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Family resemblance

Family resemblance
Source https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Family_resemblance.JPG 

(Family resemblance – It seems that there is nothing in common among Bridge and Soccer, but we conceder them both as games because they have many things in common with other games like paired Tennis.)

A family resemblance, or family likeness, a term used by Wittgenstein (1889-1951) in its Philosophical Investigations (1953), denotes the properties of terms with a taxonomic classification (hierarchical classification) that cannot be sufficiently detected without “the mind bumps up”; because concepts can have blurred, fuzzy boundaries.

Wittgenstein cites the concept of language, game and language game as examples ; there are no general characteristics that apply to all languages, games and language games. There are some games with common features, but they have nothing in common with others: “Board games, card games, ball games, fighting games” etc. cannot be classified taxonomically because they are related to one another through so-called family similarities. Games therefore form a family. In the Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein spoke figuratively of the fact that in certain terms individual cases interlock like fibers of a thread.

With his examples, Wittgenstein illustrates the limits of the hierarchical systematics (cf. also the problem of universals ) and at the same time shows an alternative with his approach of family similarities. Wittgenstein’s considerations are of fundamental importance for the rejection of an ideal of exactness, which requires necessary and sufficient conditions for a definition. Concepts can also be fuzzy and based on paradigmatic applications; an analysis is not necessary in order to be able to master or explain them. Concepts comparable to family resemblance have been used earlier, for example by John Stuart Mill, Nietzsche et al.


Wittgenstein’s concept of family resemblance was used, e.g. in the prototype theory (see also prototype semantics ) by Eleanor Rosch . The prototype theory makes it possible to carry out such a categorization in a meaningful way even in cases in which no necessary and sufficient criteria can be specified in order to classify an object in a category. Membership in a category is defined here as the distance to a prototype, which is viewed as the central member of the category.

The concept of family resemblance was also examined by Wolfgang Stegmüller. Stegmüller uses the concept within his structuralist theory concept in that he understands the set of intended applications of a theory as a paradigmatic set, corresponding to the concept of family resemblance. He points out that the concept of family resemblance applies to categories for which there no necessary and sufficient criteria can be specified in order to be able to clearly indicate the membership or non-membership for each object. However, absolutely necessary conditions can be specified which an object must meet in order to be a member of a category. If an object does not meet a necessary condition, it can definitely be excluded from the category. However, even for those objects that meet the necessary conditions, one cannot specify a sufficient condition to ensure membership in a category. The concept of family resemblance combines an exactness with regard to the necessary conditions for belonging to a category with an imprecision with regard to the sufficient conditions for belonging.

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