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The Indescribable Debate


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10 replies to this topic

#1 bonanova

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 02:15 AM

Related to the idea of the Berry paradox 1, 2, consider this definition from Onelook.

Quick definitions (indescribable)
adjective: defying expression or description ("Indescribable beauty")

Suppose you are asked to debate the proposition:

"The word 'indescribable', being an adjective, necessarily describes something.
It is thus self-contradictory, lacking clear meaning, and should be removed from the language."


Would you choose the Affirmative or Negative position; and what would your argument be?

Have fun. wink.gif


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Vidi vici veni.


#2 mmiguel1

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 02:36 AM

Negative

Indescribable is a default characteristic that we resort to when we cannot describe the significant characteristics of an object through other means, or cannot do so without great difficulty.
It therefore serves a purpose and is useful enough to remain in our language.

It is not self-contradictory as a concept, because it is fairly easy to describe the meaning of "indescribable" which I did in the sentence above.
The concept "being indescribable" does not belong to the class of ideas which are indescribable.
What I mean is, that the word itself is not indescribable, just like the definition of a lie is not a lie. These words are used to describe OTHER ideas.


Looking at the actual prompt now:

"The word 'indescribable', being an adjective, necessarily describes something.
It is thus self-contradictory, lacking clear meaning, and should be removed from the language."

It does describe something, but the given definition in the OP is not specific enough.
The definition I gave above is specific enough to resolve any confusion or contradictions I believe.
Maybe someone can find a flaw though.

I don't think there is such a flaw for this word that cannot be discounted by a quick modification of the definitive description.

I would say that such modifications bring these approximative definitions closer to the true definition (that is the interpretation that most of society agrees upon).

Edited by mmiguel1, 08 March 2010 - 02:38 AM.

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#3 pennstate2323

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 03:32 AM

Affirmative:

The reason being is that by saying something is indescribable, you are describing it.

It also depends on the context. If you're trying to describe something that is a you had to be there joke or something, I would think that it would be pretty hard to describe, but it definately is not indescribable. Like I said, it depends on the context. Nothing is really indescribable. Maybe you just can't think of the words to express your thoughts, but that doesn't make it indescribable. But in describing it, you stop and say"It is just indescribable", obviously it is not.


EDIT: changed a word

Edited by pennstate2323, 08 March 2010 - 03:33 AM.

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#4 Melefus

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 05:48 AM

Is it possible that the word indescribables purpose is not to define itself and be contradictory, but to define the term it precedes. So if its saying the beauty is whats indescribable ,and not the word itself ,its not implying that the term "indescribable" cannot be expressed or described
,mainly saying that particular type of beauty could not be expressed or described. It simply a way to explain something that couldnt otherwise be put into word ^_^ I guess Im siding with the keep it argument otherwise without it stuff would be completely indescribable.
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#5 preflop

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 06:58 PM

Negative:

Irregardless if you removed it, people would still use it ;)
Then we would just have to add it back in because of usage!

But seriously, it does certainly have meaning. The way you used it in your example was not contradictory ("Indescribable beauty"). It was clear, you could not find words to describe the beauty. The thought would remain no matter how you phrase it. Now you would be contradictory if you phrased it like:
She had indescribable beauty, do to her full red lips and silky flowing black hair.
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Sent from my rotary dial phone.

#6 Izzy

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 09:21 PM

Negative.

Indescribable doesn't describe something which cannot be described. It's merely a hyperbole that exaggerates that complexity of whatever it is describing.

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#7 unreality

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 09:27 PM

sort of related: the "autological" paradox:

http://www.curiouser...rd.htm#continue


(and in case you want a list of possible words in either category check this out haha)
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#8 unreality

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 09:30 PM

as for the OP, I guess I would go with Affirmative. By using the word "indescribable", we are attempting to describe what was previously, well, indescribable ( :P ) and so it is no longer indescribable
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#9 Prime

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Posted 05 February 2013 - 07:13 PM

Negative.

Removing "indescribable" would leave an indescribable hole in the language. That would be double plus ungood.


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Past prime, actually.


#10 bonanova

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 11:19 PM

Negative.

Removing "indescribable" would leave an indescribable hole in the language. That would be double plus ungood.

 

I'm definitely on your side of the debate.

There is a vague hint of the liar's paradox tho that suggests the debate is undecidable.

 

Only for that reason, I am not marking it as solved.

 

e.g. should we leave the word in the dictionary but without a definition?

 

Indescribable: adj. [adding descriptive text would deny the word's meaning]


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Vidi vici veni.





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