Difference between revisions of "Arguing by definition"

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Reality already is what it is; as aspiring rationalists, our task in thought and speech is to map it. You can't coerce reality by defining a word in a particular way. The fact that you've ''defined'' a word in a particular way can't teach you anything about the world, [[Beliefs require observations|only observations can]]. Therefore '''arguing by definition''' is futile. Worse still, the dictionary definition of a word doesn't even begin to capture the rich cognitive content that actually constitutes its meaning; the dictionary, defining a word in terms of other words, can only serve as a helpful pointer to what most people mean when they use a word. Better to keep the focus on the facts of the matter and trying to understand what your interlocutor is trying to communicate, then to get lost in a pointless discussion of definitions, bearing nothing.
 
 
Hardly any knowledge can be gained from arguing "by definition".
 
  
 
==Blog posts==
 
==Blog posts==
  
 
*[http://lesswrong.com/lw/nz/arguing_by_definition/ Arguing "By Definition"]
 
*[http://lesswrong.com/lw/nz/arguing_by_definition/ Arguing "By Definition"]
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*[http://lesswrong.com/lw/nf/the_parable_of_hemlock/ The Parable of Hemlock]
 
*[http://lesswrong.com/lw/vt/the_nature_of_logic/ The Nature of Logic]
 
*[http://lesswrong.com/lw/vt/the_nature_of_logic/ The Nature of Logic]
  

Revision as of 07:54, 19 November 2009

Reality already is what it is; as aspiring rationalists, our task in thought and speech is to map it. You can't coerce reality by defining a word in a particular way. The fact that you've defined a word in a particular way can't teach you anything about the world, only observations can. Therefore arguing by definition is futile. Worse still, the dictionary definition of a word doesn't even begin to capture the rich cognitive content that actually constitutes its meaning; the dictionary, defining a word in terms of other words, can only serve as a helpful pointer to what most people mean when they use a word. Better to keep the focus on the facts of the matter and trying to understand what your interlocutor is trying to communicate, then to get lost in a pointless discussion of definitions, bearing nothing.

Blog posts

See also