Resilience: Some Philosophical Remarks on Defining Ostensively and Stipulatively

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Although contentious, the concept of resilience is common in sustainability research. Critique of the concept have often focused on the content of the concept. In this paper we focus on another feature of concepts, namely how they are defined. We distinguish between concepts that are ostensively defined, that aim to point to some phenomena, and stipulatively defined concepts, where the content of the concept is given in the definition itself. We argue that although definitions themselves are similar across many different disciplines where resilience is used?most notably psychology and ecology?they differ in how. This has interesting consequences for how different disciplines can be connected and integrated. Notably, integration on basis of ostensively defined concepts turn on sharing the extension (the phenomena itself) of the concept, but not necessarily the intension (the definition), whereas integration on basis of stipulatively defined concepts work in the opposite way.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-74
JournalSustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Philosophy


  • interdisciplinarity
  • sustainability science
  • resilience


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