Persuasive definition


Persuasive definition

A persuasive definition is a form of definition which purports to describe the 'true' or 'commonly accepted' meaning of a term, while in reality stipulating an uncommon or altered use, usually to support an argument for some view, or to create or alter rights, duties or crimes. The terms thus defined will often involve emotionally charged but imprecise notions, such as "freedom", "terrorism", "democracy" etc.

An example is the definition of the term "date rape" as "sex with an intoxicated person after a party". The extremely negatively charged term "rape", typically used for sex without consent, sometimes even enforced by physical violence, is used here to increase the condemnation of the described behavior. The definition of "software piracy" as the act of infringing the copyrights of computer programs is another example. Another definition with heavy connotations is "price gouging".

Persuasive definitions commonly appear in controversial topics such as politics, sex, and religion, as participants in emotionally-charged exchanges will sometimes become more concerned about swaying people to one side or another than expressing the unbiased facts.

The term "persuasive definition" was introduced by philosopher C.L. Stevenson as part of his emotive theory of meaning.

References

*Stevensen, C.L. "Persuasive Definitions." "Mind" Vol. 47, No. 187. (July 1938), pp. 331-350
*Stevenson, C.L., "Ethics and Language", Connecticut 1944

ee also

*Essentially contested concept


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