Over time, literary critics have ravaged the symbols we need to discuss epistemology and other elemental problems of rational discourse. As things now stand, ambiguous terminology confronts us at every turn. Even the simplest word, such as ‘reason’, is loaded with contradictory and/or inappropriate uses. To conduct a fruitful inquiry into the roots of sound rational thinking, I stipulate several definitions and make a concerted effort to apply them consistently.
Presenting appropriate definitions and using them as defined is a daunting task. To design definitions that fit the case and to use terms according to the defined meaning requires work but the result is worth the effort.
To keep definitions clear and fitting expands understanding. Take, for instance, the term ‘knowledge’. The definition of knowledge used in this study is somewhat different from numerous formal definitions, and yet in listening to the way people actually use the word, it fits conventional English usage better than many academic definitions.
Developing stipulated definitions in a well-connected set is a distinct way of doing philosophy. It would be easy if more did it because, over time, the best (most appropriate) definitions would come to the top and be readily accessible. As skills matured, people would develop a taste for the clarity that goes with well formed definitions. But since this technique is not used on a regular basis, the opposite has occurred and now it is extremely difficult to locate philosophical definitions that actually fit with educated commonsense and sound rational thinking, especially in the field of elemental rational theory.
Dictionary definitions record the general usage of terms and often present more than one definition per term. Dictionary definitions are valuable although exceptions sometimes occur in philosophical terms when dictionaries garner a selection from various philosophers. In this case the result can be inappropriate or confusing. When this happens, a writer, who wishes to be clear and who wishes to use a specific meaning throughout a given discourse will stipulate a definition. Usually a writer, who stipulates a definition, starts with a dictionary meaning and sharpens it to a finer degree.
If we were talking face to face, we could work together in designing terms to suit our needs. Lacking that, we could share a philosophical dictionary but I can’t find one that satisfies. Consequently, since I’m writing, the burden falls on me to devise suitable terms.
Stipulated definitions do not pose as the ultimate definition of a given term that will cover all instances. Instead stipulated definitions concern the work at hand. Well-made stipulated definitions compliment rather than contradict general usage.
Stipulated definitions are terms defined specifically for a particular use. This does not mean the stipulator considers other definitions wrong. Stipulation means that the stipulator aims to restrict usage of certain terms to the definition specified in a controlled situation.
When stipulators succeed in producing well-formed definitions, they are worthy of being adopted by the community at large. Stipulated definitions are speculative, not imperative.
Encouraging stipulated definitions is a helpful technique where accuracy is important.
Definitions of several core terms used in Plusroot Theory are stipulated and aim to fit the case.
The definitions in Plusroot theory are referred to as glossary definitions, referring, of course, to the attached glossary. Although stipulated, definitions used herein are not haphazard. As far as possible, they stay in line with ordinary usage and complement each other in a coherent set. Often a glossary definition is one of several dictionary definitions.
It is impossible to define all terms or define any term absolutely. However it is possible to adequately define crucial ideas in a given discourse.
A definition of a term is not a fact. It is not a principle and is not a theory. Learning to appreciate the distinctions between and among "definitions," "facts," "principles," and "theories" is important in understanding how affirmative logic applies to matters at hand. Plusroot theory uses glossary definitions in formulating tenets, themes and theories.
In recent history, emphasis on definitions was not as important as it is today. People of a former age could rely on assumptions that now are no longer in vogue.
Plusroot theory is designed so a person can follow definitions or not. The meaning usually is clear without checking definitions. There are a fewexceptions. See elemental, affirmative, plus and root.
Definition Calculus
The polished development of stipulated definitions is like a calculus. It is a back and forth adjustment, an on-going fine tuning of the articulation involved. I often readjust definitions when I see a need.
This aspect of affirmative rational analysis is complicated. I anticipate that a future philosopher will discover a method for adjusting and readjusting definitions of core philosophical terms that will be useful and constructive.
However, in the introduction of Plusroot Theory--where we are now--these problems are small and can be overlooked. I mention this advanced situation to give a hint as to what is going on in the background as we offer various definitions for your consideration.
Not everybody favors the development of clear definitions.
Some say defining terms interferes with freedom of thought. But the affirmative rational point of view argues that it is the other way around. Being able to know what others mean helps to foster both mutual understanding and independent thinking.
Those who assert that definitions interfere with freedom have it exactly wrong. Learning to use well-formed stipulated definitions can produce more accomplishment with less effort than anything else we do. Promoting well-formed definitions does not impede freedom of thought.
Some writers proceed as if meaning grows with words as bark grows on a tree. They act as if those who fail to appreciate what they mean are out of touch. Writing that assumes words possess the meaning that defines itself will have a different point of view than writing that stipulates definitions. These differing views stem from sharply contrasting ideologies.
The problem is often concealed. Those who are reluctant to define terms are the same people who evade issues. They give hints, but shy away from direct answers. Discourse becomes heavy with Aesopian terms veiled in hidden meaning.
These objections will be addressed in due time.
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Last update Jan. 03, 2009