, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 699–720 | Cite as

Kovesi and the Formal and Material Elements of Concepts

  • T. Brian Mooney
  • John N. Williams
  • Mark Nowacki


In his seminal work Moral Notions, Julius Kovesi presents a novel account of concept formation. At the heart of this account is a distinction between what he terms the material element and the formal element of concepts. This paper elucidates his distinction in detail and contrasts it with other distinctions such as form-matter, universal-particular, genus-difference, necessary-sufficient, and open texture-closed texture. We situate Kovesi’s distinction within his general philosophical method, outlining his views on concept formation in general and explain how his theory of concept formation is applied in moral philosophy.


Kovesi Fact Value Morality Concepts Family resemblance 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. Brian Mooney
    • 1
  • John N. Williams
    • 1
  • Mark Nowacki
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Social SciencesSingapore Management UniversitySingaporeSingapore

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