XIII
Further Observations on the Function of Definitions

1

AN understanding of the second pattern requires little more than an understanding of persuasive definitions. These have been illustrated in abundance, and if they were as readily discernible in all cases as they have been in our selected examples, they would require no further attention. But it is not always easy to recognize them, or to be clear about their distinguishing characteristics. There are a number of cases in which persuasive definitions might be confused with persuasive statements of another sort, or with definitions of a more neutral character. So it will be well to make some additional distinctions. The remarks of this chapter are not indispensable to ethical analysis, but may help to dispel misapprehensions, and to throw light on the several uses of language.

Let us begin by distinguishing persuasive definitions from statements that produce a similar effect by opposite means. It will be recalled that persuasive definitions alter attitudes by changing only the descriptive meaning of an emotively laden term, allowing emotive meaning to remain roughly constant. Clearly, the inverse procedure is equally important and prevalent: the emotive meaning may be altered, descriptive meaning remaining roughly constant. When emotive meaning is altered in a way that neutralizes it, there need be no persuasion, but rather (as explained previously in the remarks on "propaganda"1) an effort to avoid it. When emotive meaning is intensified, however, or changed from praise to blame, or vice versa, the effect may be no less persuasive than that of persuasive definitions. In fact the same persuasive force can often be obtained either by the one linguistic change or the other.

In our earlier example of "culture,"2 for instance, the second

____________________
1
Particularly pp. 245-248.
2
Pp. 211 f.

-277-

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Ethics and Language
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Ethics and Language 1
  • II - Working Models 20
  • III - Some Pragmatic Aspects of Meaning? 37
  • Iv First Pattern of Analysis 81
  • V - First Pattern: Method 111
  • VI - Persuasion 139
  • VII - Validity 152
  • VIII - Intrinsic and Extrinsic Value 174
  • IX - Second Pattern of Analysis: Persuasive Definitions 206
  • X - Second Pattern: Method 227
  • XI - Moralists and Propagandists 243
  • XII - Some Related Theories 253
  • XIII - Further Observations on the Function of Definitions 277
  • XIV - Avoidability; Indeterminism 298
  • XV - Practical Implications 319
  • Index of Proper Names 337
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