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Posted by Harvey on February 19, 2002 03:57:27 UTC

Mike,

***H: What I am saying is that words acquire meaning by standardizing definitions based on shared experiences. Do you disagree? M: Depends on whether you use that to coin new words and meanings....in other words, USE the definition for ANYTHING. Here's what's missing.
Following the word "is" are three verb-type words all driven by one subject: "words." You imply these actions are accomplished by the words themselves. In your statement, no human is responsible; in that statement, no human has authority, and no human lacks authority to make up new words or meanings for themselves without even explaining to others their reasoning. It's like separating from society and forming a new language without printing a dictionary.***

This is not a correct interpretation of my view. I am not saying that words acquire meaning by themselves. Quite the contrary, words acquire meaning via human effort at communication. Humans give words meaning. There is no inherent meaning in words themselves. Although, that doesn't mean that one human has the authority to make up new words. What one human has the authority to do is use a word that has a few meanings and select a reasonable specific meaning that does not contradict or mislead others from the general meaning. For example, Dick and I got into a disagreement a few months back where he wished to use the term 'reality' to mean his mental image. I rejected this definition for reality since it is not generally how the word is used and that it is a source of confusion since I sensed that he alluded to the more general meaning (i.e., all that is 'out there') in a few instances. To avoid this confusion I asked that he use a term called 'R1' to mean his mental image.

Bush's term for evil as he used in the 'axis of evil' really is not outside the general scope of the term 'evil'. Evil is often used to portray those who's intents may be to cause harm to millions of innocent people. I don't see a specific rendering of evil so that one can use it consistently as being outside the connotation of the word.

***In the Declaration of Independence is a phrase something like "a Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind Requires that We Explain Our Reasons for the Separation" (that could use some gender updating). Point is, making up new words and meanings certainly is allowed, and when writers do it, they can be pleased if the word or meaning catches on and enteres the dictionary.
They would not generally make up new words or meanings without hope of them someday being added to a dictionary. In your summary, there is no protocol, no quality control, no reference to responsible parties. So it is not a working description of the phenomenon as it truly occurs.****

I'm not trying to dissect all the protocols to creating words or even use old words in new contexts. What I am saying is that if a word is used in a particular connotation but needs further definition since the word can be used in contexts outside the one the speaker intends, then the speaker should specify exactly what they mean by the use of that general term. This is not redefining words and it is not using words out of context. It is merely specifying exactly what they mean by a certain word when that word has many meanings. For example, evil has connotations with the Devil, but that doesn't mean that the 'axis of evil' requires a belief in Satan in order to believe in evil actions. One should be clear as to what they mean by 'evil' otherwise it can be construed with a different meaning than what the speaker originally intended. I don't think new words are necessary, especially if one would like to communicate the more loaded warning that the term 'evil' connotates.

***(which you have of course realized but which you did not cite for "peer review" in the post above (so I'm reviewing what you cited...or did you condense your idea too much? It's your own fault if you did, for a proposition must stand or fall as stated. To have the reviewer add necessary parts to flesh out an obvious statement into something more meaningful will only work when talking with me...or maybe there's someone else so verbose) :)***

I tried to make the extended point throughout that a word should be consistent both within the general usage of that term as well as within the speaker's own usage of that word. Maybe I wasn't that clear.

***H: I am not giving justification to people to call people names like you insinuated ("Now, thanks to Harv, his friends can call anyone 'evil' as long as they know what they mean. -- that's what you've been saying, Harv"). That's a ridiculous assertion. M: Harv, you made that assertion at: http://www.astronomy.net/forums/god/messages/15154.shtml when you wrote
"My point in the opening thread is not to define evil, but to say that there is justification for someone to label someone evil as long as others understand their meaning."***

What I am not saying is that this gives justification to call people names. You are only justified to use a term (to call people names, if you wish) as long as you define your terms and those terms are consistent with the way those terms are used in relevant literature. But, this doesn't justify the use the term. Notice, I didn't say that Bush was right in saying that these 3 countries are an 'axis of evil'. What I said is that he can be justified in using the term evil if he defines what he means by evil. The justification to call someone evil requires actions that justify that reference. If Bush can justify that there are actions that equate to his use of the term evil, then this goes even further in justifying his move to call certain countries an 'axis of evil'. My concern in this thread isn't that. It is to refute those who think that one is not justified in labelling certain actions as evil since they might argue that evil is completely subjective.

***H: But, I'll tell ya my favorite color if you want to know. M: Then, what is your favorite color?***

I always prefered green over the other colors.

Warm regards, Harv

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