for example any possible world). E.g. the extension of “having a heart” and “having a kidney” is the same in this world because in fact all creatures that have one have the other. But the intension is not the same because a creature with one feature might not have the other. See extension.

LOGIC: The study of the most general truths -- those truths which are independent of any particular subject matter.

LOGICAL EMPIRICIST: A term for those 20th century philosophers who maintain that empiricism is right on purely logical (not psychological) grounds. Empiricism becomes a theory about the meaning of synthetic propositions: namely, that their meaning can be given entirely in experiential, or phenomenal terms.

MENTALISM: The view that psychology must concern intself with abstract mental processes that are only distantly related to observed behavior. See behaviorism.

METAPHYSICS: Traditionally, the attempt to determine what general sorts of things there are in the universe (particularly those of a bsic, non-reducible sort). But to do this is also to sugest a classification of the sciences so that too is metaphysics. Examples: 1) materialism = the view that only material objects are real; 2) dualism = both bodies and minds are real and basic.

NATURALISM: In ethics and politics, the view that ethical judgements are descriptive and objective when properly made: that ethical terms could be replaced by obviously descriptive terms, as utilitarianism replaces “good” by “tending to produce the greatest possible balance of pleasure over pain for all sentient beings.”

NATURALISTIC FALLACY: In a book written early in this centruy, Principia Ethica, G.E. Moore put forward the view that naturalism (which see) in any of its forms commits the naturalistic fallacy. Moore thought that “good” names a “non-natural” “simple” quality and is never equivalent in meaning to any combination of natural qualities. This was revealed, Moore thought, by the fact that, after listing any “natural” quality of something (pleasurable, for example), we can always raise the question “but is it good?” See Prescriptivism.

NECESSARY: A sentence, proposition thought, or judgement is necessary if it is true of any possible world. Some philosophers (e.g. A.J. Ayer) maintain that the truths of logic and mathematics are necessary because they are a priori, and a priori simply because they are analytic; similarly maintaining that contigent, a posteriori, and asynthetic are equivalent.

NEORATIONALIST: A term for those 20th century philosophers who wish to revive aspects of rationalism. Specifically, maintaining mentalism, as opposed to behaviorism, in psychology, possibly insisting on innateness in learning theory and on intensional structures in a scientific description of the world.

NOMINALIST: In the middle ages, someone who maintained that there wer no universals above and beyond particular individual things and words (marks on paper) in particular languages. See realist. Today, we tend to call someone a nominalist whose general account of the universe tries to get along without sanctioning things that are not realized completely in our experience. Goodman is often said to be a nominalist, and Quine may be said to have such tendencies (though Quine sanctions sets).

NON-TRUTH-FUNCTIONAL: An operator (i.e. something which if added to one or more propositions makes a (molecular) proposition) is non-truth-functional if and only if the truth value of a proposition in which it appears is not wholly determined by the truth value of the subsiduary propositions on which it operates. E.g. the truth value of “It is necessary that there are nine planets” and “It is believed that there are nine planets” is not determined by the truth value of “There are nine planets.” Hence the operators “It is believed that” are non-truth-functional operators. See truth-functional.

PERFORMATIVES: Sentences (or utterances) that serve more to do (than describe) something. Typically, these sentences are in the first person present noncontinuous, with a main verb that indicates a speech action. e.g. “I promise to come to your party” as opposed to the non-performative (or descriptive) “he promises...,” or “I kick him.” Performatives are important because they make us realize that many declarative sentences are not so much true or false as they are actions which are well or badly done (orders, appointments, christenings, exorcisms, rulings, sentences, etc.)

PHENOMINALISM: The view that immediate experience (sensations, thoughts, etx.) is all there might be to reality. B. Russell for example, often took the phenominalist view that talk about the “external” world of objects is more properly understood as talk about a series of experiences or potentialities of experience.

PHENOMENOLOGY: A philosophic movement that originated around the turn of the century on the Continent (see Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations for example). This movement -- like Russell, G. E. Moore, and the analytic movement generally -- insisted on divorcing philosophy from (empirical) psychology, thus avoiding something labeled psychologism. The phenomenologists insisted that philosophers could directly study the pure phenomenon of thought (intensional objects) by a bracketing technique which avoided any commitments about empirical psychology.

POSITIVISM: Generally, the view that philosophy and science are one, exhaust genuine knowledge, and provide the only available key to rational social action. Varieties of positivism flourished on the Continent during the nineteenth century, some stressing political activity. The Vienna Circle (1920’s) consisted of physicists, philosophers, and logicians, and propounded a logical positivism, or logical empiricism (which see). Carnap, among others, came from this group.

PRAGMATICS: The characterization, for a natural or artificial, language or relationships between sentences, the world, and the situation of speaker and hearer. Pragmatics is particularly concerned with indexical words such as “I,” “Here,” “That,” “She,” “Now,” which are sensitive to the context of utterance or statement.

PREDICATE LOGIC: A logic that includes the simpler propositional logic plus individual variables (x, y, z, etc.), individual constants ( a, b, c, etc. -- these are the same as proper names), predicate variables (P, Q, R, S, etc) these range over monadic, or “one-place”, predicates like “is red”, “jumps,” etc., dyadic, or “two-place”, predicates like “is the sister of,” “is the square root of,” and so on with three, four, etc. place predicates, and the universal and existential quantifiers. For example, (x) [Px] means “For every x, Px” or “For every x, P is true of X” (note that “(x)” means “for every x....”--this is the universal quantifier. similarly, (x) [Px Qx] means “For every x, if Px, then Qx” or “All Ps are Qs.” The existential quantifier -- Ex -- means “For some x”, as for example Ex [Px] means “For some x, Px” or “There exists an x such that P is true of it.” Predicate logic is often developed with the additional of a relational constant, identity (=). Predicate logic is a first order logic in that there is quantification over individuals but not over predicates.

PRESCRIPTIVISM: The view, in ethics that all ethical arguments tactly involve an appeal to some prescriptive premise. Hence, so it is clailmed, any moral judgment includes some element of “telling someone how they should act”. E.g., to say that something is good is not to describe it but to commend it (to someone).

PRIMARY QUALITIES: Qualities such as shape, extension, duration, etc. which are perceived by several senses and which are thought to be more or less as much a part of the world as of our perception of it. As opposed to secondary qualities such as color, texture, pitch, odor, etx. which are perceived by particular senses and which are though (by people making the distinction) to correspond to anything outside sensation, being an essentially subjective reaction.

PRIVATE LANGUAGE ARGUMENT, THE: Descartes’ arguments (see Cartesian Doubt) eventually led many philosophers (especially Logical empiricists) to adopt phenomenalism and solipsism. Wittgenstein argued (against this) that such a view amounts to a belief in an essentially-private language (the language in which the phenominalist-solipsism philosopher states what he know, that is, the contents of his purely private experience). And Wittenstein argues that a purely private language is really impossible (language is essentially objectual and social in nature.)

PROPER NAMES: The view that proper names simply stand for, or denote, individuals without describing them in any way by philosophers such as J. S. Mill, Russell, and S. Kripke. The contrary view is that proper names are equivalent to (or have the same meqaning as ) a definite description or a cluster of definite descriptions: il.e. that “Aristotle was a student of Plato” is equivalent to “The teacher of Alexander was a student of Plato”, or in the cluster version “The individual who was most of the following -- teacher of Alexander, born in Stagira, wrote the Metaphysics, etc., was a student of Plato”. Proper names, as understood in Mill or Russell’s manner are sometimes also called “logically proper names” or “rigid designators.”

PROPOSITIONAL LOGIC: Also called sentence logic and the sentential calculus. Such a logic concerns elementary propositions - p, q, r, s, etc. -- respecting which the only assumption is that they should individually be either true or false, and operators that form complex propositons when joined with appropriate numbers of elementary propositons. The operators include conjunction (&) hence ’p and q’; disjunction (v), hence ’p or q’; negation (-), hence ’-p’; conditional (--> ), hence ’If p then q’; and equivalence ( =), hence ’p is equivalent to q’. This logic is concerned with determining which complex propositions are logical truths, or tautologies; this effectively determines what are valid arguments because such can always be treated as complex propositions in which the premisses of the argument appear as the antecedent and the conclusion as the consequence. This logic, as opposed to first, or higher, order predicate logic is complete and decidable.

PSYCHOLOGICAL EGOISM: In ethics and psychology, the view that in fact all human beings act solely in their individual self-interest (so far as they calculate correctly as to what this is). This view -- particularly in the ethical tradition established by Hobbes -- is often combined, or confused, with the view, which is labeled “ethical egoism” that all human being ought (whether they do or don’t) each to act in their individual self-interest.

RATIONALIST: Specifically, continental philosopher of the 17th-18th century such as Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz. These philosophers tended to believe that science abounds in pure, a priori, necessary, rational truths that may be discovered through introspective, rational analysis of concepts or ideas that derive more from innate principles of human though than from our actual sensory experience. See empiricist, neorationalist, neo-empiricist.

REALIST: Generally, someone who claims that various sorts of things that are not realized completely in our (sensory) experience are real. The things in question might be, e.g.: numbers, infinite constructions, material objects, theoretical entities (atoms, the unconscious mind, etc.) and so on. During the middle ages “realist” specifically meant someone who maintained that there are universals who maintained that there are universals (e.g. “horsiness” “humanity”) corresponding to words such as “horse” and “human” and not just individual things. See nominalist.

RUSSELL’S THEORY OF DESCRIPTIONS: Roughly, the view that sentences in which phrases of the form the-so-and-so appear can be reduced to more revealing logical forms in which “the” disappears and in which there is no longer any temptation to think that such phrases are like proper names (which see). E.g. “The present king of France is bald” becomes “There exists something which is presently kind of France and there is no other individual who is such and that individual is bald.” Russell’s theory has been called a paradigm of philosophy.

SECONDARY QUALITIES: See primary qualities.

SEMANTICS: The characterization, for a natural or artificial, language of relations between sentences such as sameness in meaning, semantic consequences (i.e. that if one sentence is true, such and so others must be true), and relationships between sentences and the world (truth). Characterizations of meaning and menaingfulness come under this heading. See pragmatics and syntactics.

SUBSTANCE: What underlies the various qualities of an object. In the later tradition substance comes to be considered a transcendent notion.

SYNTACTICS: The characterization, for an artificial, or natural, language, of what constitutes a well-formed sentence, or, to put it another way, a grammatical sentence, or a sentence of the language. It is usually assumed that a well-formed, or grammatical, sentence need not be meaningful. See semantics.

SYNTHETIC: A sentence, proposition, thought, or judgement is synthetic if it is neither logically (analytically) true, or false; generally, synthetic claims are said to be empirical in that they are discovered through experiment and observation, and in that “a bare conception of the subject” will not make it immediately obvious that the predicate appllies to it.

TAUTOLOGY: A non-atomic, or molecular, proposition that is true no matter what the assignment of truth value to the atomic propositions that it contains. Example: “p or not-p”. This molecular proposition is true whether we assign “p” the value true or the value false.

TELEOLOGICAL: [teleo -goal + logical] A teleological ethics is one that claims that it is the consequences (or goals-fostered-by) of actions that determine their moral worth. Mill’s utilitarianism (“act so as to achieve the greatest possible balance of pleasure over pain for all sentient creation”) is considered a typical example. See deontological.

THEORY OF (DEFINITE) DESCRIPTIONS, RUSSELL’S. See Russells’ theory of description.

TRADITIONAL, SCHOLASTIC, OR ARISTOTELIAN LOGIC: Traditional logic was first developed by Aristotle and systematized (somewhat differently) by the medieval school persons. It was thought to be all there was to logic by most until the end of the nineteenth century (until G. Frege, for example, came out with a version of modern logi8c in his Concept-Writing (Begriffsschrift). The assumption of traditional logic was that all propostions (sentences) are of a subject - predicate form (strictly, SUBJECT TERM + COPULA + PREDICATE TERM: for example, fist + are + backboned mammals). This exclusive emphasis on the subject - predicate form is though misleading, and the undrlying cause of mistaken metaphysics by many modern logicians (vice versa for some recent critics of modern logic). Traditional logic is concerned with immediate and mediate inferences between (subject - predicate) propositons, Immediate inference is from one (premiss) to one (conclusion) with the two terms of the premiss both appearing in the conclusion. Mediate inference involves more premisses with the use of “mediating”, or middle, terms that do not appear in the conclusion. The sylloquism, the primary study of traditional logic, is an argument in which the premisses connect the subject and predicate of the conclusion by means of a middle term.

TRANSCENDENT: Going beyond any possible experience as opposed to immanent.

TRANSCENDENTAL: Relating to the grounds of possible experience E.g. Kant thought that most of our pure rational knowledge is synthetic or priori, or transcendental. Thus Kant believed that geometry expresses the pure form of our intuitive faculty for experienceing things visually as in space: this faculty sets the rules for what can be a possible experience of vision.

TRUTH, THEORY OF: This subject could also be called semantics. The correspondance theory of truth insists on the common sense view that twhat makes a sentence true its its correspondance to something external to language (usually), some state of affairs. The coherence theory emphasizes that truth involves above all a coherence between some sentence we’re considering and the rest of our beliefs (rest of the sentences that we hold).

TRUTH-FUNCTIONAL (operator): An operator in a logical language (see sentence logic) is said to be truth functional if and only if the truth value of a proposition in which it appears is wholly determined by the truth value of the subsiduary propositions on which it operates. E.g. the truth value of p&q is wholly determined once we know the truth value of p and the truth value of q; hence the operator, &, is truth functional. see non-truth-functional

Principal-|-Consulta a Avizora |-Sugiera su Sitio | Temas Que Queman | Libros Gratis
Publicaciones | GlosariosLibro de Visitas-|-Horóscopo | Gana Dinero

TEL: +54 (3492) 434313 /+54 (3492) 452494 / +54 (3492) 421382 /
+54 (3492) 15 612463 ARGENTINA
Web master:
Copyright © 2001 m.