Volume 22, December 2017
Collected Works of Kisor K. Chakrabarti, Part II
Kisor Kumar Chakrabarti
The Stoic View of Definition
In the Stoic view a definition is a representation of a peculiar characteristic that is neither too wide nor too narrow and has necessary or reciprocal force and is a statement of analysis matchingly expressed. That is, a peculiar characteristic is convertible and coextensive with the definiendum. Many scholars hold that for the Stoics a defining characteristic is not only a feature that is co-extensive with the definiendum but is also essential. We do not find any conclusive evidence for this claim. The Stoics nowhere say that a defining feature is not only peculiar but also essential. They also sometimes offer more than one definition of a thing and this goes against the Aristotelian position that since a thing has single essence, there can only be one definition in the ideal sense. Further, the Platonic/Aristotelian tradition views a definition as being mainly concerned with relations between universals. But for the Stoics universals are mental constructs, individuals alone are real, and definitions are ultimately about individuals.