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The argument from dictionary

The argument from dictionary

The argument from a dictionary is a logical fallacy and happens when someone's argument is based, in a problematic way, on the definition of a particular term as it appears in a dictionary. The problem with these arguments:

  • Dictionaries are descriptive, meaning that they attempt to describe how people use the language. It is not prescriptive in that it instructs them how to do so in a definitive manner.
  • Dictionaries don't always reflect the meaning of words as they're used by people.
  • Different dictionaries can list different definitions for a given term, and may even have several definitions for the same word.

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When responding to appeals to definition, it is useful to know the terms denotation, which is the literal meaning of a word, and connotation, which is a feeling the word evokes beyond its denotation.

  • Reportive definitions aim to accurately capture the meaning of a term as it's ordinarily used.
  • Precising definitions add relevant criteria to a reportive definition to make it more precise for a specific purpose.
  • Stipulative defini...

The structure and use of dictionaries have changed as new technologies developed.

"We should ignore the theory of evolution because the dictionary says that a theory is just an opinion that you have about something you can't prove."

Not every use of a definition is necessarily fallacious. If the definition is properly justified and is selected in a properly justified way, it is generally not fallacious. However, it is fallacious when at least one of the following conditions are true:

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These fallacies are techniques of avoidance factors that people will use when they think they have leverage over you, and that they are better or hold power over you. The narcissistic form of dissonance here is a way of belittling your interpersonal attempts. The saddest part is that people don't do this to others, because they would lose the respect in the regular world. They will only express these types of actions towards those who are in a position of vulnerability and handicap. It projects weakness's inside their character, and shows you where by what they choose to act upon.

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