I have seen several times lately, where people are discussing some topic and they have a disagreement about what a word means, then one party ends the discussion with something along the lines of "well that is my definition of it". I am not talking about a discussion around agnosticism/atheism, the most recent was a discussion about homeopathy.
Since when do we have personal definitions of words that are well defined in common dictionaries and reference sources?
I see no value in attempting to have a discussion with someone who uses their own personal definitions of words that differ from the definitions generally accepted by everyone else.
I wholeheartedly agree! However as an interesting (side note) addition to the valid point that you made, I must mention to you the great love I have for the English language including the history behind its derivatives... I so love the language that I years ago bought a copy of Noah Websters 1828 dictionary. One of the fun things that I discovered was that some words that I used in my communications had morphed into our so called "modern" usage, and were no longer accurate by definition when applied as such! I was astounded by the many alterations that have occurred...what I have previously stated does not necessarily lend credence to incorrect usage, however some (as rare as the case may be) perhaps have an insight...
You are correct. Rarely should individuals use non-standard definitions of words. When they do, they should clearly note that their use is not standard and give a good reason for their particular re-definition. Sometimes, it is necessary to spell out explicitly what you mean by words like "local," "massive," or "large" since one person's large is another's medium. (Does not apply to Tee shirts.) For example, there is a concept of local standard of rest in astronomy. For stellar astronomers, it means the average motion of stars close to the sun, while for extra galactic astronomers, it's the average velocities of galaxies in the vicinity of the Milky Way.
Dictionaries imperfectly define current popular usage, not always what someone means in a specific context. There's nothing either sacred nor infallible about them.
For example for a long time (and still occasionally today), the dictionary definition of "atheist" reflected theist usage and misconceptions. It's entirely appropriate for me to say what atheism means to me and how I use the word, regardless of what the dictionary claims. As enough people have used the word in a philosophically clear and correct way, dictionaries have begun to reflect that.
In other situations there are multiple meanings that someone wrongly conflates in debate. A very common theist gambit for example is to try to elevate the failed epistemology of religious faith by conflating it with the more colloquial definition of faith which is basically just trust or expectation according to experience, when they are two very different and in some ways opposite things. In this case the dictionary is generally clear and correct but the user twists it to their own ends.
The first step in any debate is to define the terms used and agree on their meaning. Otherwise you're just talking past each other. While it's generally a good idea to agree on generally recognized meanings, sometimes it's better not to. One can accept a debater's definition for the sake of debate, because it's more fruitful to bypass that particular argument and say "even accepting your definition, you would be wrong because X".
English is a living language. Definitions are changed or added to all the time. As for personal quirks I differentiate between a film and a movie. In my view something like "On the waterfront" is a film and "Independence day" is a movie. I am not totally alone in this way of speaking but it has as yet not made it to the OED.
I subscribe to the following theory of truth which can be found in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I have provided an extract as well as a link to the source.
1.1.2 The neo-classical correspondence theory
The correspondence theory of truth is at its core an ontological thesis: a belief is true if there exists an appropriate entity – a fact – to which it corresponds. If there is no such entity, the belief is false.
Facts, for the neo-classical correspondence theory, are entities in their own right. Facts are generally taken to be composed of particulars and properties and relations or universals, at least. The neo-classical correspondence theory thus only makes sense within the setting of a metaphysics that includes such facts.
If there is a disagreement about a word then there should be an honest attempt to present the facts regarding the origin of their evidence. If one debater is found to hold just an opinion then they have failed the test of corresponding truth with a fact.
So, how are definitions created? Words are continuously added and defined. Some words do have personal meaning, some are well defined and leave nothing to interpretation. Now, if someone said a taco was a green, leafy vegetable, I'd object. On the other hand if someone said a taco is a hard corn tortilla, filled with meat, then I couldn't argue that, but I prefer soft flour tortillas. Why is this a problem?
The definition of words change over time. It's annoying as hell and a good way to help ensure division. Pick any so-called dirty, it doesn't matter to me. At least one of the definitions always described me quite well when I considered the perspectives of others. But when you consider the opinions of willfully ignorant people, logic might lead you to find everyone to be ...
The dictionary describes how we use words, it does not
prescribe what words SHOULD mean. It is descriptive, not prescriptive. That’s why words are being added and definitions being added all the time. You do not appreciate how relativistic and non-absolute language really is. As far as people using their own definitions for words that doesn’t bother me at all as long as they spell out that definition. I may agree with something using an individual’s definition but not the commonly used definition. And as long as I can establish “Using your definition only, yes, I agree” I don’t feel like I have lost anything for it.
Personally, I think it is possible to have a different PERSPECTIVE of anything, including the meaning of words. Life is subjective. If we’re talking SCIENCE, we can supply objective research/results to support our OPINIONS, but everyone may not agree. Physicists do not even agree. I think the bigger problem is what seems to be the human need to be RIGHT. I am old now, I no longer need to be right. That’s why I don’t want to argue or debate.
That also depends on said person's linguistic capabilities. Said person might be coming from a historical linguistic perception of the cognate. Words change and evolve with the social consciousness, not so much in the academic jargon.
The English lexicon has three levels of cognizance.
Legalese ~ legal language is the highest form of cognition.
Academia ~ academic language, or the proper use of word knowledge, philosophical rhetoric, and scientific dialect
Common ~ (often refered to as slang), the common or simplistic use of a language vernacular. Simply put is the simplistic use of a language for the lower less educated classes of a soceity.
I agree with you. But new words can be formed/coined. Defintions can and do change, especially when dealing with the etymology of a term and its cognates. Just because something is socially accepted does not make it correct. Civilizations are ruled by misconception and the propagation of ignorance.
Most people have 0% knowledge of what we are speaking about.
Let me show you~
There are some people who regard a dictionary definition of a word to be the be-all and end-all of the meaning of that word. They are (blissfully?) unaware of the limitations that are inherent in dictionary definitions, and they use that as an excuse to deride what I say. I have no patience with such willful ignorance.
I tend to reject those who make up their own definitions to words and phrases.
I'm not putting up with that bullshit. Much the same as I will not put up with
"alternative facts". "Alternative facts" are LIES. Making up your own definitions
is unacceptable. There are books called "dictionaries". That's where the definitions to words come from. Yours don't count.