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WILLIAM FLEMING - 1890 - Table of contents

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H- I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W  

Diccionario filosófico
Complete edition

Diccionario de Filosofía
Brief definition of the most important concepts of philosophy.


A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms Francis Garden


Vocabulary of Philosophy, Psychological, Ethical, Metaphysical
William Fleming

Biografías y semblanzas Biographical references and lives of philosophers

Brief introduction to the thought of Ortega y Gasset

History of Philosophy Summaries

Historia de la Filosofía
Explanation of the thought of the great philosophers; summaries, exercises...

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Jaime Balmes

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Zeferino González

Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres
Complete digital edition of the work of Diogenes Laertius

Compendio de las vidas de los filósofos antiguos

A brief history of Greek Philosophy
B. C. Burt


A Short History of Philosophy





CONCEPTION (con. and capio).—The act of gathering up in a single mental representation the qualities characteristic of one object, or of many objects. Conception, the act: concept, the thing conceived. Conception and notion have commonly been taken as synonymous; "notion" is better reserved for the more generalised knowledge, expressed in general or abstract terms. Hamilton would restrict both terms in this way (Reid's Works, p. 360, note). The German name is Begriff, the gathering together, as if into a single grip. Every concept includes, on the one hand, a variety of attributes, and on the other, comprehends a variety of objects. The attributes included are called the Intension, and the objects comprehended the Extension of the Concept (see these terms). "Conception consists in a conscious act of the understanding, bringing any given object or impression into the same class with any number of other objects or impressions, by means of some character or characters common to them all. Concipimus, id est, capimus hoc cum illo—we take hold of both at once, we comprehend a thing, when we have learned to comprise it in a known class " (Coleridge, Church and State, Prelim. Rem., p. 4).

Dr Reid begins his essay on Conception by saying:—"Conceiving, imagining, apprehending, and understanding, having a notion of a thing, are common words used to express that operation of the understanding which the logicians call simple apprehension" (Intellectual Powers, essay IV. ch. I.; Hamilton's Reid, p. 360).


Hamilton says:—"The words conception, concept, notion, should be limited to the thought of what cannot be represented in the imagination, as the thought suggested by a general term. The Leibnitzians call this symbolical, in contrast to intuitive knowledge. This is the sense in which conceptio and conceptus have been usually and correctly employed" (Hamilton, Reid's Works, p. 360, note; Hamilton, Logic, I. 40).

Mansel says:—"Conception must be carefully distinguished as well from mere imagination as from a mere understanding of the meaning of words. Combinations of attributes, logically impossible, may be expressed in language perfectly intelligible. There is no difficulty in understanding the meaning of the phrase bilinear figure or iron-gold. The language is intelligible, though the object is inconceivable. On the other hand, though all conception implies imagination, yet all imagination does not imply conception. To have a conception of a horse, I must not only know the meaning of the several attributes constituting the definition of the animal, but I must also be able to combine these attributes in a representative image, that is, to individualise them. This, however, is not mere imagination, it is imagination relatively to a concept. I not only see, as it were, the image with the mind's eye, but I also think of it as a horse, as possessing the attributes of a given concept, and called by the name expressive of them. But mere imagination is possible without any such relation... Conception, in its lowest degree, implies at least a comparison and distinction of this from that... The consciousness of a general notion is thus an instance of symbolical as distinguished from intuitive knowledge" (Proleg., Logic, 2nd ed., pp. 24-26).

"The distinction between conception and imagination is real, though it be too often overlooked and the words taken to be synonymous. I can conceive a thing that is impossible, but I cannot distinctly imagine a thing that is impossible. I can conceive a proposition or a demonstration, but I cannot imagine either. I can conceive understanding and will, virtue and vice, and other attributes of mind, but I cannot imagine them. In like manner, I can distinctly conceive universals, but I cannot imagine them" (Reid, Intellectual Powers, essay IV.).

Kant says:—"Intuitions and conceptions constitute the elements of all our knowledge, so that neither conceptions without an intuition in some way corresponding to them, nor intuition without conceptions, can afford us a cognition. Both are either pure or empirical. They are empirical, when sensation (which presupposes the actual presence of the object) is contained in them; and pure, when no sensation is mixed with the representation" (Critique of Pure Reason, Transc. Logic, introd., Meiklejohn, p. 45; Max Müller, II. 42).



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