Monday, October 15, 2012


Copyright © 2006 José Cossa

In doing basic Conceptual analysis one ought to assess the necessary (N) and sufficient (S) conditions for a given phenomenon or concept to be labeled what it claims to be. Basic conceptual analysis is not simple; it is only basic in that in it we are going to consider the N & S conditions and the properties (P) and dimensions (D). One starts by brainstorming several conditions deemed necessary, then the ones deemed sufficient (by themselves, i.e., without being necessary), and then deriving from the lists what constitutes the necessary and sufficient conditions for something to be what it claims to be. The N & S conditions are essentially the conditions sine qua non. In summary, I explain N & S conditions as conditions that ought to be present (N) and by themselves are enough (S) for something to be what it claims to be or represent.

Further than the N & S conditions are the properties (P) and dimensions (D). These P & D of a concept are essential in differentiating a concept from competing concepts and limiting its scope.

The following is a table that students can use to analyze given concepts comprising this course. This is not an exhaustive tool of analysis, but a framework from which the class can advance further analysis and critique. Below the table I have provided an example of conceptual analysis of the term president (as in head of state).

Necessary (N)

Sufficient (S)

N & S



Example: Let’s analyze the concept president. N = President must be a human being; S = President must have power to rule a country; N & S = President is a president only and only if a person who has the power to rule over a nation. P = Ability to rule and to make decisions; D = within one country only and within the provisions of the constitutions; P & D = Ability to rule and make decisions within one country and as provided within the constitution.
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