The March Philosophy Book of the Month is Final Notice by Van Fleisher. Discuss Final Notice now.
The April Philosophy Book of the Month is The Unbound Soul by Richard L. Haight. Discuss The Unbound Soul Now
The May Philosophy Book of the Month is Misreading Judas by Robert Wahler.
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All experience must include the bad with the good, otherwise, you will end up with what you see on television.
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Your plea may be true, but empirical studies made on this site prove the opposite of your claim, Synthesis.
- Burning ghost
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Converse with people who are philosophically productive.
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If the responder seems red hot, just play it cool, you might have missed something.
If the poster seems red hot, it remains true.
If you can help it, be a cool boi. Best discussion comes from a cooled tongue that can release hot knowledge and ideas, keeping its cool the while. As long as we play it cool, nobody gets offended and everything stays right in the world. Neato, see you later, intellectuals!
- Scruffy Nerf Herder
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Understanding and appreciating definitions is a huge part of having productive philosophical conversations.
What is a definition? What makes a definition good? What does it mean for a definition to be "wrong" or "right"? What kinds of definitions can there be? I'll tackle them in order and leave them up to any other interested parties to answer.
-A definition is a way of agreeing upon which connotations for a word are acceptable/useful in a given dialogue. There are different kinds of definitions, and in stark contrast to one popular belief it is not at all useful to be slavish to dictionary definitions and they are not the "right" definitions.
-A definition becomes good when it is useful. It is terribly context dependent, because language is this confusing quagmire and in all different situations where people communicate a variety of goals and expectations will come into play. E.g. a dictionary definition is important to understand because it facilitates understanding in conversations between people who aren't specifically working towards something with a common understanding in mind, "go get the spatula" is of course supposed to be very straightforward. However, that gets turned on its head when a situation comes up where two academics are sharpening themselves on one another with dialogue like "query: must all objects have properties"; dictionary definitions are not only a source of confusion but detrimental there.
-There is no hard rule for what is the wrong or right definition for something. A word is merely a sound and we supply the meaning, the same sound in another language can communicate entirely different ideas.
-When you break it down, the possible kinds of definitions are really diverse and quite fascinating.
*A real definition is the kind of definition that attempts to describe some concrete thing for what it is. These kinds of definitions can be quite elusive and often an exercise in futility (a real definition isn't useful in the case of this thread) because there are so many subjects that can't be broken down into concrete and tangible terms, e.g. "what is virtue".
By contrast where they really are put to good use is when everyone in a discussion is agreeing that "yes, that is a bar of gold".
*A dictionary definition is concerned with one or more primary ways in which a word is used in the common vernacular. Slang terms don't often end up in a dictionary because they simply aren't prevalent enough to have a reasonable possibility of being present in conversation virtually everywhere a language is in use.
*A stipulative definition is the most context dependent kind of definition as it is a hypothetical meaning being given for a word in order to illustrate something only within that particular discussion. Such a definition is often offered along these lines: "let's assume for the sake of discussion that all dogs are red, now if all dogs were red..."
*A descriptive definition is what it sounds like. It is any definition which is chiefly concerned with giving an adequate description of something.
Let's say we needed a definition for George Washington. A definition such as "George Washington was an American president" would be quite unfit for a discussion in which one participant was asking who George Washington was. There have been numerous American presidents over the span of several lifetimes.
What a perfectly descriptive definition needs is to be both extensional and intensional. For it to be extensional means that there must be no actual counterexamples, and for it to be intensional means that there must be no possible counterexamples either. Only certain things are capable of possessing a perfectly descriptive definition because having an intensional definition can turn out to be an astringent requirement.
I've neglected to mention the two other primary kinds of definitions because they are used in much more rarefied contexts.
The principle of charity:
From the wiki page on this principle-
"In philosophy and rhetoric, the principle of charity or charitable interpretation requires interpreting a speaker's statements in the most rational way possible and, in the case of any argument, considering its best, strongest possible interpretation. In its narrowest sense, the goal of this methodological principle is to avoid attributing irrationality, logical fallacies, or falsehoods to the others' statements, when a coherent, rational interpretation of the statements is available. According to Simon Blackburn "it constrains the interpreter to maximize the truth or rationality in the subject's sayings.""
This is a vastly underappreciated and underutilized principle. Making an effort to understand your interlocutors in the best possible light is not only courteous but it's absolutely essential for avoiding the ever present stagnation of such difficult discussions when you are working with viewpoints that are at odds. Naturally this involves avoiding red herrings, being inquisitive about the other's position and cultivating a habit of posing queries and opting for the Socratic Method as opposed to falling in love with your own propositions so much that you're only interested in leveling criticisms toward others.