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Phil 224 - Oct 24th 2012.doc

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PHIL 224
George Williamson

Phth 224 October 24 2012 1 Definition and Counter-Example Importance of Definitions: Definitions are found all over in philosophy, doing much of the important conceptual work. Here’s three general jobs: 1. Definitions answer many of the basis philosophical questions.  Ex. What is ____? truth? knowledge? reality? 2. In arguments, definitions specify what your premises say about the world  this helps to decide the truth of your premises. 3. In arguments, definitions determine what your conclusion affects  helps decide the relevance of the argument. Rules for creating / evaluating definitions: 1. Don’t include accidental, non-essential features:  ex. Defining money as “green paper”. (Essential feature = true for all X; accidental feature = no necessarily true for all X)  you add in things that are coincidental  non-essential (accidental) vs. Essential features  philosophers: believe that there has to be an essential features to everything 2. Definitions establish logical equivalence: you should be able to substitute the definition for the term defined without loss of meaning.  Ex. Can replace ‘bachelor’ with ‘unmarried male’.  If you can think of a sentence that involves the term and replace the content for the term and it works, you have a good definition 3. Definitions can be more or less precise, but the degree of precision should be suitable to the subject matter.  Though to determine ultimately 4. Definitions should not include the term being defined:  ex. Definition = one expression that defines another.  Circular reasoning, circular definition  ex: sexual desire: desire for certain bodily pleasures 5. Definitions should be neither too broad or too narrow.  Broad: when you look at the field of objects and you discover there are things people would not count  narrow: criteria that only picks out a subset
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