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Unit 2: Meaning and Definition

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Laura Byrne

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Critical Thinking (PHI 1101 C) – Unit 2: Meaning and Definition The sense of a word is what we understand when we understand the meaning. It is specified by a dictionary definition. For example, the sense of the word bachelor is an unmarried male. Sense is also sometimes called connotation or intension. The reference of a term is the class of things to which the word refers; the things to which the concept points. For example, the reference of the word bachelor is the class of bachelors who exist in the universe now, and who will exist in the past and future. There are three main types of definition: 1) Reportive definition reports a word in its standard usage (how the words is, in fact, used by those who make regular use of it; how the word is used by competent speakers of the language) For example, impious is not believing in god or the gods. 2) Stipulative definition is used when a meaning for a word in its standard usage is either not precise enough or as yet, has no term for a phenomenon. For example spam can either be edible or electronic. These definitions are intended to establish a new or restricted meaning for a term; as such, they cannot be faulted for failing to convey standard usage. 3) Essentialist definition “What is justice?” “What is love?” There is no definite answer, just speculation. These definitions are intended to describe the essential nature of something; there is no guarantee that the standard usage of a term will reflect a correct understanding of its essence. A good reportive definition will accurately describe the actual standard usage of the term. There are several ways in which a reportive definition can fai
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