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Usage of intension[edit]

Must "intension" refer to a definition in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions, or can "intension" take more complex (and perhaps more psychologically plausible) forms, such as a fuzzy categories with "prototype effects"? In otherwords, can I use the word "intension" without comitting myself to classical categories? Also, would it be misleading to add a comment that extension is somehow "in the world", while intension is somehow "in the mind". (The answer is yes.) Is there a better way to put this? --Ryguasu 00:37 Jan 30, 2003 (UTC)

Mixed up description[edit]

Uhh, I'm pretty sure these pages are a bit mixed up. What is described as Intension here should be on the Intention page. As in Intentionality. At least that is my understanding from reading.. (Page 58 onwards) "Why Humans Have Cultures" by Michael Carrithers, 1992, Opus / Oxford Uni. Press. -- FeFiFoFum 22:43 Jan 8, 2004 (GMT) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:43, 8 January 2005‎

Recent 'cleanup'[edit]

The recent anon edit that dealt with the 'cleanup' tag seems to have done so by removing most of the content of the page, which apart from some structuring issues, and the unfortunate example, seemed essentially sound to me. What we have in its place is terse, opaque, and is much reduced in scope. (You'd never guess from this it was a term in philosophy, maths, and computing science.) I'd propose to restore most of the deleted text, unless someone has specific objections... Alai 04:36, 21 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Merge with connotation article?[edit]

Or can anyone think of a worthy difference between these two words? Since Quine's "Two Dogmas...", they've been treated as synonyms. Lucidish 1 July 2005 19:33 (UTC)

No, I think they differ on some points. Intension is used in relation to semantic opacity in a way that connotation is not. For example, "John believes that . . ." creates an intensional context for a sentence, meaning that expression with the same semantic value can't be intersubstituted within it. You could stretch "connotation" to fit this, but to my knowledge it isn't done. The connotation/denotation pair, furthermore, has a casual (or historical?) use that doesn't line up with its technical use. In many contexts a word's connotations are its "suggested" meanings: Nigger, for example, has negative connotations that Black does not. We would not say they differ in intention. (Technically: intension seems to be wholly a matter of semantics. Connotation is also a matter of pragmatics.)
So intension and connotation overlap, but each have distinct meanings as well. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:45, 10 February 2006
There is a rather vast literature on this issue that flows on before, around, and after Quine. And Quine had deliberately non-standard — if there ever was a standard — accounts of things like denotation, extension, function, relation, not to mention connotation, intension, intention, modality, and so on. Yes, it will take some triangulation work to stake out the exact transmission locations of the varied and sundried perspectives, but that work will not be served by slashing, burning, and mushing things together that the analytic philosophers of the 1900's were awonton to do. Jon Awbrey 13:24, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Excellent description[edit]

I usually avoid Wikipedia articles about mathematics or logic because they tend to overcomplicate otherwise simple concepts, so I'm pleased to say that this paragraph...

Intension is generally discussed with regard to extension (or denotation). Intension refers to the set of all possible things a word could describe, extension to the set of all actual things the word describes. For example, the intension of a car is the all-inclusive concept of a car, including, for example, mile-long cars made of chocolate that may not actually exist. But the extension of 'car' is all actual instances of cars (past, present, and future), which will amount to millions or billions of cars, but probably does not include any mile-long cars made of chocolate. a great example of good writing. Less than a minute of reading and I understood a new concept. So congratulations to the author who realised complex formal definitions aren't the only way to get your point across! —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 12:58, 7 March 2007 (UTC).

Saussure / "sound image"[edit]

I don't know Saussure that well but the 3-way division described in this article sounds very wrong. My understanding has always been that the "sound image" is quite distinct from the "signifier." That is to say, many different "sound images" will evoke the same signifier, in much the same way that many different referents will evoke the same signified. So for example, a cockney "'ello" and a SAE "hello" are very different sound images, but they both yield the same signifier -- likewise, a particular oak and a particular chestnut are both referents of the signified of "tree." The linking of Signifier and Signified happens only after all the concrete pattern-recognition is done, and you have pure abstractions to work with on either side. I think? Solemnavalanche (talk) 21:12, 30 July 2008 (UTC)

Good point. I have a more general complaint, which is that Saussure's 'signified' seems to be what I would use 'intension' to mean. It does not seem to be "analogous" to it. The intension described in the lead and most of the article seems to bring with it a particular theory I'm not really familiar with, mixing in Platonic Ideas and possible worlds. The article could be much clearer about this. Ocanter (talk) 19:10, 18 March 2009 (UTC)

Removed paragraph[edit]

The following was removed by an anon

Intension refers to the possible things a word or phrase could describe. It stands in contradistinction to extension (or denotation), which refers to the actual things the word or phrase does describe. For example, the intension of the word "car" is the all-inclusive concept of a car, including, for example, mile-long cars made of chocolate that may not actually exist, while the extension of "car" is all actual instances of cars (past, present, and future), which will amount to millions or billions of cars, but probably does not include any mile-long cars made of chocolate.

I don't know enough to know if it should stay or not. --Salix (talk): 07:51, 8 April 2009 (UTC)

I'm the person who made the edit. The paragraph said that intension refers to possible things, which is incorrect. The intension of a word refers to the properties that are used to pick out the objects. See this definition by Alonzo Church and this one by Dennett. -- (talk) 04:51, 10 April 2009 (UTC)
The two descriptions of the meaning of intension don't contradict and, in fact, coincide. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy even writes[1] "An intension is a function from possible worlds to extensions." Kevin 06:05, 13 April 2011 (UTC)
Nevertheless, a new paragraph marking the distinction between extension and intension should be inserted. This article should certainly mention Frege's distinction between sense and reference, which can be thought of as intension vs. extension. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:37, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
Might oughta look at the comment higher up on this page entitled "Excellent description." I personally think he has a point; being exact and precise often means being unintelligible to most people. I would think the omitted description could be restored with a suitable disclaimer. Mcswell (talk) 19:29, 20 March 2013 (UTC)


intension (n.) c.1600, from Latin intensionem (nominative intensio) "a stretching, straining, effort," noun of action from past participle stem of intendere (see intend). Online Etymology Dictionary

Pawyilee (talk) 16:48, 26 June 2014 (UTC)

Remove "and small fragments of natural languages"?[edit]

The current version contains the sentence "The only extensional languages are artificially constructed languages used in mathematics or for other special purposes and small fragments of natural languages." For this to make sense, a "small fragment" of a language would have to be considered a language in its own right. Is that ever the case?

Hypehuman (talk) 21:30, 17 April 2015 (UTC)

Specification necessary[edit]

“Such terms may be suggestive, but a term can be suggestive without being meaningful.” In ordinary understanding, “suggestion” is equal to “meaning”. (That is why it is very difficult for a layman to understand why the “green ideas” “have no meaning”, if they transport the idea perfectly.) We further differentiate between useful meanings and useless meanings, but that's another story. Therefore, we have here a special usage of the word “meaning”. Therefore, it should be articulated in the article, what is the special area of knowledge where such usage can be encountered, and the sources for such specification should be given. - (talk) 06:52, 2 August 2016 (UTC)

Bad examples of intensional statement forms[edit]

"Everyone who has read Huckleberry Finn knows that the author of 'Corn-Pone Opinions' wrote it," does not, as such, necessitate that the readers of Huck Finn know Huck Finn's author as also the author of "Corn-Pone Opinions". It could just mean that whoever it is authored "Corn-Pone Opinions" is someone who is known by all readers of Huck Finn to have written Huck Finn. If and only if we read it as "Everyone who has read Huckleberry Finn knows that it and 'Corn-Pone Opinions' were written by the same author," do we have an intensional statement form.

The second example is self-contradictory. "Aristotle" is coextensive with "the tutor of Alexander the Great" if and only if we assume that Aristotle did in fact definitely tutor Alexander the great—the very thing denied by the statement "It is possible that Aristotle did not tutor Alexander the Great."

As for the third example... I just don't get it at all. What's the difference between "Aristotle was pleased he had a sister" and "Aristotle was pleased he had a female sibling"? I don't see any. (talk) 22:48, 10 February 2020 (UTC)