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SBTT Word Of The Week (or in this case word of the month..) - Mar.22.09Views: 936
Mar 22, 2009 9:43 pmSBTT Word Of The Week (or in this case word of the month..) - Mar.22.09#

Tim Southernwood
Word of the Week


1. compatible; potentially consistent, as with another statement, theory, etc.
2. able to exist or happen together.

It derives from the Latin compossibilis, and entered the English dictionary in the early 1600s. The word was created in the Late Latin period, just before Latin became Old French, the source of the English word. It is composed of com- "(together) with + possibilis "possible". The prefix com- in Latin is a variant of the preposition cum "(together) with", as in graduating cum laude "with praise (honors)". Look out for com- because the final M changes depending on the consonant it is connected to. That is it in con-demn, cor-rect, and col-lect. Possibilis is based on the modal verb posse "can, able to". The verb is related to potis "able, capable" from an earlier form meaning "strong, powerful". This explains the meaning of potent and potential, both based on the Latin word. The same root went into the making of Greek posis "husband" and Persian pasha from Old Persian pati- "master".

Compossibility is a philosophical concept from Leibniz, for whom the various possible, but mutually contradictory, worlds can coexist—are compossible—within the mind of God.[citation needed].

Alain Badiou borrows this concept in defining philosophy as the creation of a "space of compossibility" for heterogeneous truths.

Gilles Deleuze uses it in Cinema II taking support from Leibniz's explanation of the futures contingents. He then creates the notion of in-compossible, and drawing on Jorge Luis Borges explains that several mutually contradictory worlds do exist in fact.

The word itself, if not the concept, won some notoriety for being marked for elimination from the Collins dictionary.

Tim Southernwood

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