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  1. #1
    Eudaimonia is offline Newbie
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    Default Defining words, can they be defined?

    I have been havig some trouble for quite some time gettig my head around how a word is defined.

    My question is this: If i have a word such as 'house', this can be definied in many ways so that there is no 'true' house, instead there is a myriad of definitions, all equally valid, and by this defiition, are all equally invalid untill they are proven. A proof may be given which has exceptions that break down the rule.

    So is there a 'correct' way to define words?
    they seem to be defined on other words, which themselves lack concrete definitions, does this contiue on untill we define all other words by one word; logos?

    I have also been trying to figure out how lawyers (i am not) use words as proofs, my example being,

    "this man is crazy"

    crazy can mean any number of things, for example it can mean, "beyond my comprehesion" or "different from political norms" or even disabled of the mind, or even hes fun to be around. each definition can be interpreted to mean any number of things which leads language to be very crude, and open to misuse/abuse and altered paradigms of the mind.
    so can words be defined?

    Any ideas would be great, or if there is a philosopher that has got ito the topic I would be greatful to know.




    ps: i know i used words to write this and this thread could mean any number of things but try be rational here

  2. #2
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Defining words, can they be defined?

    I'm no philosopher, but I had to something to do with definitions in my life.

    No, words of natural languages are not ultimately defined by one word. Try going on a trip around your dictionary. Take an entry, take one word from it. Look it up, then take another word from its definition. Look it up and so on. You will see that you can really go around sometimes, by which I mean that you can eventually find yourself back where you started. There are some philosophical approaches that prefer to use some undefined words though--the way you wanted it.

    Unfortunately, I have little idea about the way lawyers deal with this. I only know that they do it very strangely indeed sometimes, at least in my country.

  3. #3
    Coolfootluke is offline Member
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    Default Re: Defining words, can they be defined?

    I am not a teacher.

    You are talking about communication. There is a thought in my head. I form symbols that we have agreed upon hoping to recreate that thought in your head. Words mean what we agree they mean, but we agree only as much as we can. That we can communicate at all bespeaks a commonality of human perception and mental structure. My thoughts are your thoughts to begin with to some extent. No word is basic. No word is what it symbolizes. What is what it is is our humanity.

    Hey, I'm a philosopher!

  4. #4
    Eudaimonia is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Defining words, can they be defined?

    Thanks guys,

    sweet, if your a philosopher, lets try and figure this one out.

    So, i say a word is its definition.
    wait,
    is this logic in philosophy? why do they deduce logic paradigms in terms of algebra?


    I am a scientist, so 'one' to me is always going to be that of a singular entity in its nature.

    I guess, "is" is what could be part of it, how can, for example; words be used to accuse someone of being guilty? when they themsleves are vague? where is the grounding in this premise?

    Also i am referring somewhat to "Godels" break down of logic, and how can this be interpreted in the scheme of living?
    (if you dont know what i am talking about look at Godels work on infinite loops in computing, and how they represent a break down in "principia mathimatica")


    really, to me, words seem a sack of sH17 in terms of being a "basis set". yet is there an under-pining basis set that language obeys,
    yes there is, do we know it?

    or, is it all conjecture and opinion? which personally, if the awnser is yes, is a fundamental flaw,(and needs addressing)

    Is this flaw acknowedged in english linguistics or in the "nature of language"?

    (and by flaw i mean OUR own understanding of the ethine)

  5. #5
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Defining words, can they be defined?

    Please, use capital letters. Your post is difficult to read.
    Quote Originally Posted by Eudaimonia View Post
    So, i say a word is its definition.
    wait,
    is this logic in philosophy?

    why do they deduce logic paradigms in terms of algebra?
    You're confusing things. Algebraic approach to logic has very little to do with dictionaries. Dictionaries are meant to be useful, so they can't leave undefined words, which is the only way of removing circularity from definitions.

    Algebraic logic is a branch of mathematics. The question, "Why do they deduce logic paradigms in terms of algebra?" (which is actually only partly true) doesn't belong here, as this is a linguistic forum. This question is also barely related to the original one, unless you have a good reason to think otherwise. But then you should make your reason clear. This is also a broad topic, best answered by a good book. (And the same applies to your original question.)
    I am a scientist, so 'one' to me is always going to be that of a singular entity in its nature.
    Very good.
    I guess, "is" is what could be part of it, how can, for example; words be used to accuse someone of being guilty? when they themsleves are vague? where is the grounding in this premise?
    Words aren't useless even though we sometimes do not know how to define them. This just proves that non-circular definitions aren't necessary. We cannot have such definitions and we know it, so we do what we have always done: use natural language in the good old vague manner. I understand that you were referring to the verb "to be". This is a perfect example. We don't need to define the verb to use it. Few people would say they are certain what the "correct definition" of "to be" is. But everybody uses it and our society works pretty well.
    Also i am referring somewhat to "Godels" break down of logic, and how can this be interpreted in the scheme of living?
    (if you dont know what i am talking about look at Godels work on infinite loops in computing, and how they represent a break down in "principia mathimatica")
    You're being very vague yourself now. How do you refer somewhat to Godels? Where is the reference? Again, these questions are unrelated to the original one, unless you provide a good reason for their being related.

    What's a scheme of living? It doesn't seem to be a scientific term and it means very little to me. I'm guessing you could have meant, "How can Godel's work be used to help understand the reality?" or "How is Godel's work relevant to our lives?" The answer to the last question is, "Not very much." Godel's work gave a great boost to mathematical logic, that's all. We understood a lot thanks to him, but mostly in the field of mathematics, not in the field of our daily labour.

    really, to me, words seem a sack of sH17 in terms of being a "basis set". yet is there an under-pining basis set that language obeys,
    yes there is, do we know it?
    This is incomprehensible to me. We have basis sets in linear algebra, not in linguistics, at least to my knowledge. When you're creating new terms, you have to explain very carefully what you want them to mean.
    or, is it all conjecture and opinion? which personally, if the awnser is yes, is a fundamental flaw,(and needs addressing)
    The answer to the question, "Is it all conjecture or opinion?" cannot be "yes". It must be either "conjecture" or "opinion". Also, the question itself is not clear. What's "it all"?

    Is this flaw acknowedged in english linguistics or in the "nature of language"?
    If you mean the flaw of circularity, then yes, it is widely known and acknowledged. Yes, it's in the very nature of natural languages.
    (and by flaw i mean OUR own understanding of the ethine)
    Ethine?
    Last edited by birdeen's call; 11-Feb-2011 at 11:16.

  6. #6
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Defining words, can they be defined?

    Eudaimonia: is it all conjecture and opinion? which personally, if the awnser is yes, is a fundamental flaw,(and needs addressing)

    I: The answer to the question, "Is it all conjecture or opinion?" cannot be "yes". It must be either "conjecture" or "opinion". Also, the question itself is not clear. What's "it all"?

    I'm sorry, I obviously misread your question.

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