Conceptual system

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A concept system or knowledge organization system ( English Knowledge Organization System ( KOS for short ) or Concept Scheme ) is an ideal system of clearly delimitable terms (including concepts, classes, objects, entities, elements ... ) with an assigned designation . Often the terms are linked by relations and are also explained by definitions , rules and other descriptions.

Examples of conceptual systems

The classification of conceptual systems based on their structure

Hierarchical conceptual systems

Circular-free definitional concept systems are called hierarchical concept systems . Your semantic dependency structure of terms with each other shows the unilateral dependence on conceptual hierarchies because the definiendum (the Zudefinierende) from Definiens depends (the Defining) and not vice versa. In hierarchical conceptual systems there are always undefined basic concepts, as is the case with all axiom systems. The concepts derived from the axioms form hierarchical concept systems. But all concept systems with which clear relationships of descent are described have the structure of hierarchical concept systems. This also applies to the knowledge that is gained over time in the context of so-called normal sciences .

Holistic conceptual systems

Concept systems, the concepts of which are mutually dependent on one another, are called holistic concept systems . If one tries to establish a definitional relationship between the terms of holistic conceptual systems, this always ends in circular definitions .

Gottlob Frege was the first to discover that such defining circles appear in mathematical axiomatic systems when one tries to determine the undefined axiomatic basic concepts according to the solution method for systems of equations . Accordingly, the undefined axiomatic basic concepts of an axiom system form holistic conceptual systems.

Pairs of terms

The simplest holistic conceptual systems are concept pairs ( true - false , large - small , digital - analog , left - right , male - female , form - content , general - individual , hierarchical - holistic , etc.), in which two terms are characterized by a meaning relationship such as for example in an antonym relationship or in a complement relationship in mutual semantic or existential dependency.

Term triple

Term triple are holistic concept systems with three terms, such as past - present - future , plus - neutral - minus , outer - limit - inner , cause - effect - connecting rule (law) , possible - real - realizable . The axiom systems with three undefined basic concepts also form a concept triple.


All holistic conceptual systems that are neither pairs nor triples are collectively referred to as concept-n-tuples , where n stands for the number of concepts that make up the holistic conceptual system. For example, the holistic conceptual systems, which consist of the concepts through which the organs of an organism or the parts of a control system are given, are concept-n-tuples, whereby it is hardly possible to determine the number n exactly for organisms .

Diversity and use of systems of terms

The variety of different conceptual systems ranges from simple reference works , lexicons and glossaries to terminologies , classifications and thesauruses to formal schemes that can range from simple lists of attributes to complex ontologies .

In practice, conceptual systems are often used for knowledge organization and knowledge representation used. With the increasing use of different systems of terms, the compatibility between them plays a crucial role. Terms from different systems can be mapped to one another and linked (→ semantic web ).

Types of systems of concepts in practice

Scientific concept systems
(for example in philosophy , mathematics or law ) often only exist in the heads or works of people. It is important that the world of ideas can be summarized in individual terms that can be clearly differentiated and defined. As long as there are only very vague ideas about an area, one cannot speak of a system of terms. If these conceptual systems are verbalized, they form a terminology .
reference books
contain definitions , explanations and longer texts on individual terms. Sometimes the terms are also arranged systematically and contain cross-references to one another. A distinction is made between dictionaries, which contain lexical units, and encyclopedic reference works, which list individual objects and topics.
are word lists with short definitions. References between related terms are also possible. Usually glossaries appear as part of a technical text.
include complete, standardized technical languages . Among other things, they play a role in the (also semi-automatic) translation. Not all terminology is set out explicitly anywhere. Sometimes the names of a terminology are formed according to certain rules, for example when naming chemical compounds.
Metadata and directories
contain information about other information in an orderly form and are used for indexing documents, for example in libraries and content management systems .
are ordered lists of key words with references to text passages (register in a book) or brief information on the individual entries ( e.g. telephone book ).
Classifications, systematics and taxonomies
are systematic representations of classes, categories or other concepts that are hierarchically arranged according to certain criteria. They are mostly used to divide a larger area into thematically related areas.
are controlled vocabularies used in the documentation , the terms of which are linked by a set of fixed relationships (equivalence, hierarchy and association).
Mind Maps , Conceptual Maps and Semantic Networks
are graphic representations of the network-like relationships in a concept system. In computer science, this also includes other systems of terms such as classifications, thesauruses and ontologies.
Ontologies , database schemes and formal logical descriptions
form the highest level of formalization of a conceptual system. With them, the individual terms and relations are strictly mathematically defined, so that automatic inference procedures can be applied to existing structures.

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. See Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions , Original: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions , trans. by Hermann Vetter, Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt / Main 1976, ISBN 3-518-27625-5 .
  2. On the term hierarchical conceptual system cf. W. Deppert, Hierarchical and holistic conceptual systems , in: G. Meggle (ed.), Analyomen 2 - Perspektiven der Analytischen Philosophie, Perspectives in Analytical Philosophy , Vol. 1. Logic, Epistemology, Philosophy of Science , De Gruyter, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-11-015253-3 , pp. 214-225.
  3. Cf. On the Basics of Geometry , Annual Report of the German Mathematicians Association , Volume 12, 1903, pp. 319–324, pp. 368–375, printed in: Gottlob Frege, Kleine Schriften , edited by Ignacio Angelelli, Hildesheim 1967.
  4. When studying Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason closely , it is noticeable that he already makes the distinction between holistic and hierarchical conceptual systems, only that he does not call them that. See about §11 B112f.