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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Using the Dictionary

There are some debating strategies that are a sign that your opponent has nothing of value to add anymore. I discussed one before here where I made the argument that grammar is useless to bring up in a debate. A debate is not an English class, it is a debate, it is supposed to be a battle of ideas. Mentioning to your opponent that he has bad grammar or spelling instead of addressing his ideas is the same as not making any response back to him.

But there is another debating tactic that is just as useless. That is the use of a dictionary. I never do this but I seen other people do this often. Especially on YouTube because I like to watch arguments that people sometimes have over one another on YouTube. It is often that I see one of the people in a video take out a dictionary or link up to a website which has a dictionary and say that his opponent is wrong because he is using the wrong definition.

There is no such thing as a right or wrong definition. The entire point of definitions is to make arguments easier to follow. One can, if one is truly mad, ignore all the definitions, and just have all arguments which use only the premises. But this often gets very difficult in many discussions, especially complex ones. So definitions are used to simplify arguments. Definitions are not really necessary within an argument. They are only used to make ourselves easier to understand. Thus, there is no such thing as a right or wrong definition. Definitions should rather be determined by their usefullness. For example, let us say I define "crocoduck" to be a hybrid between a crodocile and a duck then this definition is utterly useless. It is not wrong, but it is useless because it will never come up in any sound argument since there are no crocoducks.

Definitions should be judged instead by how useful they are to have. One of the things I started noticing is that there are certain words that the masses define in a useless manner or lack to have any good definition for. For example, the word "racism". I have struggled to understand what this word means. Never been able to figure it out. Until one day I realized that the definition people use is useless. So I entirely rejected the mainstream definition of racism and I made my own. (If you are interested you can read this).

There are other words whose my definitions differ from the definitions of the masses. All what I do is simply reject the mainstream definition and use that very same word to define what I want to define. (For instance, I reject God, and make myself one).

Perhaps, my re-defining approach will be more appreciated by those who read math books. If you open up two math books on topology, for example, you are almost certain that a lot of their terminology (and notation) will differ from one another. There can be some definitions in one book which are theorems in another, while these very theorems are the definitions in this other book. Or in other cases the definitions may actually be a little distinct. But in the end both of these books are correct. They just approach the subject a little bit differently. And it is okay to use any approach that you use from the book of your choice. There is no absolute way of writing such a math book.

The same should be among all discussions among people. Whenever people use terms they may have differences with, they would simply define their terms and stick to what they mean. From there they form their arguments. But to use the dictionary as an absolute measure of what a word means feels like there is an absolutely correct definition - which there is not. Thus, I say, those who use dictionaries in debates are nothing but alchemists of argumentation.

You should learn from me. I am a master-debator.


  1. I have seen letters to the editor published in various media, including The Washington Post, in which people have cited dictionary definitions as controlling legal authorities.

  2. "I have seen letters to the editor published in various media, including The Washington Post, in which people have cited dictionary definitions as controlling legal authorities.":

    Hello, I really like your username.

    But I do not care about what legal authorities choose as a definition of a word. That does not make it right or wrong. Remember that what is legal is not necessarily correct. I care about what is true and what is not, I have very little interest in politics.