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Unformatted text preview: Clarity in Language Definitions, Vagueness, and Ambiguity Phil 102 Introduction To Logic and Critical Thinking CSU, Chico Clarity Clarity is essential in language and logic Claims are made up of words and phrases Confusion is caused when the meaning of a claim lacks sufficient clarity. Clarity is the goal in language and logic! Definition Purposes Stipulative Explanatory Precising < Purpose is to clarify Rhetorical < Purpose is to express or influence attitudes rather than to clarify Stipulating Definitions Stipulating definitions are called for if an unusual or unfamiliar word is used, or if a brand new word is coined, or if a familiar word is being used in a new way "Operation Enduring Freedom" was the code name given to the military invasion of Iraq" "In PHIL 102 the word ,,valid has a narrow meaning-- ,,valid only pertains to arguments, referring to arguments whose form ensures that the conclusion will be true given the premises are also true." Precising Definitions Precising definitions are used to reduce vagueness and/or to eliminate ambiguity. "Only the poor will qualify for benefits. By "poor" I mean individuals with an annual income below $12,800, or families of four with an annual income below $18,975." Rhetorical Definitions The purpose of rhetorical definitions is to express or influence attitudes rather than to clarify. "The definition of "homeless person" is someone who is too lazy to work for a living." "Political liberty means first and foremost the social conditions necessary to allow this search for ones own moral or spiritual light." -Jacob Needleman, The American Soul Definition Types (forms) Definition by Example Definition by Synonym Analytical Definition Definition by Example Pointing to, naming, or describing one or more examples of something to which the defined term applies. 1. By "scripture" I mean books like the Koran or the Bible." 2. What I mean by "fiscal irresponsibility" is something like the Reagan presidency, when the national debt soared to unheard-of levels. Definition by Synonym Provides another word or phrase that means the same thing. 1. By "lubricous" I mean "slippery". 2. "Collateral damage" means "unintended civilian deaths". Analytical Definitions Well-formed analytical definitions always have two parts: 1) Specifies the type of thing being defined 2) Specifies what distinguishes the thing being defined from others of that type Ex. A "mouse" is a piece of computer equipment that is used to place the position of the cursor. Analytical definitions should be neither too broad or too narrow. Example "Activist" means pest. What is the purpose of this definition? What is the type (or form) of the definition? Exercise Create a well formed analytical definition of the word: "orange" (the edible kind!) Vagueness and Ambiguity Vague words and phrases words can be interpreted within a range of possible meaning. Ambiguous words and phrases can fairly be interpreted as having two or more distinct meanings. (not within a range) Context is critical Vagueness and Ambiguity Vague claims: "Susan will be home soon" "Everything on Sale, Up to 50% Off!" Ambiguous claims : "Susan is cold" "Susan saw the farmer with binoculars" "I could beat you with one club" Equivocation Equivocation occurs when within the context of an argument, one particular word or phrase is used in two different senses (or meanings) of the word. All 747's are planes All planes are woodworking tools All 747's are woodworking tools Ex. In this example, what word is ambiguous in meaning? Amphiboly Amphiboly occurs when an arguer misinterprets an ambiguous claim, and then draws a conclusion based upon this faulty interpretation. John told Henry that he had made a mistake. Therefore, it follows that John at least has the courage to admit his own mistakes. Ex. How is the first sentence ambiguous? ...
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- Spring '08