Definitions of art

Authored by: Stephen Davies

The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics

Print publication date:  April  2013
Online publication date:  April  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415782869
eBook ISBN: 9780203813034
Adobe ISBN: 9781136697142


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Defining can take a variety of forms: for instance, pointing to examples, enumerating all the things that fall under the term at issue, or legislating how a term will be used. One type of definition, sometimes called “essential” or “real” definition, has special power as an analytic tool. A real definition of something, χ say, would identify a set of properties such that each and every χ has all the properties that make up the set and only χs have that set of properties. A real definition specifies a group of properties each of which is necessary for something's being an χ and which, taken as a group, are also sufficient for something's being an χ. In other words, a definition of χ characterizes what all χs and only χs have in common. For instance, a widow is a woman who has lost her husband by death and who has not married again. In this case, there are three necessary conditions that together are sufficient for someone's being a widow.

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