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Definist Fallacy

(also known as: persuasive definition fallacy, redefinition)

Description: Defining a term in such a way that makes one’s position much easier to defend.

Logical Form:

A has definition X.

X is harmful to my argument.

Therefore, A has definition Y.

Example #1:

Before we argue about the truth of creationism, let’s define creationism as, “The acceptance of a set of beliefs even more ridiculous than those of flat-earthers.”

Example #2:

Before we argue about the truth of creationism, let’s define evolution as, “Faith in a crackpot theory that is impossible to prove with certainty.”

Explanation: It should be clear by the two examples who is defending what position.  Both arguers are taking the opportunity to define a term as a way to take a cheap shot at the opponent.  In some cases, they might actually hope their definition is accepted, which would make it very easy to defend, compared to the actual definition.

Exception: When a definition used is really an accurate definition from credible sources, regardless of the damage it might do to a position.

Tip: Do not accept definitions put forth by the opponent unless you researched your definition on your own, and agree.

References:

Bunnin, N., & Yu, J. (2008). The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy. John Wiley & Sons.



Registered User Comments

Krista Neckles
Friday, June 22, 2018 - 08:56:11 PM
Excuse Sir,

What fallacy is this:

"There is no such thing as laziness". This statement is absurd but I want to know what fallacy this lies under.

Thank you,

Krista Neckles

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Saturday, June 23, 2018 - 06:55:36 AM
It's just a claim.

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Krista Neckles
Saturday, June 23, 2018 - 01:18:54 PM
Oh thank you.

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Monte
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 - 10:20:55 PM
It seems to me, this is a definist fallacy.

Scientific findings are limited to what can be supported with evidence from the natural world.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - 01:08:56 AM
That is more of an aspect of the term than a definition. The phrase “are limited to” indicates that. Besides, methodological naturalism is a vital part of science, so even if this were a strict definition, it would be accurate.

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Monte
Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - 08:29:54 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: It's just "my definition trumps your definition, so go away."

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - 08:35:59 AM
@Monte: Again, "Scientific findings are limited to what can be supported with evidence from the natural world." is not a definition. At best it is a claim being made. Now that claim could be true or false. Being a scientist, I know that the claim is true, because science does not deal with the "supernatural," because there is no way to test such claims. But to your original question, this is just not an example of this fallacy.

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Mandi
Monday, November 27, 2017 - 05:03:54 AM
Seems that this one would be a unique type of Straw Man, no?

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Monday, November 27, 2017 - 05:07:35 AM
Yes. But instead of an argument one never made, it's a definition to which one never agreed.

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