Presentation on theme: "Ambiguity, Generality, and Definitions"— Presentation transcript:
1 Ambiguity, Generality, and Definitions Sign InReview: Vagueness and Semantic AmbiguitySyntactic AmbiguityArguments and AmbiguityDefinitionsFor next time: Comprehensive Ch. 3 HW: (3-1) 1,3,5; (3-2) 1,5,10; (3-7) 1,12,27; (3-9) 3,7,10
2 Review: VaguenessVague sentences include concepts that have borderline casesBecause people may draw the boundaries of these concepts in different ways, a vague sentence can mask sources of agreement / disagreementVague sentences are also difficult to translate into argumentative claimsThe best we can do when we run into vague claims is to make them more precise
3 VaguenessHow might we resolve the following sentences in order to clarify the vague term(s)?1. He promised not to significantly raise taxes on the wealthy2. That is a really expensive car even for a fancy person like you3. She was arrested for driving too fast4. It's better not to go outside yet, it's too cold
4 AmbiguityLike Vagueness, ambiguity can also cause translation problemsWe said that ambiguous sentences were sentences with two or more possible meaningsWe also made a distinction between two kinds of ambiguitySemanticSyntactic
5 Semantic AmbiguityWe said that the best way to resolve semantic ambiguity was to re-phrase a sentence so that the intended meaning was clearerHow might we resolve the following semantic ambiguities?1. Jessica is cold2. The Raider tackle threw a block at the Giants linebacker3. You have to get to the right bank before sundown
6 FallaciesWe ended class by looking at two different fallacies (mistakes in reasoning) that we can be led to make as a result of semantic ambiguityFallacy of division – assuming that what is true of a group is true of all its membersFallacy of composition – assuming that what is true of all of the members of a group is true of the group itselfCan you give me any examples of these fallacies?
7 Syntactic AmbiguitySyntactic ambiguity, unlike semantic ambiguity, derives its ambiguity as a result of the structure of a sentence“How Therapy Can Help Torture Victims”This sentence is ambiguous even though the meaning of each word is fairly clearWhat are the two possible readings of this sentence?The ambiguity here is the result of poor syntax
8 Syntactic AmbiguityAs with semantic ambiguities the best way to resolve these problems is to translate the sentence so that the ambiguity is settledThe Principle of Charity can often help us figure out the clearest or 'intended' readingSusan saw the farmer with binocularsWith some ambiguities this can be very difficultPeople who protest often get arrested
9 Syntactic Ambiguity: Pronouns Pronouns are words that stand in for nouns in a sentence“He,” “she,” “it,” “you,” “they,” “I,” and “we” are all examples of pronouns and their use is normally not a cause for concernErick buys coffee in the morning. He drinks it quickly.The second sentence has replaced the nouns with pronouns in a way that is not ambiguous and is not problematicBut, in a carelessly constructed sentence, pronoun use can be a source of syntactic ambiguity
10 Pronoun AmbiguityPronouns become ambiguous when there is more than one potential noun in a sentence that they could be standing in forExample: “Paul agreed that, once Gary removed the motor from the car, he could have it.”In this sentence there are two potential nouns (motor and car) that “it” could be replacing but the sentence leaves it unclear which one it is meant to replaceWhenever this happens we get an ambiguous pronoun reference
11 Pronoun Ambiguity Examples What do you think is the best way to resolve the following ambiguities?Identify the pronoun and the possible noun- candidatesThe dog ate the bird and it diedWe gave the bananas to the monkeys because they were hereThe couple watched a child kick the ball and it made them happy
12 What to do?If you are writing these sentences then you should take care to leave only one noun for each pronoun to replaceIf you are reading these sentences then the best you can do is appeal to the Principle of Charity to help pick out the strongest interpretation of each sentence:When all else fails see if one of the two interpretations makes an argument valid, sound, or strong and go with that translation of the ambiguous claim
13 Definitions and why the matter Definitions, as we said on Monday, are often critical components of argumentsThe definitions of person and murder are critical to debates about abortion, suicide, and euthanasia (both voluntary and involuntary)If the terms in question are neither vague nor ambiguous then definitions are easyIn other cases (person), definitions can be much harder to agree on
14 Types of DefinitionsDefining terms is the best way to resolve ambiguity. When we do this we are giving a precising definition.There are other reasons why we might need a definition1. We might need to know a word's standard (dictionary) meaning. This is a lexical definition2. We might instead want to use a word to mean something in a more specific context. This is a stipulation definition.Argument, Vagueness, claim, etc3. We might not care about either the standard or technical definitions of a term but instead want to convince others. This is to rhetorical definition.
15 What kind of definition is this? Watch the following video and decide what kind of definition is being givenPay attention to how the word is being defined
16 Truthiness What is the definition of this term? Do you think it is intended as a lexical, a stipulative, a rhetorical definition or some combination of these?Did you notice any other potential factors meant to make the definition more rhetorically (or argumentatively) persuasive? What were they?How was the word defined? Using examples or synonyms?
17 DefinitionsIf definitions are serving a good role in an argument then they should not:Beg the Question: an argument or definition begs the question when it already assumes the truth of its conclusion before having proved itTrigger cognitive biases: definitions can be used to evoke cognitive biases like framing effects (meat is murder) and negativity biasesA good definition avoids these practices
18 For Next TimeFor next time: Comprehensive Ch. 3 HW: (3-1) 1,3,5; (3-2) 1,5,10; (3-7) 1,12,27; (3-9) 3,7,10Quiz!!! Don't be late!