Containment and the Traditional Logic of Concepts

R. Lanier Anderson

in The Poverty of Conceptual Truth

Published in print January 2015 | ISBN: 9780198724575
Published online March 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780191792199 | DOI:
Containment and the Traditional Logic of Concepts

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The containment-based account of analyticity finds a clear, rule-governed basis in central ideas of traditional logic. Concepts were understood through two dual forms of containment: concepts are composed of constituent “marks,” which comprise their “content” (what is “contained in” them); and every concept has an “extension” covering an indefinitely specifiable set of more specific concepts “contained under” it, formed by adding further marks. So understood, concepts fall into a genus/species hierarchy (a “Porphyrian tree”), which can be reconstructed through rule-governed logical division; lower concepts are formed from a higher genus through the addition of differentia that determine mutually exclusive, jointly exhaustive species concepts. Facts about containment define equivalence for concepts and provide their identity conditions as logical objects. These considerations assuage some doubts about the clarity of analyticity, but the logical conception of concept extensions simultaneously raises puzzles about Kant’s general theory of the concept, which also appeals to non-logical extensions comprising objects.

Keywords: concept; content; extension; genus/species hierarchy; logical division; Porphyrian tree

Chapter.  17250 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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