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cognitive meaning

terminology that conveys information

emotive meaning

terminology that expresses or evokes feelings

value claim

claim that something is good, bad, right, wrong, or better or worse, more important or less important than some other thing. Words such as cruel, inhuman, hapless, dragged, slaughtered, harvest

vague expression

one that allows for borderline cases in which it is impossible to tell if the expression applies or does not apply. These expressions often allow for a continuous range of interpretations. Words such as love, happiness, peace, excessive, fresh, rich, poor, normal, conservative, and polluted.

ambiguous expression

one that can be interpreted as having more than one clearly distinct meaning in a given context, words such as light, proper, critical, stress, mad, inflate chest, bank, sound, and race

Difference between vagueness and ambiguity

Vague terminology allows for relatively continuous range of interpretations, whereas ambiguous terminology allows for multiple discrete interpretations. A vague expression creates a blur of meaning, whereas an ambiguous expression mixes up otherwise clear meanings.


any word or arrangement of words that may serve as the subject of a statement. Consist of proper names, common names, and descriptive phrases

words that are not terms

verbs, nonsubstantive adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and all nonsyntactic arrangements of words

the use of a word versus the mention of a word

one must be sure that the word or group of words can be used as the subject of a statement

intensional meaning

consists of the qualities or attributes that the term connotes ex: the term "cat" consists of attribtues of being furry, of having four legs, of moving in a certain way, of emitting certain sounds,

extensional meaning

consists of the members of the class that the term denotes, ex.: but the extensional meaning is all cats in the universe


the intensional meaning of a term otherwise known as


extensional meaning; ex: the term "cat" is presumably constant because it denotes all cats past present and future; currently living dodo bird and current king of France

sense and reference

intension and extension are roughly equivalent to these, logic uses the terms connotation and denotation differently from the way they are used in grammar

conventional connotation

a term includes the attributes that the term commonly calls forth in the minds of competent speakers of the language

empty extension

denotes the empty (or "null") class, the class that has no members; other terms with empty extension are unicorn, leprechaun, gnome, elf, griffin, they have this, but they do not have empty intension

intension determines extension

the intensional meaning of a term serves as as the criterion for deciding what the extension consists of; because we know the attributes connoted

proper name rule with intension determines extension

the name "David" might not appear to have any intension, but philosophers disagree about this it would seem that proper names must have some kind of intension or we would not know what persons, if any, they denote, names are shorthand symbols for descriptions or bundles of descriptions, the intension of proper names consists of the causal chain of events leading from the point at which the name is first assigned to the point at which a certain person learns about the name, intension determines extension

increasing intension

a series of terms is in the order of this when each term in the series (except the first) connotes more attributes than the one preceding it. each term in the series after the first is more specific than the one preceding it (a term is specific to the degree that it connotes more attributes)
ex: animal, mammal, feline, tiger

decreasing intension

the reverse of increasing intension;
ex: tiger, feline, mammal, animal

increasing extension

a series of terms when each term in the series (except the first) denotes a class having more members than the class denoted by the term preceding it, the class size gets larger with each successive term
ex: tiger, feline, mammal, animal

decreasing extension

the reverse of increasing extension
ex: animal, mammal, feline, tiger


a group of words that assigns a meaning to some word or group of words. Accordingly, every definition consists of two parts: the definiendum and the definiens


word or group of words that is supposed to be defined
ex: the word: tiger is this


word or group of words that does the defining
ex: everything after the word tiger means is this such a large, striped, ferocious, feline indigenous to the jungles of India and Asia,
This is not itself the meaning of the definiendum, but it is the group of words that symbolizes (or that is supposed to symbolize) the same meaning as the definiendum. We presumably know in advance what the definiens symbolizes, and so we are led, via the definition, to understand what the definiendum symbolizes, this is how the definition assigns a meaning to its definiendum

two arguments about definitions

one is that since a definition is merely a rule that allows one set of words (the definiens) to be used in place of another set (the definiendum), definitions communicate no information at all about the subject matter of the definiendum

second argument about definition

since definitions result in a clarification of language, they provide a means for the discovery of deeper philosophical truths.

stipulative definition

assigns a meaning to a word for the first time. may involve either coining a new word or giving a new meaning to an old word, purpose is to replace a more complex expression with a simpler one

lexical definition

used to report the meaning that a word already has in a language. Dictionary definitions are all instances of these kinds of definitions, this definition may be true or false depending on whether it does or does not report the way a word is actually used, this definitions have the further purpose of eliminating ambiguity that would otherwise arise if one of these meanings were to be confused with another, words such as light, mad, bank can be used ambiguously, this definition lists several meanings for one word

precising definition

to reduce the vagueness of a word, an expression is vague if there are borderline cases in which it is impossible to tell if the word applies or does not apply. fresh, rich, poor are vague. Whenever words are used in a highly systematic context such as science, mathematics, medicine, law, they must always be clarified by means of a precising definition, force, energy, acid, element, number, equality, contract, agent

theoretical definition

assigns a meaning to a word by suggesting a theory that gives a certain characterization to the entities that the term denotes, such a definition provides a way of viewing or conceiving those entities that suggests deductive consequences, further investigation, and whatever else would be entailed by the acceptance of a theory governing these entities
ex.: heat: kinetic theory of heat, heat means the energy associated with the random motion of the molecules of a substance
this definition does more than merely assign a meaning to a word; it provides a way of conceiving the physical phenomenom that is heat
light, force, mass, substance, form, cause, change, idea, good, mind, God
Like stipulative definitions, these kind are neither true nor false because they function as proposals to see or interpret some phenomenon in a certain way

persuasive definition

purpose is to engender a favorable or unfavorable attitude toward what is denoted by the definiendum, it is accomplished by assigning an emotionally charged or value-laden meaning to a word while making it appear that the word really has or ought to have that meaning in the language in which it is used, this definition masquerades as an honest assignment of meaning to a term while condemning or blessing with approval the subject matter of the definiendum

extensional (denotative) definition

one that assigns a meaning to a term by indicating the members of the class that the definiendum denotes. there are at least three ways of indicating the members of a class: pointing to them, naming them individually, and naming them in groups.

demonstrative (ostensive) definitions

probably the most primitive forms of definition. All one need know to understand such a definition is the meaning of pointing, partial or complete
"Chair" means this and this and this as you point to several chairs one after the other
"Washington Monument" means that as you point to it
a gesture, such as pointing must count as a word, "words" in many sign languages consist exclusively of gestures

enumerative definitions

assign a meaning to a term by naming the members of the the class the term denotes, like demonstrative definitions, they may also be either partial or complete
"actress" means a person such as Nicole Kidman
"Baltic state" means Estonia, Latvia, or Lituania

definition by subclass

assigns a meaning to a term by naming subclasses of the class denoted by the term. Such a definition, too may be either partial or complete, depending on whether the subclasses named, when taken together, include all the members of the class or only some of them
"Trees" means an oak, pine, elm, spruce, maple, and the like
"Flower" means a rose, lily, daisy, geranium, zinnia, and the like

extensional definitions are used as techniques

for producing lexical and stipulative definitions, lexical are aimed at communicating how a word is actually used, one of the ways of doing so is by identifying the members of the class the word denotes ONLY!!
Dictionaries include references to the indivudual members or to the subclasses of the class denoted by the word being defined
Sometimes they include a kind of demonstrative definition with a picture
not all lexicial are in dictionaries

stipulative definitions used to assign to first time but

may be accomplished through 3 different kinds of extensional definition
ex: a biologist engaged in naming and classifying types of fish might assign names to the specific varieties by pointing (demonstrative)
ex: an astronomer might point via his telescope (demonstrative)
ex: organizer of children's game: enumerative

extensional definitions cannot

properly serve as precising definitions because: the function of a precising def is to clarify a vague word, and vagueness is a problem affecting intensional meaning
the intension is imprecise, the extension is definite
to attempt to render the intension precise by exactly specifying the extension (as with an extensional definition) would be tantamount to having extension determine intension = cannot be done

intension determines extension

the converse is not true, because underlies that all extensional definitions suffer serious deficiencies
ex: in the case of the demonstrative def of the word chair, if all the chairs pointed to are made of wood, observers might think chair means wood chair instead something to sit on
actress means woman but it's more than that

intensional definition

one that assigns a meaning to a word by indicating the qualities or attributes that the word connotes
at least 4 strategies may be used to indicate the attributes a word connotes, there are at least 4 kinds of intensional def

synonymous definition

one in which the definiens is a single word that connotes the same attributes as the definiendum; synonym
ex: physician means doctor
intentional means willful

etymological definition

assigns a meaning to a word by disclosing the word's ancestry in both its own language and other languages most ordinary english words have ancestors either in old or middle english or in some other language
the english word: license is derived from Latin verb licere, which means to be permitted
english word captain: latin noun caput means head
convey word's root meaning and if one is familiar with etymology of one English word, one often has access to the meaning of an entire constellation of related words

operational definition

assigns a meaning to a word by specifying certain experimental procedures that determine whether or not the words applies to a certain thing
ex: one substance is 'harder than' another if and only if one scratches the other when the two are rubbed together
a solution is an 'acid' if and only if litmus paper turns red when dipped into it
tying down relatively abstract concepts to the solid ground of empirical reality

definitions by genus and difference

assigns a meaning to a term by identifying genus term and one or more difference words that, when combined, convey the meaning of the term being defined. more generally applicable and achieves more adequate results than any of the other kinds of intensional def
combining a term denoting a genus with a word or group of words connoting a specific difference so that the combination identifies the meaning of the term denoting the species


a relatively larger class in logic
relative classifications
genus animal


means a relatively smaller subclass of the genus
species feline


the attribute or attributes that distinguish the various species within a genus,
ex: the specific difference that distinguishes the species when a genus is qualified by a specific difference, a species is identified

examples of species, difference, and genus

ice means frozen water
daughter means female offspring
husband means married man
doe means female deer
fawn means very young deer
skyscraper means very tall building

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