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From Latin con- (prefix indicating a being or bringing together of several objects) + saliō (to bound, jump, leap) (modelled after resiliēns (rebounding)) +‎ -ence, influenced by concurrent. Coined by English polymath William Whewell in 1840 in his book The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences.[1][2]



consilience (countable and uncountable, plural consiliences)

  1. (logic) The concurrence of multiple inductions drawn from different data sets. [from 1840]
    Synonym: coincidence
    • 1840, William Whewell, “Of the Logic of Induction”, in The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, Founded upon Their History. [...] In Two Volumes, volume II, London: John W[illiam] Parker, []; Cambridge: J. and J. J. Deighton, OCLC 1003958306, paragraph 4, pages 242–243:
      Indeed in all cases in which from propositions of considerable generality, propositions of a still higher degree are obtained, there is a convergence of inductions; and if in one of the lines which thus converge, the steps be rapidly and suddenly made in order to meet the other line, we may consider that we have an example of Consilience.
    • 1858, William Fleming, “CONSILIENCE of INDUCTIONS”, in The Vocabulary of Philosophy, Mental, Moral, and Metaphysical; [], 2nd revised and enlarged edition, London; Glasgow: Richard Griffin and Company, publishers to the University of Glasgow., OCLC 27304329, page 114:
      CONSILIENCE of INDUCTIONS takes place when an induction obtained from one class of facts coincides with an induction obtained from a different class. This consilience is the test of the truth of the theory in which it occurs.
  2. The agreement, co-operation, or overlap of academic disciplines.
    • 1845 June, W[illiam] Herschel, “Inaugural Address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Held at Cambridge, June 1845”, in The Civil Engineer and Architect’s Journal, Scientific and Railway Gazette, volume VIII, number 94, London: R. Groombridge & Sons, []; J[ohn] Weale, []; New York, N.Y.: Wiley & Putnam; Paris: Galignani, published July 1845, OCLC 978113081, page 204, column 2:
      The common pursuit of Truth is of itself a brotherhood. [...] Surely, were each of us to give utterance to all he feels, we should hear the Chemist, the Astronomer, the Physiologist, the Electrician, the Botanist, the Geologist, all with one accord, and each in the language of his own science, declaring not only the wonderful works of God disclosed in it, but the delight which their disclosure affords him, and the privilege he feels it to be to have aided in it. This is indeed a magnificent induction—a consilience there is no refusing.
    • 1998, Edward O[sborne] Wilson, “To What End?”, in Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, New York, N.Y.: Knopf, →ISBN; 1st Vintage Books edition, New York, N.Y.: Vintage Books, April 1999, →ISBN:
      For centuries consilience has been the mother's milk of the natural sciences. Now it is wholly accepted by the brain sciences and evolutionary biology, the disciplines best poised to serve in turn as bridges to the social sciences and humanities. [] The central idea of the consilience world view is that all tangible phenomena, from the birth of stars to the workings of social institutions, are based on material processes that are ultimately reducible, however long and tortuous the sequences, to the law of physics.
    • 2012, Edward Slingerland; Mark Collard, “Introduction: Creating Consilience: Toward a Second Wave”, in Edward Slingerland and Mark Collard, editors, Creating Consilience: Integrating the Sciences and the Humanities, Oxford: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 4:
      [T]he call for consilience, which requires extending interdisciplinarity across the sciences/humanities divide, has, for the most part, been met with indifference or outright hostility by the majority of humanists.
    • 2019, Nicholas Aroney, “Originalism and Explanatory Power: Text, Structure and the Interpretation of Constitutions”, in Lisa Burton Crawford, Patrick Emerton, and Dale Smith, editors, Law under a Democratic Constitution: Essays in Honour of Jeffrey Goldsworthy, Oxford: Hart Publishing, Bloomsbury Publishing, →ISBN, page 106:
      The consilience of a theory – its coherent integration with other theories – is also a desirable attribute, for consilience between theories contributes to their explanatory power as a group. Consilience can occur when a relatively general theory provides a broad explanation of phenomena that coheres with more specific theories, or when a specific theory provides a particular explanation that coheres with the broader explanations of a more general theory.

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  1. ^ William Whewell (1840) , “Of the Logic of Induction”, in The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, Founded upon Their History. [...] In Two Volumes, volume II, London: John W[illiam] Parker, []; Cambridge: J. and J. J. Deighton, OCLC 1003958306, paragraph 4, page 230:
    Accordingly the cases in which inductions from classes of facts altogether different have thus jumped together, belong only to the best established theories which the hisory of science contains. And as I shall have occasion to refer to this peculiar feature in their evidence, I will take the liberty of describing it by a particular phrase; and will term it the Consilience of Inductions.
  2. ^ consilience, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1893; “consilience” in Lexico,; Oxford University Press.

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