Return to Definitions
The rules of correct definition are derived from the process of concept-formation. The units of a concept were differentiated—by means of a distinguishing characteristic(s)—from other existents possessing a commensurable characteristic, a Conceptual Common Denominator. A definition follows the same principle: it specifies the distinguishing characteristic(s) of the units, and indicates the category of existents from which they were differentiated.
The distinguishing characteristic(s) of the units becomes the differentia of the concept’s definition; the existents possessing a Conceptual Common Denominator become the genus.
Thus a definition complies with the two essential functions of consciousness: differentiation and integration. The differentia isolates the units of a concept from all other existents; the genus indicates their connection to a wider group of existents.
For instance, in the definition of table (“An item of furniture, consisting of a flat, level surface and supports, intended to support other, smaller objects”), the specified shape is the differentia, which distinguishes tables from the other entities belonging to the same genus: furniture. In the definition of man (“A rational animal”), “rational” is the differentia, “animal” is the genus.