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On Definitions... of definitions...

Daktoria
Posts: 497
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8/31/2013 3:54:45 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
A lot debates boil down to how words are defined, but then those definitions use words which still have to be defined.

How do you avoid getting into a definition spiral?

I'm asking this for two situations in particular:

1) Someone can make a reliable definition, but is still asked to define how the definition is defined.

2) Normal conclusions from reliable definitions can be wrong, so when someone comes to an abnormal conclusion, someone is assumed to be using unreliable definitions. This is backwards reasoning, but in debate, backwards reasoning often wins because it consumes attention span.
FREEDO
Posts: 21,057
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8/31/2013 4:11:48 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Definitions can never truly exist as objective rulers. But they are treated as such for practical purposes. The more you invoke definitions of definitions, the more you dissolve that utility. So it is simply good debate ethics to avoid doing that.

In reality, words only form their true meaning through emotional understanding. All words in the dictionary are defined using other words in the dictionary. It is circular. Ultimately, all meaning arises out of general feelings we get. So a "cloud" of meaning always exists, even without definitions. Definitions are used to solidify the cloud.

But there is no practical purpose to addressing the situation as it actually is. For debate, we play a sort of game with ourselves in which we pretend that our terms can truly be defined. But in the back of our minds we must agree not to plunge too far into it.

The same scenario applies to all forms of "objective" logic.
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fnord
Daktoria
Posts: 497
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8/31/2013 8:52:46 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I kind of worry about that because you don't know what judges find to be practical, useful, or emotional in advance of experience.

It rather randomizes the nature of debate.
FREEDO
Posts: 21,057
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9/1/2013 9:03:48 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/31/2013 8:52:46 PM, Daktoria wrote:
I kind of worry about that because you don't know what judges find to be practical, useful, or emotional in advance of experience.

It rather randomizes the nature of debate.

It is utterly and completely random. Order is a game we play.

But I think it's pretty fun. Doesn't worry me.
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fnord
Daktoria
Posts: 497
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9/2/2013 3:18:26 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
Eh... you like playing bingo?

Debate's value comes from skill, not luck. If you like the randomness, you could just as well try to call coin-flips. :-\
FREEDO
Posts: 21,057
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9/2/2013 7:05:53 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Not what I mean by randomness. Order arises out of disorder. And disorder arises out of order.
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fnord
daytonanerd
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9/2/2013 7:09:44 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 9/2/2013 7:05:53 PM, FREEDO wrote:
Not what I mean by randomness. Order arises out of disorder. And disorder arises out of order.

Don't listen to FREEDO. This is just his excuse for crushing the USDDO.
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Ragnar
Posts: 1,658
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9/2/2013 10:42:27 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Actually a related question I have... What is the policy on definitions provided after the start of the debate? I've seen some people insist anything not defined can be defined as whatever they want; which seems stupid to me.
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donald.keller
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9/2/2013 11:48:11 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 9/2/2013 10:42:27 PM, Ragnar wrote:
Actually a related question I have... What is the policy on definitions provided after the start of the debate? I've seen some people insist anything not defined can be defined as whatever they want; which seems stupid to me.

Something like that would be impractical. If you use an undefined word that comes into question, you need to properly define it. If you can't Properly define the word in a way that reflects what you mean , than use different words.

Only use words that reflects your implication. You mean to define words by either Dictionary or Latin Roots. An example would be Homophobia. The dictionary defines it differently than what it's Latin Roots define it as.

A debate should NEVER be won though simple and cheap wordplay.
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RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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9/26/2013 2:55:02 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
If a word essential to the understanding of a resolution is not defined as part of the challenge, then the dictionary definition that best fits the context is the one that has to be used throughout the debate. There is no other rule that makes sense. If either the Instigator or the Challenger can change definitions, then it's possible to win any debate by changing the words to mean something easy to prove or disprove.

The best way to avoid disputes over meaning is post enough information in the challenge to make the challenge clear. The instigator can describe the situation that brings up the resolution, provide some quotes about the topic, or reference a web article about the subject. A recent debate deplored "scootering" without defining the term. The instigator turned out to mean using scooters as a means of transportation, but scootering is also slang for 20+ men dating high school girls. "Scootering is not in the dictionary in the sense it was intended.

Another problem is that words have different meanings when used by specialists. "Hyper-modern" in chess means from the late 1800s. "Modern" architecture is a style from the 1950s. "Class" for Marx was owners v. laborers, whereas most commonly today it is rich v. poor or even royalty v. commoner. Specialized use is called "jargon." The problem is that often it is not in ordinary dictionaries. The instigator has the obligation to give the definitions of jargon, and if he allows confusion it is his fault.

One of the most common semantic arguments arises from "atheist" meaning "not having a belief in God" vs. "atheist" meaning "denying that God exists." Atheists prefer the "not having a belief." That includes Buddhists adopting the teaching, "It is not worthwhile to consider the question of whether or not God exists." Theists tend to prefer the "denying" definition. In one debate here, an atheist explicitly gave the "not having a belief" definition in the challenge, and he was nonetheless voted down on the basis of voters adopting the "denying" definition. The Instigator gave the definition in the challenge, but he didn't drive it home with examples and citations.

Throughout the debate, it's the obligation of whoever introduces terminology to provide a definition if the standard dictionary definitions does not apply.
lannan13
Posts: 23,078
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9/26/2013 4:25:12 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I go into the definitions debate all the time if it helps me win, heck I'd debated the US and won the debate that way.
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wrichcirw
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9/26/2013 5:20:56 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 9/2/2013 10:42:27 PM, Ragnar wrote:
Actually a related question I have... What is the policy on definitions provided after the start of the debate? I've seen some people insist anything not defined can be defined as whatever they want; which seems stupid to me.

I would say that if it's not defined at the start of the debate, then the definitions become debatable. =)
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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9/27/2013 1:46:03 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 9/26/2013 5:20:56 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 9/2/2013 10:42:27 PM, Ragnar wrote:
Actually a related question I have... What is the policy on definitions provided after the start of the debate? I've seen some people insist anything not defined can be defined as whatever they want; which seems stupid to me.

I would say that if it's not defined at the start of the debate, then the definitions become debatable. =)

I guess anything can be debated. The resolution is the same: unless defined when introduced, it is the common meaning that best fits the context of the usage. The word "set" has over a hundred common meanings, in ordinary speech the context easily identifies which meaning is being used.