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On Definition

On Definition

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Published by: Mark Nel Makoi on Apr 18, 2013
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On Definition: A Lecture in Logic

© 2013 Mark Nel R. Venus, College of St. John

DEFINITION IS A STATEMENT that gives the meaning of a term or explains what a term means. As it clarifies the limits by which a word or term should be used and understood, definition helps eliminate confusion and ambiguity in the use of terms, thereby minimizing, if not totally eradicating, misunderstanding and misconception in communication. Definition comprises two elements: the definiendum or the term to be defined; and the definiens or the defining term. In the definition, ―Mathematics is the study of the relationships among numbers, shapes, and quantities,‖ Mathematics is the definiendum and the study of the relationships among numbers, shapes, and quantities is the definiens. 4 Main Types of Definition 1. Nominal definition or ‗definition by name‘ simply conveys what the term means, not what the thing is. Kinds of Nominal Definition a. Etymological definition gives the root word, derivation, or origin of a term. Examples: Philosophy (philia, love; Sophia, wisdom) is love of wisdom. Agoraphobia (―agora‖, open space; ―phobia‖, fear) is the fear of open or public spaces. Transport (“trans‖, across; ―portare‖, to carry) means, ―to carry across‖. Pantheism (―pan‖, all; ―theos‖, God; ―ismos‖, system of belief) is thebelief that God is everything and everything is God. b. Synonymous definition gives theequivalent word (which is usually the better known or more common) of the term being defined. Example: Novice means ―beginner.‖ Aficionado means ―enthusiast‖. Crimson means ―red‖. c. Biverbal definition gives the translation of the term in another language. Example:

For instance. A. limomeans limousine. A boxing trainer may try to answer the question. Denotative definition or definition by example elucidates the meaning of a term by mentioning or showing its referent/s. hippo means hippopotamus. deli means delicatessen. Ex: If someone asks. Kinds of Descriptive definition a. Enumerative definition is done by naming the referents of the term. Scientific. b. A bundok is a ―mountain‖. scuba is self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.zoo means zoological garden.Vox populi means ―voice of the people‖. contractions. Descriptive definition elucidates the meaning of a term by citing the essential or accidental characteristics of the referent/s of the term. “What is a fruit?” and we answer by saying. The mango is a fruit. couldn‟t means could not. LA is Los Angeles. bus means omnibus. is absent without official leave. means saint or street. Distinctive definition mentions the property of a thing that emanates from its essence or unique trait. taxi means taxicab. UNESCO is United Nations Educational. “The apple is a fruit. like ―Pres.L.means doctor.W. St. laserislight amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. initialisms. a teacher may explain the meaning of a ―laptop‖ by bringing one and showing it to the class. and Cultural Organization. didn‟t means did not. Examples: Contractions Dr. Proper names.O. means kilometer. Obama‖ may also be defined ostensively. Kinds of Denotative Definition a. Demonstrative definition or ostensive definition explicates the meaning of a term by showing or pointing at the object. a. and acronyms. bike means bicycle. is ante meridiem Examples: Acronyms AIDS is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Caveat means ―warning or proviso‖. means continued. we‟ve means we have.) Examples: Shortenings cont. The guava is a fruit. d. 2. Examples: Initialisms CSI is Crime Scene Investigation.m.” 3. Definition by full form gives the word or group of words represented by abbreviation (shortenings. . km. The orange is a fruit. ―What does „left hook‟ mean?” by executing it.

A solar eclipse happens when the moon is between the sun and the earth and its shadow moves across the face of the earth. and the specific difference orthe thing‘s essential property that distinguishes it from other members of the same class. Dictionary is a reference book of word meanings or equivalents. S. Exercise is an activity undertaken to enhance general physical health. then shaping and baking the bread.Ex: Man can have sense of humor. H20 can take the solid. and an extract from tropical kola nuts. c. e. kneading. Definition by efficient cause gives the maker or producer of a thing. (Ability to see something as funny is a property of man. . Inc. which arises from his being rational). and gas state of matter. Pepsi-Cola (Pepsi) is a mixture of carbonated water. The car is yellow. Tsunami is a large ocean wave caused by an underwater earthquake or another movement of the Earth's surface. cane-sugar syrup. Genetic definition explains how a thing originated or depicts how something is produced. The Bible was written by God‘s selected servants through His commissioning and inspiration. Examples: The house has three bathrooms. Definition by final cause declares the purpose or end of which a thing is produced. It has two elements: thegenus or the property that a thing has in common with its co-members in the same class. Examples: School is an institution for teaching students. Examples: Nike. d. b. Candies are made by a confectioner. liquid. Lewis. was founded by former track athlete Philip Knight and his college coach William Bowerman. Kobe Bryant has tattoos. Accidental definition explains a thing by stating its contingent or unessential characteristics. The Chronicles of Narnia was written by C. Example: Yeast breads are made by mixing. 4. and rising the dough. Connotative definition or essential definition provides the nature or essential characteristics of the referents denoted by a term. Examples: Octagon is a polygon with eight sides. A calculator is a device used to compute arithmetic operations. A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth is between the sun and the moon and its shadow darkens the moon.

strong winds. On the other hand. 2. The following are some rules in making a connotative definition: 1.--William Wantling (1933 . otherwise.1894) Dreams are cages within which we observe the cages without. which are different from typhoon. In defining terms. Same is the case of A basketball player is a point guard for it excludes basketball players who are playing other positions. The definition.) A blue book is a book that is blue.(Circularity can be avoided by saying A player is somebody taking part in a sport game.--William Carlos Williams (1883 . and other forms of martial arts. ambiguous. Examples: A player is one who plays.1974) Beauty is a shell from the sea where she rules triumphant till love has had its way with her. The definition must neither be too broad nor too narrow. Rules of a Good Connotative Definition Connotative definition is very much useful in logic because it is a definition. A guitar is a stringed musical instrument is also too broad definition because many musical instruments other than guitar are also stringed. (An answering machine is a phone recording device that plays a message to callers and records messages from them. perplexing and highly theoretical explanations.Blizzard is a storm characterized by extreme cold. which alone gives the essential meaning of a term. (In the United States. the definition Martial Arts are Korean Tae Kwon Do is too narrow as it excludes Aikido. The definition should not be expressed in obscure. Karate. are also violent storms.--Thornton Wilder (1897 1975) Science is a first-rate piece of furniture for a man's upper chamber.) A green card is a card that is green. if he has common sense on the ground floor.A typhoon is a violent storm is too broad since hurricane and blizzard. The defining term must be equivalent to the term being defined.) A cookbook is a book for cooking. (It is a blank notebook used in schools for writing examination answers.) 3.--Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 .) An answering machine is a machine that answers. and a heavy snowfall. must be avoided. a green card is an identity card and work permit issued to nationals of other countries. as well as subjective judgments. Judo. the definition gives little or no information at all and thus fails in its purpose to explain the meaning of a term.1963) . Definition should not be circular. It helps eliminate ambiguity and it reduces the vagueness of the term in its essential attributes. The definition must be stated in univocal and simple terms. Examples: Figurative definitions: Marriage is a bribe to make the housekeeper think she's a householder. (Better: A cookbook is a book containing recipes and directions for preparing food. The term being defined should not be contained in the defining term. or figurative language.

Friendship is a disinterested commerce between equals. and what we call simple sensations are results of discriminative attention. To define basketball as ―a ballgame that is neither volleyball nor football‖ is obviously to fail to explain its meaning. K. aside from volleyball and football.--William James (1842 .1900) Love is the difficult realization that something other than oneself is real.1778) Philosophy [is] living voluntarily among ice and high mountains—seeking out everything strange and questionable in existence.1831) Reason is…an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.1774) Obscure definitions: Life is our reaction to the basic insecurity which constitutes its substance. Long is the opposite of short. Chesterton (1874 . Moral is that which is not immoral. W.--G.1936) Subjective definitions: Death is my neighbour now. according to their particular situations and relations.1910) Consciousness is thoroughgoing dialectical restlessness. A ball pen is neither a pencil nor a chalk. the definition must be in the affirmative form for it must explain what a term meansrather than what it does not.g. Said a week before her death) Happiness [is] a good bank account. The definition should not be needlessly negative. Negative definition. Other examples: A male is not a female. whose differences collapse into oneness. love.1976) (British actor. which carries us along a certain train of ideas. F. pushed often to a very high degree. a good cook.--G.1955) Reason is…a wonderful and unintelligible instinct in our souls. this melee of presentations derived from sense and thought. everything so far placed under a ban by morality. Notice too that there are many other kinds of ballgame. are accepted for terms whose meaning are necessarily negative (e.--José Ortega y Gasset (1883 . and endows them with particular qualities.1963) 4. – Oliver Goldsmith (1730 . which are not meant by the termbasketball. a good digestion. Hegel (1770 .) .1776) Consciousness… is of a teeming multiplicity of objects and relations. As much as possible.1999) Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and instead of bleeding he sings.--attributed to Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 . nonetheless.--Edith Evans (1888 . A deaf is someone who cannot hear.--David Hume (1711 .Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844 . -. Infinity is a state of being which is without limits) and when the terms refer to a privation (e. an abject intercourse between tyrants and slaves. --Ed Gardner (1904 .g.--Iris Murdoch (1919 .

explain why this topic (about definition) is important. 2. In not more than two (2) sentences. to be submitted to your professor). Give an example for each kind of definition discussed in the lecture (yellow paper. .ACTIVITIES: 1.

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