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Resilience: Some Philosophical Remarks on Defining Ostensively and Stipulatively

  • Henrik Thorén
  • Johannes Persson
Publishing year: 2015
Language: English
Pages: 64-74
Publication/Series: Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy
Volume: 11
Issue: 1
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Proquest

Abstract english

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.


  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Philosophy
  • interdisciplinarity
  • sustainability science
  • resilience


  • LUCID - Lund University Centre of Excellence for Integration of Social and Natural Dimensions of Sustainability
  • LUCID - Lund University Centre of Excellence for Integration of Social and Natural Dimensions of Sustainability-lup-obsolete
  • ISSN: 1548-7733
Henrik Thorén
E-mail: henrik [dot] thoren [at] fil [dot] lu [dot] se

Visiting research fellow

LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)



Theoretical Philosophy


P.O. Box 170, SE-221 00 Lund, Sweden
Phone: +46(0)46- 222 80 81
info [at] lucsus [dot] lu [dot] se