Chapter 3: Lecture Notes Looking at Language Chapter 3: Looking at Language Goals for Chapter 3 • Identifying emotionally charged language and euphemisms • Identifying claims that are vague or ambiguous • Identifying fallacies of equivocation • Understanding how definitions can shape issues Pay attention to some of the different ways language is used: • Informative language (cognitive): provides information which can give us the basis for argument. • Emotive language: language which merely expresses emotion. Language consisting of words or statements which possess a tone or force that evokes emotion. • Euphemisms and buzzwords are categories we reserve for language which contains emotive tone or force (or both). Chapter 3 Emotionally Charged Language Emotionally charged language is sometimes called “loaded language” and it functions to create a mood or attitude without argument or reasons. Consider the difference in these two phrases: (i) Welfare reform (ii) Cutting welfare entitlements The second has a negative feel or attitude, but the first does not. Chapter 3 Neutrality in emotional tone with language is probably impossible, and if possible would make language boring. Just because an argument has loaded language in it does not mean that the argument is meritless. Chapter 3 Euphemism A euphemism is a bland, abstract, or polite use of language used to refer to something that would otherwise be embarrassing, demeaning, appalling, or horrible. Collateral damage is a euphemism for the killing of innocents bystanders Pushing up daisies and kicking the bucket are euphemisms for death. Chapter 3 Euphemisms are often funny: vertically challenged for shot people follically challenged for bald people Euphemisms become a block to thought and understanding when they are used to block aspects of reality involving serious matters like harm, torture, false arrests, poverty, war, and humiliation. Doublespeak Evasive, ambiguous, high-flown language intended to deceive or confuse. Accident Failure the poor Repairman bum/street person firing employees safety-related occurrence incomplete success fiscal underachievers service technician non-goal oriented member of society downsizing personnel Chapter 3 Two types of unclear language that gives rise to problems in arguments are: Ambiguity and Vagueness Chapter 3 Ambiguity occurs when a word or phrase may have several meanings, any of which, could fit naturally in the context being used. This newspaper headline for example, “Home Delivery Sought” There are several natural interpretations of this phrase, which means it is ambiguous: (i) (ii) (iii) Giving birth at home instead of at the hospital Getting mail delivered to residences Having a house delivered Context can matter and often solves the problem of ambiguity for us in what interpretation to use. Chapter 3 There are two basic types of ambiguity: Semantic and Syntactic Semantic ambiguity has to do with the meaning of the words and occurs when there is more than one possible meaning of the word in question. Bank and right are two words with multiple meaning that can give rise to ambiguous sentences if you don’t know the context in question. Chapter3 Syntactic ambiguity are due to issues of structure of a phrase or the sentence. “It is time for football and meatball stew” Is syntactically ambiguous because of the linking of football with meatball. Poor writing often gives rise to syntactic ambiguity and this example could have been eliminated if it had been written this way: “It is time for meatball stew and football.” Chapter 3 When an argument relies on or has an instance of ambiguity in it, it is a mistaken in reasoning. When this mistake occurs in an argument it is called the fallacy of equivocation. For example: I have the right to vote for higher taxes. Therefore, I did the right thing voting for higher taxes. In this case the word ‘right’ is being used in two sense, and this means that the premise doesn’t support the conclusion in the way intended by the author. Consider the following example: Fetuses have a right to life. This is clear when we consider that fetuses are obviously human and all human beings have a right to life. • What’s the conclusion? • What are the premises? • How does this argument commit the fallacy of equivocation? 1. Fetuses are obviously human. 2. All human beings have a right to life. Therefore. 3. Fetuses have a right to life. Human in this argument is used equivocally. It has two meanings: 1. Human in the biological sense: a member of the biological species. 2. Human (as in humane or human rights) in the moral sense: a member of the moral class of beings characterized by rights. Another example: Science has discovered many laws of nature. This surely constitutes proof that there is a God, for wherever there are laws, there must be a lawgiver. Consequently, God must exist as the Great Lawgiver of the universe. • conclusion? • premises? • equivocation? 1. Science has discovered many laws of nature. 2. Wherever there are laws, there must be a lawgiver. Therefore, 3. God must exist as the Great Lawgiver of the universe. Ambiguous between two senses of the term “law” – prescriptive law (as a legislature or lawgiver might create) and descriptive law (which identifies patterns or regularities in the world) Chapter 3 Vagueness Vagueness is a lack of distinctness of meaning. To be contrasted with ambiguity, vagueness has unclear meanings, while ambiguous words and phrases have multiple meanings. I have a big house is vague. Big is vague because there is not clear sense in when a house is big. Three bedrooms or 30 bedrooms. Big is used vaguely in this context.