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the defining defintion paradox


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#1 phil1882

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 02:41 AM

if you define the word definition, have you achieved anything?  if you don't know what it means, defining the word doesn't help since you don't know what definition itself means. for example: dictionary.com defines definition as

the act of defining or making definite, distinct, or clear.
but how clear is this definition if you don't know what definition means?

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#2 bonanova

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 10:17 AM

Maybe in linguistics some notions stand in the same place that axioms do in geometry and math: they're not derivable from the rest of the stuff. Define and definition might be one such notion. It does have synonyms, like describe, expose, clarify,  that have more satisfactory dictionary meanings.

 

Define is what we say we're doing when we give the meaning of a word or idea. So the meaning of define has to come from some already agreed upon idea, or  else, as you point out, it becomes a bit circular.


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The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.
- Bertrand Russell




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