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The Collaborative International Dictionary

differentia \dif`fer*en"ti*a\, n.; pl. Differenti[ae]. [L. See Difference.]

  1. (Logic) The formal or distinguishing part of the essence of a species, by which it is distinguished from other members of its genus; the characteristic attribute of a species; specific difference; as, a proper definition must have both genus and differentia.

  2. the set of characteristics distinguishing an entity from related entities.


n. 1 (context semantics logic English) A distinguishing feature which marks something off from other members of the same family. 2 (context taxonomy English) An attribute that distinguishes a species from others of the same genus.

  1. n. distinguishing characteristics (especially in different species of a genus)

  2. [also: differentiae (pl)]


In Scholastic logic, differentia is one of the predicables. It is that part of a definition which is predicable in a given genus only of the definiendum; or the corresponding "metaphysical part" of the object.

Usage examples of "differentia".

What is the ground for distinguishing between habit and disposition, seeing that no differentia of Quality is involved in permanence and non-permanence?

Moreover, no room is left for a differentia by which this Something may be distinguished.

Quality is never a differentia of Quality, any more than Substance is a differentia of Substance, or Quantity of Quantity.

As for the differentia being derived from the same genus as themselves, namely, Quality, and from no other genus, if we proceed on the principle that virtue is bound up with pleasure, vice with lust, virtue again with the acquisition of food, vice with idle extravagance, and accept these definitions as satisfactory, then clearly we have, here too, differentiae which are not qualities.

It remains to decide whether there can be any differentia derived from the genus to which the differentiated thing belongs, or whether it must of necessity belong to another genus?

Virtue and vice are two states differing in quality: the states are qualities, and their differentiae qualities--unless indeed it be maintained that the state undifferentiated is not a quality, that the differentia creates the quality.

We must therefore reflect whether it may be taken as an invariable rule that Quality is never a differentia of Quality, any more than Substance is a differentia of Substance, or Quantity of Quantity.

But in all these motions alike there is the common tendency to seek an appointed place, and in this tendency we seem to have the differentia which separates locomotion from the other species.

Surely not: the differentiae must come from outside the genus differentiated: they must be differentiae of Being proper, but cannot be identical with it.

Matter will be found common to all substances, not however as a genus, since it has no differentiae--unless indeed differentiae be ascribed to it on the ground of its taking such various forms as fire and air.

The former alternative would produce differentiae of things derived from the same genus as the differentiae themselves--for example, qualities of qualities.

If the numbers are logically separable from the objects, that is no reason why we should not think of them as sharing the same differentiae.