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Fallacies of Definition

In order to make our words or concepts clear, we use a definition. The purpose of a definition is to state exactly what a word means. A good definition should enable a reader to ‘pick out’ instances of the word or concept with no outside help. For example, suppose we wanted to define the word “apple”. If the definition is successful, then the reader should be able go out into the world and select every apple which exists, and only apples. If the reader misses some apples, or includes some other items (such as pears), or can’t tell whether something is an apple or not, then the definition fails.

Circular Definition

The definition includes the term being defined as a part of the definition.

Conflicting Conditions

The definition is self-contradictory.

Failure to Elucidate

The definition is harder to understand than the term being defined.

Too Broad

The definition includes items which should not be included.

Too Narrow

The definition does not include items which should be included.