Dichotomy - Encyclopedia




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DICHOTOMY (Gr. oixa, apart, TEµvecv, to cut), literally a cutting asunder, the technical term for a form of logical division, consisting in the separation of a genus into two species, one of which has and the other has not, a certain quality or attribute. Thus men may be thus divided into white men, and men who are not white; each of these may be subdivided similarly. On the principle of contradiction this division is both exhaustive and exclusive; there can be no overlapping, and no members of the original genus or the lower groups are omitted. This method of classification, though formally accurate, has slight value in the exact sciences, partly because at every step one of the two groups is merely negatively characterized and therefore incapable of real subdivision; it is useful, however, in setting forth clearly the gradual descent from the most inclusive genus (summum genus) through species to the lowest class (infima species), which is divisible only into individual persons or things. (See further Division.) In astronomy the term is used for the aspect of the moon or of a planet when apparently half illuminated, so that its disk has the form of a semicircle.

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