Definitions and concepts

Dissident1's picture

When you are speaking to someone, it is not wrong to use any manner of terminology to express concepts and ideas, just so long as there is an agreed upon definition of what those terms represent. Frequently, however, people use terms without having any idea of what they are actually saying.

A fascinating experiment that proves this fact can be accomplished anytime with virtually anyone. Take a simple term that is used fairly widely, and when you hear someone express themselves by using that term, ask them to explain it.

Take, for instance, the term "stupid". I hear people all the time talking about someone who was so stupid, or actions that they deemed to be stupid. Yet, when asked to define what "stupid" means, they are completely dumbfounded.

The word, of course, has a definitive meaning. It is commonly misassociated with the word "dumb". However, the term "stupid" comes to us from the latin term stupidere, which means "one without words". It's evolved meaning in present-day speech associates it with dull-witted or senselessness. Dumb, on the other hand, has to do with the inability to speak.

To be capable of defining your terms means that you are able to actively express yourself, rather than relaying the impressions of others. Yet, more and more, it seems that people have a tendancy to merely repeat the phrases that others have stated under similar circumstances. It's like a bunch of little toddlers running around like mockingbirds imitating each other.

To my eye, it shows the way that so many have determined that they desire to have others do their thinking for them. Perhaps they are saying something to the effect of "don't interrupt my life by making me live it!"

If you cannot define your terms, you really ought not use them. If you are calling someone "stupid" because you have no other terms that you can consider, than you really are one without words. And that makes you "stupid" indeed.

I am become death, destroyer of worlds

Hambydammit's picture

I am glad someone else has

I am glad someone else has expressed the frustration I feel on a day to day basis.

One of the reasons this happens so much on these forums is that it is necessary for Christians to use two meanings interchangeably, or to use nebulous definitions in order to make their points seem logical.

Of course, "faith" is the most abused word on RRS, but there are so many others. Many times, cultural bias enters into the picture. For instance, when I used the word "segregation" recently -- in its dictionary sense, the person responding to my post used a different definition which carried social stigma. Therefore, anything that is segregated would seem bad to him, when in fact, in my brain, it is just a term for separating things based on some criteria. In the dictionary, it is a neutral word, yet we couldn't come to an agreement because we were typing the same word and thinking different things.

I try to remember not to assume other people agree on my definitions, but I often forget. Thanks for the reminder!



Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin
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