The concept of relation as a term used in general philosophy has a long and complicated history. One of the interests for the Greek philosophers lay in the number of ways in which a particular thing might be described, and the establishment of a relation between one thing and another was one of these. A second interest lay in the difference between these relations and the things themselves. This was to culminate in the view that the things in themselves could not be known except through their relations. Debates similar to these continue into modern philosophy and include further investigations into types of relation and whether relations exist only in the mind or the real world or both.

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  • The concept of relation as a term used in general philosophy has a long and complicated history. One of the interests for the Greek philosophers lay in the number of ways in which a particular thing might be described, and the establishment of a relation between one thing and another was one of these. A second interest lay in the difference between these relations and the things themselves. This was to culminate in the view that the things in themselves could not be known except through their relations. Debates similar to these continue into modern philosophy and include further investigations into types of relation and whether relations exist only in the mind or the real world or both. An understanding of types of relation is important to an understanding of relations between many things including those between people, communities and the wider world. Most of these are complex relations but of the simpler, analytical relations out of which they are formed there are generally held to be three types, although opinion on the number may differ. The three types are spatial relations which include geometry and number, relations of cause and effect, and the classificatory relations of similarity and difference that underlie knowledge. Going by different names in the sciences, mathematics, and the arts they can be thought of as three large families and it is the history of these that will be dealt with here. (en)
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  • The concept of relation as a term used in general philosophy has a long and complicated history. One of the interests for the Greek philosophers lay in the number of ways in which a particular thing might be described, and the establishment of a relation between one thing and another was one of these. A second interest lay in the difference between these relations and the things themselves. This was to culminate in the view that the things in themselves could not be known except through their relations. Debates similar to these continue into modern philosophy and include further investigations into types of relation and whether relations exist only in the mind or the real world or both. (en)
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  • Relation (history of concept) (en)
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