# The Language of Wisdom and Folly: Background Readings in Semantics

By Irving J. Lee | Go to book overview

On Definition1

BLAISE PASCAL

The true method, which would furnish demonstrations of the highest excellence, if it were possible to employ the method fully, consists in observing two principal rules. The first rule is not to employ any term of which we have not clearly explained the meaning; the second rule is never to put forward any proposition which we cannot demonstrate by truths already known; that is to say, in a word, to define all the terms, and to prove all the propositions. But, in order that I may observe the rules of the method which I am explaining, it is necessary that I declare what is to be understood by Definition.

We recognise in Geometry only those definitions which logicians call Nominal Definitions, that is to say, only those definitions which impose a name upon things clearly designated in terms perfectly known; and I speak only of those definitions.

[Their value and use is to clear and abbreviate discourse by] expressing in the single name which we impose what could not be otherwise expressed but in several words; provided nevertheless that the name imposed remain divested of any other meaning which it might possess, so as to bear that alone for which we intend it to stand.

For example, if we need to distinguish among numbers those which are divisible into two equal parts, from those which are not so divisible, in order to avoid the frequent repetition of this distinction, we give a name to it in this manner: we call every number divisible into two equal parts an Even Number.

This is a geometrical definition, because after having clearly designated a thing, namely any number divisible into two equal parts,. we

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1
Originally called "Réflexions sur la Géométrie en Général." This "free translation of the more important parts of this fragment" was made by W. Stanley Jevons and is to be found in his Elementary Lessons in Logic: Deductive and Inductive, Lesson XIII. London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1871.

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The Language of Wisdom and Folly: Background Readings in Semantics

• Title Page iii
• Contents vii
• Preface xi
• Introduction xiii
• Part I - The Recognition of Words as Such 1
• Everything Has a Name 3
• The Phenomenon of Language 6
• Symbolic Pointing 7
• The Mobile Word 15
• Two Types of Names 19
• Precision in Natural Language1 23
• Part II - The Functions and Purposes Of Language in Use 29
• The Three Forms of Discourse 31
• The Condition of Clarity1 41
• The Functions of Poetry 48
• Behavior That Language Makes Possible 57
• Talking About the Weather 59
• Part III - Matters of Fact, Fiction and Opinion 63
• Matters of Fact and Opinion - George Cornewall Lewis 65
• The Semantic Conception of Truth - Alfred Tarski 67
• Every Man His Own Historian 71
• Literature as Revelation 78
• Knowledge by Definition 82
• On the Logic of Fiction 92
• Fictions, Hypotheses and Dogmas 101
• Part IV - Questions and Answers 109
• The Nature of a Question 111
• "Footless" Questions 121
• The How and the Why of Things 129
• Part V - The Ambiguous Word 135
• On Definition 137
• Nominal and Real Definitions 139
• How is "Exactness" Possible? 141
• Definitions and Reality 149
• Interpretation 160
• Ambiguity and Its Avoidance 164
• Part VI - The Recognition of Differences 173
• Of General Terms 175
• Realists and Nominalists 178
• On Knowing the Difference 180
• The Passion for Parsimony 184
• The Individuality of Things and The Generality of Language 188
• Part VII - Verbal Fascination 205
• The Attributive Attitude - Ellis Freeman 207
• Riefication 214
• The Context of Associations 224
• Part VIII - The Structural Patterns and Implications Of a Language 245
• Perception and Language 247
• An Experimental Study of the Effect Of Language on the Reproduction Of Visually Perceived Form 251
• Language and Thought 262
• Languages and Logic 273
• Part IX - Escape from Verbalism 287
• Sensation and Cerebration 289
• An Address on Words and Things 295
• Experience with Languages 305
• Two Kinds of Knowledge1 309
• Preparation of the Child for Science 310
• Significs 336
• Index 359
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