Norms of Word Meaning Litigation

ProtoSociology 31:88-112 (2014)
Abstract
In this paper I examine cases in which we attach different meanings to words and in which we litigate or argue about the best way of defining the term in dispute. I reject the idea that this is just a matter of imposing our will on our interlocutors – I think that the process of litigation is normative. To some extent recent work in the theory of argumentation has shed considerable light on this process, but we will need to retrofit that work for the kinds of considerations we are engaged with here. I’ll begin in Section 1, with some important terminological preliminaries. Then in Section 2, I will offer a general description of how we come to notice that there are disputes about meaning and how we engage the meaning variance once it is recognized. In section 3 I’ll then take up a case that is relatively less controversial – the definition of ‘planet’ – and use it to construct a model for our meaning litigation works. Finally, in section 4 I’ll then turn to more contentious and substantial issues – the definition of ‘rape’ and the definition of ‘person’ and begin exploring how disputes about the meanings of those terms can be normative and fail to be normative.
Keywords Applied Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  Social Science
Categories No categories specified
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ISBN(s) 1434-4319
DOI 10.5840/protosociology2014319
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