The reasoning behind thinking of Aristotelian terms as the most basic unit of conceptual content correlates to reasoning about the origin of conceptual content in the person.

It was held that simple apprehension was the first conceptual activity of the mind upon interacting with things, and that in this process it forms a concept of the things interacted with by our senses and that such simple concepts are signified by individual terms.

Judgements were then understood according to the terms within it, so that any judgement was intelligible according to the senses of the concepts that were being affirmed or denied of each other.

What happened in the history of philosophy that caused this approach to become outdated?

  • The problem of universals, Ockham's conceptualism, Kant's reform of conceptualism reinterpreting concepts as acts of unification, Hegel's critique of "immediately given" in Phenomenology of Spirit, discovery of the logic of relations by de Morgan, discovery of quantified logic by Peirce and Frege (which went beyond the subject/predicate structure of thought suggested by syllogistic), Husserlian and logical positivist semantics, Quine and Wittgenstein abandoning logical positivism and offering alternatives. You know the rest.
    – Conifold
    Nov 21, 2016 at 21:59

1 Answer 1


Overall, in this domain, what most undermines Aristotle is Plato. You misportray history in the question. It is not so much that we had agreement and turned aside from it, as that we ignored the disagreement sometimes. Idealism kept arising in different forms until one stuck.

Social construction has re-founded idealism psychologically and socially, and is now 'the mental world' that the physical world is an overlay upon. By moving forward, we have returned to an original position Aristotle pushed aside: this thread has not newly arisen, it is implicit in the whole idealist-vs-physicalist struggle.

The overall collapse of Logical Positivism was pretty much the final nail in its coffin. It became obvious that terms were built of something and apprehension was shaped by context -- so the world really was mental. But what we meant by mental had evolved underneath.

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