Arguing by definition

From LessWrong
Jump to navigation Jump to search

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 redefining a word. 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