The meaning of “determine”

The sense in which determining is used here is:

  • To establish or ascertain definitely, as after consideration, investigation, or calculation. See synonyms at discover.

Houghton Mifflin Thesaurus:

  • To obtain knowledge or awareness of something not known before, as through observation or study.


  • Find out, learn, or determine with certainty, usually by making an inquiry or other effort

In this case we are using it in the sense we use when saying to determine something as being somehow.
We can say, “I determined that the apple is green”, “I determined that there are two pears on the picture”, “I determined that the particle moves proportionally to the force I apply on it” etc…

The act of determining is abstracting, it is starting with a given something, and then abstracting from some properties of that thing, and becoming aware of what is left.

There are two significant developments that concept of determining brings into the picture.

  1. There is the new moment in the concept of determining is that the starting thing which is to be determined is already pointed to, focused on, etc… it is abstraction (as a result, though of different abstracting act) to start with.
  2. The determining points to possibility of more complex acts by the subject, in which the focus/attention is just part. We can see this in all of the explanations cited from the dictionaries.

Note 1: We now say that the concept of attention was abstract by itself, as it is isolated from the “more complex” acts in most of the cases. For example in cases where we attend to things size or color, the act of pointing the eyes to certain direction, moving the head, or whole body is often needed first.

Note 2:It is hard to imagine determining which in itself, won’t include attention. For example if we need to determine if a surface is smooth or not, we have to put our hand on it, but without putting attention to the surface (through the touch of the hand), we won’t be able to determine it. Even more complex determining, e.g. which include hitting the thing with certain kind of particles, or any using of aparatus, will still in some point require from us to put our attention to the result.

Here is one other interesting sense of determining:


  • set limits of something: to establish and set the limits or form of something

One thought on “The meaning of “determine”

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