A Very Short Philosophical Dictionary




This is written as a self-imposed exercise. One entry per letter. Doing so raises some interesting questions, the chief one being what to have for each letter. However, there is an added complication that the entries, while tussling for inclusion, are also often interconnected, and as shown by the actual cross-referencing. One might have done it differently, but this is my best go now, the pressing of the day. That thought may further the dictionary’s value – although the overall idea is meant to be slightly humorous and not taken too seriously – for not only do I hope the entries, albeit limited in number, are genuinely informative, it may raise an interesting debate in the reader’s mind as to what entries they would have, the same or different, and why. In a highly crude and unsatisfactory way, the choice of entries reflects a particular view of philosophy. In short, the exercise throws up all sorts of interesting things. I purposely mention no philosophers by name, except for two entries, as this would have led to inflation. These are my accounts in the entries, deliberately done with no cribbing from other sources except to a very minor degree. – JS

A: Analysis

Analysis, from which Analytical Philosophy gets its name, is the process of taking apart, rendering into their constituent parts, ideas, concepts or arguments, to better determine what they mean or their validity. Analysis may also take the form of making distinctions, often by way of conceptual distinctions, that is to say separating one subject into its constituent parts in order to get a clearer understanding.

B: Belief

Belief is an assent to or affirmation of a truth, that is to say, that something is the case. This assent or affirmation may be a matter of degree, which will depend on either how sure one is of what one holds to be the case or how reluctant one is to abandon one’s affirmation. Belief falls short of knowledge in that in the case of belief it is always possible that what one believes may be false; whereas it is usually argued that what one genuinely knows cannot be false.

C: Consciousness

Consciousness is the capacity for qualitative awareness, most usually of oneself or the world. There is something-it-is-like for the subject of that awareness. This has led some to suggest that the distinctive, perhaps defining, characteristic of consciousness, is intentionality, that is to say, conscious awareness is always of something, it has an intentional object regardless of whether that object exists or not. This is disputed, as it is argued that intentionality is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for consciousness, as moods have no intentional objects and that non-conscious objects may refer beyond themselves. Nevertheless, the qualitative awareness means that the subject is not just reacting unreflectively to stimuli, but that there is a subjective experience or feel to their being in the world. This makes consciousness, which …

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