The TERM in Logic

© 2011 by Jensen dG. Mañebog

BASICALLY, THE SUBJECT MATTER in studying Logic is argument. Argument comprises statements or propositions and propositions necessarily contain terms. Hence, studying Logic formally starts with the study of term.

Concept, idea, word, and term
One of our basic mental operations is simple apprehension. Our intellect apprehends or abstracts the nature or essential qualities (essence) of the things we perceive. The product of this mental function is called concept. Hence, we have a concept of a dog, for instance, which refers to our intellectual image or grasp of an animal called dog.
            Though some logicians and epistemologists regard concept and idea as synonymous, the two have distinct meanings in the sense that concept is made up of ideas.
            A word is the simplest unit of written or spoken language. It is the fundamental medium of communication. Without words, sentences and statements cannot be constructed. When employed to express an idea or group of ideas (concept), a word or group of words (phrases) is called term. A term is the oral or written representation of an idea or group of ideas (concept). It is also the basic component of a statement.
          The proposition The former president of the Philippines is a woman, for instance, contains two terms: the former president of the Philippines and woman. Woman is a word used to express an idea. This is an example of a simple term, that is, a single word term. The phrase the former vice-president of the Philippines is a group of words used to express an idea or concept. This exemplifies a complex term—a term which is a group of words representing one concept.
          While terms are automatically words, words are not necessarily terms.  In the statement above, is is a word but is not a term. Many other words have no referents, and hence are words but not terms, such as or, only, from, through, out, etc.
          Word therefore is not synonymous with term for not all words are terms. And as distinct from concept, word is made up of letters whereas concept is made up of ideas.
Intension (Comprehension) and Extension of terms
Our mind has the ability and function to abstract the common qualities or features present in some things perceived by our senses. In our observation, for example, we see some animals exhibiting distinct attributes common to all alike. We cluster the more noticeable of these characteristics into a concept—for instance, that of a dog. Every time we encounter an animal displaying such qualities, we term it a dog.
            The set of attributes or traits that members of a term possess is called the intension or comprehension of a term. Dog, for example, is an animal, a mammal, a living organism, a sentient being. The intension includes not only the essential qualities but also those deducible from them. Being an animal, a dog, for instance, can multiply. Being a living organism, someday it will die.
            Extension of a term, on the other hand,refers to the totality of individuals or classes to which the intension is applicable. Dalmatians, canines, etc., and any literal dog are extension of the simple term dog.
            Many philosophers are now using the words connotation and denotation to signify intension and extension respectively.
          The intension and extension of terms are inversely related to each other. The greater the intension of a term, the lesser its extension, and vice-versa. A young dog for instance, stands as an intension of the term puppy. If we add Dalmatian to the intension, then the extension is reduced for it does not involve non-Dalmatian puppies. If we further increase the intension by adding newly born, the extension then decreases all the more for it now excludes those young Dalmatian dogsthat are not newly born. Logically therefore, if we lessen the intension, the result would be the increase in the extension.
Kinds of terms
In these various classifications of terms, a term might receive a place in each of the classes since categorizations are based on different aspects:
A. According to quantity/extension: Singular, Particular, Universal, and Collective Terms
1. A term is singular if it refers to only one individual or thing. The indicators of singularity are:
a. proper nouns/ proper names, such as Tokyo, Michael Jordan, Air Force One
b. superlatives, such as the best actor, the most corrupt official,  the highest scorer
c. demonstrative adjectives/pronouns, such as this book, that room, that teacher, this student
d. personal pronouns, I, he, you, she, her, etc. (as long as they definitely stand for one specific person)
e. the definite article “the”/specific modifiers such as, the lady in red
2. A term is particular if it stands for an indefinite part of a whole. In Logic, a term is considered particular if it represents “at least one but not all” of the individuals composing a class. The following indicates particularity:
a. indefinite pronouns/adjectives (some, many, several, few, most, certain) e.g. some singers, several songs, many questions, few answers
b. indefinite articles ‘a’ and ‘an’ used in particular contexts, e.g. a helicopter, an airplane
c. number modifiers, e.g. 7 dwarfs, 2 princesses
d. modifiers such as majority, almost all, generally all, nearly all, e.g. majority of the congressmen, almost all administrators, generally all believers
e. Subject terms in propositions that are true to only some of the denotations of the term, e.g. Belgians are religious; Men have sense of chivalry.
3. A term is general or universal if it refers to all individuals signified by the term.The following indicates universality:
a. universal affirmative quantifiers such as, all, each, every, any, everything, everyone, anything, anyone, whatever, whichever, whenever, wherever, whoever, e.g. all countries, every citizen, each blogger, any amount, anything new, whatever answer
b. universal negative modifiers such as, no, none, no one, nothing, nobody, never, etc., e.g. no American, nothing small, nobody wise
c. indefinite articles ‘a’ and ‘an’ (when taken to refer to all denotations of the term), e.g. A man is a rational being.
4. A term is collective if itrefers to a group of individuals considered as a single unit. Collective nouns such as audience, committee, crowd, flock, government, jury, gang, and orchestra are collective terms. A collective term may be universal, (e.g. squad, all squads, every squad), particular (e.g., some family, several crowds), or singular (e.g. this jury).
            Collective term is not applicable to the objects taken singly and individually, unless used figuratively. The term family, as an example, is collective, since it is predicable of the family members taken collectively, and not individually.
B. According to quality: affirmative and negative
1. A term is affirmative or positive if it expresses what is real, true, or essential of a thing, e.g. existence, life, and optimism. A term is also affirmative when it affirms the presence of desirable traits, e.g. just, honest, and active.
            There are two kinds of affirmative term: a) positive in form, positive in meaning (the above-mentioned examples fall under this kind); and b) negative in form, positive in meaning, e.g. blameless, spotless, unblemished, untarnished, infinite, immortal, guiltless
2. A term is negative if it indicates the non-appearance of some trait, e.g. unjust, sickly, inactive, death, immorality.
There are two kinds of negative term: a) negative in form, negative in meaning, e.g. unjust, inactive, immoral, impotent; and b) positive in form, negative in meaning, e.g. mistake, death, evil, oppression, chaos.
C.According to Origin: Immediate and Mediate
1.Immediate terms are formed through direct perception of things.
e.g. bag, pencil, ball pen, yellow paper, cellphone
2. Mediate terms are formed indirectly, that is, through the mediation of other ideas.
e.g. God, soul, spirit, universe
D.According to the nature of referents: Concrete, Abstract, Logical, and Null
1. A term is concrete if its referent is tangible or can be perceived by the senses.e.g. tree, chalk, spoon, belt, pants, arms. Concrete term also refers to that which indicates a quality or characteristic as inherent in a subject. eg.: black, big, tall.
2. A term is abstract if its referent is intangible or can be understood only by the mind and cannot be perceived by the senses. e.g. freedom, democracy, faith, love, patriotism, compassion, sacrifice. Abstract term also refers to the quality or characteristic considered independently from the subject in which it inheres. e.g. blackness, redness, kindness
3. A term is logical if it was formulated to serve as linguistic device to aid learning. e.g. copula, subject, predicate, velocity, momentum, phylum
4. A term is null or empty if it has no actual or real referents but is only imaginary. e.g. unicorn, fairy, elf, dragon, batman, spiderman, superman, x-men, dragon
E. According to definiteness of meaning: Univocal, Equivocal, and Analogous
1. A term is univocal if it exhibits exactly identical sense and meaning in different incidents. For example, we say Canines are dogs and Dalmatians are dogs. Theterm dogs is univocal, unless we give a different meaning in any of the term dogs in the statements.
                Ex. Peter is a man. – Paul is a man; teacher’s table – dining table; leaves of coconut – leaves of mahogany.
2. A term is equivocal when it indicates entirely different meanings in different occurrences.In the statements, Stars are heavenly bodies and Nicolas Cage and Brad Pitt are stars, the term stars is equivocal for the meaning of the term stars in the first statement is different from that of the second. An equivocal term thus is not one but two terms.
          Other examples: pitcher (player) – pitcher (water container); base (camp) – base (lower part); spring of water – spring of a machine; bark of a tree – bark of a dog
3. A term is analogous when it shows partly identical and partly distinct meanings in different occurrences. In the phrases head of a man and head of a family, the terms head in some sense are similar but nonetheless different in some aspects.
          Other examples: healthy man – healthy diet; leg of man – leg of a chair; foot of a man – foot of a mountain
F. According to relation: Compatible and Incompatible (Contradictory, Contrary, Relative, andPrivative)
1.Compatible terms are terms that can coexist in a subject, that is, there is no logical obstacle for them to be present in a subject at the same time.
e.g. tall and handsome, dark and rich, slowly and surely, simple and elegant, sweet and sour
2. Incompatible terms are terms that cannot coexist in a subject for they rule out each other. The following are kinds of incompatible terms:
a) Contradictory terms are two terms, one of which negates the other. Contradictories are so mutually exclusive that there is no middle ground or third possibility between them.
e.g. edible – non-edible; being – nothing; existent – non-existent; life – lifeless
b) Contrary terms are terms that belong to the same class but deny each other. Between these terms, there is/are middle ground/s.When some said that her girlfriend is not black, it is not safe to conclude that he must be white, for he may be brown or yellow. White and black therefore are contrary (not contradictory) terms.
Other examples: elated—depressed, hard—easy, hot – cold, happy – sad, long – short, genius—idiot.
c) Privative terms are terms wherein one indicates the presence of a quality or perfection while the other signifies the absence or lack of it.
e.g. good – evil, truth—falsity, health – sickness, wealth – poverty, sight – blindness
d) Correlative terms are two opposed terms wherein one cannot be understood without the other.In their meaning, they imply reference to one another.
e.g. husband – wife, interviewer – interviewee, parent – child, master – servant, teacher – pupil, leader – follower
The Supposition of term
In the statements, Bella is a dog, Dog is spelled d-o-g, Dog is a sentient being, Dog has three letters, and A dog sleeps under the table, the common denominator is the term dog. Yet, it has different meanings for it is used in different ways in the propositions. The various functions of a term in the proposition is called the supposition of term. Medieval philosophers developed supposition theory in the late twelfth century to identify the specific usage and meaning of a term in various propositional contexts. Latin logicians called the different uses of the term its suppositiones, (from sup ponere, 'to stand for').
Collective and Distributive Supposition.
            The people assembled themselves together in the chapel.
            The people voted in the election.
            Both of these statements have the collective term people as their subject. The terms people however differ in supposition.
            In a sentence with plural or collective subject (e.g. people), when the predicate applies to the members of the subject, taken separately, the subject term is said to have distributive supposition (suppositio distributiva). Such is the case in the first statement.When the predicate applies to members of the subjecttaken as a group, the supposition is collective (suppositio collectiva).
Real and Logical Supposition
When the term is used to refer to the object as it is in the real order, the supposition is real (suppositio realis). When used to denote the object as it is in the conceptual order, the term has logical or formal supposition (suppositio logica).
          Thus, the term the president of the Philippines in the statement The president of the Philippines is at Malacañang has real supposition, while in The president of the Philippines is the subject of the sentence, the term has logical supposition.
Personal and material supposition
A term has personal supposition when it is employed to talk about the object or person it represents, for example, dog in Ed is feeding the dog. When a word is taken to signify simply its inscription or utterance, it is in its material supposition (suppositio materialis). e.g. Dog has three letters.
Jensen dG. Mañebog, the author and contributor, is a Filipino Debate and Philosophy professor and a Professorial Lecturer in a graduate school.
How to cite this article:
Jensen dG. Mañebog. “The term in Logic” @
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