Saturday, December 14, 2013

More rhetorical flourishes: "It's not a (blank), it's a (blank)."

This is a very popular rhetorical flourish in some circles. "It's not a religion, it's a relationship." "It's not a democracy, it's a republic." "I'm not a Christian, I'm a follower of Christ." "It's not a bug, it's a feature." In most cases, this does not say anything at all about what they are arguing and instead means that they have secret, special definitions attached to those words that are somehow meaningful to their argument but which are not the common, everyday meanings. I find the most useful thing to do is to ask what those words mean to them and what they are trying to say with this statement.

Playing with definitions is not a terribly interesting thing to do in philosophy - at least, not in this way. If there are "standard" definitions, use those. If there are not, pay attention to what definitions are being used and where, as otherwise you will not be sure what you are saying. But arguing about the definitions does not get you anywhere when you are making your own statements.

Of course, this is not a blog, it is a web-log. I am not bending on that one.