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halcyon comments on Disputing Definitions - Less Wrong

48 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 12 February 2008 12:15AM

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Comment author: halcyon 07 April 2012 06:34:55AM 10 points [-]

Sorry, just... no. I realize it's been four years, but I had to create an account just to register my disapproval. The question remains, what did you want from the blegg? Vanadium or Palladium? Its glow-in-the-dark property? A gestalt effect arising from the combination of certain salient features? What does any of this have to do with consensus-based definitions?

Comment author: ete 26 April 2014 10:26:28PM 4 points [-]

I find it quite interesting that despite the two above posts having very strongly contradictory points they both a large number of upvotes are are both at 100% positive (15 and 8 at the time of writing). I wonder whether the community's opinion has shifted over the years, or whether lw voters just think both points are well put and are very reluctant to downvote things based on disagreeing with a point.


Comment author: samcoy 21 November 2015 12:39:54PM 2 points [-]

I think it's very much a case of well-put arguments.

I can certainly see how pragmatically, definitions can clearly matter. Heck, we have laws that are very picky about them, because we need a very specific set of rules so that crinimals/those falsely accused are clearly in one category or another, and to make the law above debate.

At the same time, asking whether something is against the law, whether it fits into the category of "murder" for example, is simly arguing whether it is case considered worthy, by those who wrote the law, of punishment.

Both arguments are very well explained by the two comments.

Comment author: PSissy 23 December 2016 02:51:50AM 0 points [-]

I hope you'll forgive me for creating an account two years later after you created one four years later.

If the catalog offered a "blegg" for sale, with no further information, then the definition of "blegg" itself would very much be an important issue in the ensuing lawsuit. If "blegg" generally means something that contains vanadium and is egg-shaped, but the one sold and delivered is neither, then the actual definition would be important in determining whether the buyer was scammed. The question is not "what did you want from the blegg", it's "what is a blegg, and is that what was sent by the company".

If I order a "bicycle" from a catalog and the product comes with one triangular wheel and no seat, then it very much matters that the commonly used definition of "bicycle" is "a conveyance with two round wheel and a place to sit", and that would be a valid basis for suing the fraudulent company. It doesn't matter "what I want from" the bicycle. I might want a convenient mode of human-powered transportation, or I might want a frame of welded metal. But the fact is the company did not deliver what was advertised.