In philosophy, as in many other disciplines, good definitions are the product of lengthy debate, not the starting point. Now this may seem exceedingly odd. It may even strike one as paradoxical in the extreme. So wedded have some persons become to the mistaken dictum that they ought to define their terms, that they find it hard to imagine how it is even possible to get started without having first offered a set of definitions.
As it turns out, not only is it possible to do so, it is necessary to do so. To see this, we must turn away from sloganizing and begin to examine the modern theory of definition. And as we usually discover when we abandon convenient slogans, we find that the truth of the matter is vastly more complicated than we might ever have imagined.
We will begin by introducing some of the technical concepts we will need in our studies. Science begins with curiosity. Science begins with the nineteenth letter of the English alphabet. Sentence 1 is perfectly sensible even if what it expresses may be false.
But sentence 2 above is a piece of literal nonsense. It is not science itself which begins with a letter; rather it is the word , "science", that begins with a letter. Sentence 2 should be repaired to read: 1 '. To talk in English about science as in sentence 1 above , we use the English word which refers to, or names, science, viz. But suppose we want to talk, not about science, but about that very word in English which we use to refer to science.
Suppose we wanted to say of that word that it contains seven letters. We might write: 3. The word "science" contains seven letters. Or, again, suppose now just to make life complicated we wanted to talk about the part in sentence 3 which occurs between the words "word" and "contains" viz.
To talk about that part, we would like a name for it. In the last few hundred years we have developed a technique effective procedure in written English and in many other modern written languages whereby we can simply and automatically generate the name of any term whatsoever. Ancient languages lacked this — or an equivalent — technique. The modern convention in written English for forming the name of a term is to enclose that term in quotation marks. When we use the name of a term in accordance with the just-reported convention we are said to be mentioning the term.
We mention a term, by using its name, where its name is formed by enclosing the term in quotation marks. In the first sentence of this paragraph I used the term "accordance" and it occurred there without quotation marks. And in writing what I just have in the third sentence of this paragraph I mentioned the term "accordance" and it occurred there with quotation marks.
We literally picture them. We place a picture of the term to be named within quotation marks. This is an extraordinarily useful technique. It allows us immediately to learn the referent of an iconographic name of a symbol or word or expression simply by inspecting that name itself. Consider, for example, the first letter of the Greek alphabet.
In English, it has two names, an iconographic one devised in accord with modern rules for quotation and an ancient one inherited from times when iconographic names were not available in English. The two names quotation marks omitted!
By inspecting the iconographic name we can learn immediately what the term refers to. No amount of inspection of a non-iconographic term will ever reveal its referent. Incidentally, we can see in this example another device for quoting, viz. This convention we have in English of forming the name of a term by the device of enclosing that term within quotation marks is just that, a convention.
There is nothing sacred about it. We could if we wanted, agree to use some other device. If we were so inclined, we could agree that the name of George's name would be "Henry" instead of " "George" ". There is a passage in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass where he chooses to use a nonstandard device for naming.
At first what the Knight is saying to Alice may appear to be literal nonsense. But it is not; it is merely unconventional. However, in addition to adopting a nonstandard manner of naming, Carroll introduces the further complicating wrinkle of distinguishing between the name of an item and what that item is called.
Normally we think of these as one and the same thing; persons and things tend to be called by their names. But not always. We do make a distinction between names and nicknames i. For example, we might find ourselves saying, "His name actually is 'Richard', but he's called 'Dick'. The name of the song is called 'Haddocks' Eyes. The name really is 'The Aged Aged Man. The song is called 'Ways and Means' : but that's only what it's called , you know! A-sitting On a Gate. In the popular press — newspapers, magazines, etc.
Denktash is being misunderstood," responds Greek Cypriot president George Vassiliou. Philosophers, too, sometimes omit quotation marks. For example, John Stuart Mill writes: "Virtuous, for example, is the name of a class Or, again: "Snow, and other objects, receive the name white, because they possess the attribute which is called whiteness" Ibid. In the latter sentence, Mill omits two sets of quotation marks: one on the word "white"; the other on the word "whiteness".
For when we give the definition of a term, we mention the term, we do not use it. For example, the term, "pain", is defined, but pain itself is not defined. We define only terms, never their referents. If you are not careful, you might create some particularly bizarre results, e. Clearly, when we are substituting on a word-for-word basis, we do not want to substitute within words. In the example just given, we would not want to regard the sequence of letters "p", "o", "s", "i" and "t" occurring within the word "opposite" as a genuine occurrence of the word "posit".
Quotation marks, as we have just seen in the previous section, create new names. And just as one would not want to substitute for fragments of words e. For example, suppose you had used the word "wonder" in a paragraph and later decide you want to change it to "awe".
If you were not careful, your word-processor might change "She stayed home that evening to watch 'The Wonder Years' on television" to "She stayed home that evening to watch 'The Awe Years' on television". In general, substitution is not permitted within quotation marks. The result of using quotation marks is to create a single cohesive name whose internal fragments are not themselves symbols for which substitution is permitted.
In certain technical contexts, this prohibition on substitution within quotation marks poses a problem. Suppose, for example, that we were trying to state the rules which stipulate the permissible expressions so called 'well-formed formulas' of a system of logic.
But this will not do. Suppose we try to substitute specific expressions for P and for Q , e. Unfortunately, we do not get this latter sentence at all. To circumvent this problem, mathematicians and logicians have invented a special-duty set of quotation marks — " " and " " — sometimes called "quasi-quotes" and sometimes called "corner-quotes".
Corner-quotes act pretty much like ordinary quotation marks except that they do allow substitution in their midst. For more on the use of corner-quotes, see , pp. Our ability to define terms comes rather late in our linguistic abilities. Children talk , and know what they are talking about, although they cannot define even one of the terms they use. Using and understanding a language does not involve being able to define its terms. Well, then, if we can use a language without being able to define its terms, why bother with definitions at all?
The answer, put simply, is that language is a tool, and its uses can be extended and improved. Here definition plays a role; it allows us to improve our use of language. Specifically, in what ways can definitions refine language? I mention three. Definition can be used to increase vocabulary — to introduce persons to the meaning and use of words new to them.
The offending terms here are "repeat", "believe in" and "bent on". Depending on the intended definitions of these terms the sentences above express very different things. When the ambiguity in a sentence depends upon the ambiguity in a term, a judiciously chosen definition can disambiguate the sentence. However, some sentences are ambiguous because of their grammatical construction, and for these sentences definitions do not remove the ambiguity.
Here is an example of an ambiguous sentence which contains no ambiguous terms:. Definition can be used to reduce vagueness. Many words have borderline uses: "bald", "lazy", "heavy", "clever", "tasty". When is something said to be "big"? Arlene Francis the s TV personality used this as her workaday definition: Something is "big" if it is "larger than the average-sized bread box".
A meteorologist may define the atmospheric conditions as being "hazy" when nothing can be seen a mile away. Comment: Synonym-definition is supposed to be the paradigmatic case of definition but is much rarer than commonly believed. Comment: This definition does not give a synonym for the definiendum.
Note also that "the" occurs three times in the dictionary definition. If a synonym-definition contains the word to be defined, the definition is considered to be circular. But in this case, the dictionary definition is a description of the grammatical use of the word "the". The use in the definition of "the" is here legitimate and probably unavoidable. Comment: This definition makes use of a scientific theory, color theory. But this definition certainly does not state what criteria most persons have in mind when they use the word "red".
Persons knew how to use the term "red" long before prisms were invented and before color theory achieved currency. Even today, few persons who use the word "red" know anything about its being the least refracted color in the visible spectrum. The definition here helps us to discover an instance of the color red.
The first half of this definition is a classical definition in the style of the so-called 'species-genus' variety. The genus is 'color' and the species is the specific color, i. Note that the second half of the definition, where examples are cited, is not exactly correct: surely not all ripe fruits are red. Comment: Again, as in the definition of "red", it is questionable whether this definition is correct. If opposites cannot coexist in the same thing, then pain cannot be the opposite of pleasure.
Masochists, for example, find pain pleasurable. Comment: When people use the term "jaundice", do they usually mean have in mind that jaundiced patients have bile obstructions? It is unlikely. Again, as in the definition of "red" above we find a definition invoking a scientific theory about which few persons will know.
Few persons who use the word "jaundice" 'have in mind' that the condition is caused by a bile obstruction. Comment: Definitions in dictionaries may consist of words alone or they may consist of words combined with pictures. Some dictionaries, e. Obviously if a dictionary does not include pictures, then either some words are undefined or every word is ultimately defined in terms of itself. Without pictures there is no way to break out of the circle of inter-linguistic definition in a dictionary.
But even in using pictures, dictionaries cannot define certain words non-circularly, viz. Persons, however, in conversing with other persons, have greater resources available to them than do dictionaries. For persons have ways of directing others' attention to features of the world in ways that go beyond simply calling attention to visual phenomena. We shall shortly examine the matter of definition by ostension. An emotional state involving attraction, sexual desire, and concern about the other person.
It represents the most positive level of attraction. For example, the word "horse" has as its extension all horses — past, present, and future. The phrase "brown horses" has as its extension all past, present, and future brown horses i.
There are at least two common synonyms of "extension". They are: "denotation" and "reference". The members of the denoted class are often spoken of as "the denotata" sing. The extension of a term is fixed: it is not at some time one thing and at some other time something else. The extension of a term includes all past things if any plus all present things if any plus all future things if any that fall under or are described by the term. Thus, although there are no passenger pigeons now passenger pigeons are extinct , "passenger pigeon" does have a fairly large extension, namely, all the passenger pigeons in the past.
The phrase, "female prime minister of Canada", may or may not have an extension. We simply do not know. If it does have an extension, all its members are successors to the present Prime Minister a male and we do not yet know who they are. Note, however, what happens when we add a specific, terminating, historical date to the expression, "female Prime Minister of Canada". The expression, "female Prime Minister of Canada prior to ", has a known extension.
There never has been, is not now, nor ever will be anyone who satisfies the description, "female Prime Minister of Canada prior to ". This latter expression has a zero extension. In contrast to "passenger pigeon", which has an extension, we can cite terms, for example, "mermaid", which we are pretty sure have zero extension: i.
But what are so-called defining characteristics of things? Are we referring to properties or to predicates? Historically, the American philosopher C. Lewis called the former of these, the defining properties , "the signification" and only the latter, the linguistic items, the "intension". Many writers, in stating the intension of a term e. I think their reasons are that they perceive themselves to be defining not just an English term or phrase "triangle" but its synonyms in other languages as well.
I will follow suit. In these notes, too, the difference between signification and intension will not be scrupulously observed below. Strictly speaking, following Lewis's definition, the "intension" of term would be understood to be a list of defining predicates.
But we will be less than strict; we shall occasionally treat the signification of a term as equivalent to its intension. Strictly speaking, the intension of "triangle" is "being closed, having three straight sides, and lying in a plane". Less rigorously, the intension of "triangle" is the properties of being closed, having three straight sides, and lying in a plane.
One synonym which is sometimes used for "intension" is "connotation". Only if one is careful to abide by its strict technical definition should this latter term be used in these contexts. The trouble is that "connotation" has a well-established, different, meaning in ordinary prose.
In ordinary prose, for example, we might find something like this recalling that quotation marks are frequently omitted in popular writings : "Subsidized housing connotes single-parent families and elevated crime rates". This latter is not the philosopher's sense of "connotes".
It is very doubtful that "subsidized housing" has in its intension either "single-parent families" or "elevated crime rates". In its ordinary sense, "connotes" means something like "conjures up images of" or "calls to mind", etc. This is not the technical sense of "connotation" i. Another synonym for "intension" is "designation". Although "designation" is relatively unproblematic, it is becoming fairly rare in philosophical writings. Rather we give a form of a standard paraphrase such that a sentence or expression in which the term-to-be-defined occurs is replaced by another sentence or expression in which that term does not occur.
The clearest examples come from science and mathematics: Example 1: " x is a triangle" means " x is a plane closed figure bounded by three straight lines". Example 2: " x is a circle" means " x is a locus of a point in a plane lying equidistant from a given point". Example 3: "centripetal force" is "the inward force required to keep a particle or an object moving in a circular path" , p.
See, e. For example, we might teach a person to use the term "dog" by pointing first to Fido, and then to Rover, and then to Spot. In each case we might say "that's a dog". Alternatively, instead of pointing, we might cite the names of these animals if the person to whom we are talking knows the reference of the names; or we might use uniquely identifying descriptions to pick out these animals, e. Then we might point to something else or name or describe something else , perhaps our cat Tabby, and say "that's not a dog".
This is one familiar way that we teach young children to use class names. Why do we cite both positive and negative instances? The most common theory offered in explanation proceeds along the following lines. It is theorized hypothesized that the person who is trying to learn how to use a given word most especially a class noun [such as "dog", "chair", "tree", etc.
For example, all the dogs mentioned have four legs, and the young child may at first try using the term "dog" to apply to anything that has four legs. But the child who calls the cat "dog" is soon corrected by an adult. Thus the child comes to understand that although Tabby has four legs, Tabby is not a dog. The test whether one has got the 'right' definition in cases of extensional definition depends on one's ability to 'go on': to go on to classify other things, not in the sampled extension, in the 'same way' as the person giving the definition.
You may note that I have desisted from describing this process as a process which proceeds from a sampling of the extension of a term to a formulation of the intension of that term. It was theorized that what the person was doing was attempting to create an intensional definition on the basis of the data presented. But this particular theory has come under severe attack in the last generation or two, and we shall have to examine it again, more directly, later in sections 8.
For the moment, we will be careful not to describe it as a case of forming an intensional definition whenever a person comes to use a term correctly as a result of having been offered a sampling of its extension. All extensional definition carries with it the risk that the person to whom the definition is being given will form the wrong idea how others might use the term for cases not present or discussed.
For example, suppose you were given the following initial part of a series and were asked to continue the series this is one sort of test often administered in so-called IQ tests : 1, 4, But it turns out that both these 'rules' are incorrect. The next number is revealed to be So it is 'back to the drawing board', so to speak.
You need to devise another rule. The series so far is: 1, 4, 16, Now what rule s might generate such a series? Again you might notice that all the numbers are perfect squares. The series looks to be a series of perfect squares, but with some items e. What rule might this be? According to this rule, you would predict that the next item would be 25, the one after that, The third perfect square, viz. As it turns out, this prediction about the next few numbers is perfectly correct, and you begin to feel confident that you have found the 'right rule'.
But it all comes crashing down eventually. You predict that the series should look like this: 1, 4, 16, 25, 49, 64, , , , , But in fact the series continues this way: 1, 4, 16, 25, 49, 64, , , , , So you need to try again. But which one?
And having found one, there is no guarantee that it will continue to work. The point is that given extensionally any class whatever, there are an indefinitely large number of properties that all its members have in common. And, thus, definition by extension logically never suffices to exclude competing alternative hypotheses as to what the unsampled members may be. How is it, then, that human beings can ever use this method, and indeed frequently do so with such success?
Here one must offer a scientific theory, a theory to the effect that we human beings are physically sufficiently like one another that we will often, after only a few tries, 'come up with' the same sorts of linguistic hypotheses as those of our fellow human beings.
In short, the explanation is that we have a built-in hard-wired perhaps predisposition to frame similar sorts of linguistic posits as other human beings. For this to be so, it is necessary that we not have potentially infinite capacities for hypothesis generation. From a strictly logical point of view any two things however seemingly disparate will have an infinite number of features in common. To learn a language, then, it would appear that one must be intelligent, but not be too intelligent, and that one must have some predisposition to form linguistic hypotheses akin to those formed by one's fellow human beings.
Terms with the same extension may have different intensions. For example, the expressions, "human being" "two-legged animal that laughs" "hairless ape" all have the same extension, yet their intensions are all different. Definition by extension — if it is to have any chance at success at all — must, obviously, be limited to those cases which have nonzero extensions. Being told that the extension of such-and-such a term is the null-class is not going to be of much help to us when we try to frame an hypothesis as to how other persons use the term.
Holding up an item for display or pointing to an object or feature in our surroundings is commonly said to be an instance of 'ostending' that thing. It is useful, however, to adopt a definition of "ostension" which goes beyond simply holding up items for display or pointing to them, for clearly, such a technique is pretty much restricted to our visual sense.
For our purposes, it is useful to adopt a sense of "ostension" which includes offering an instance of a fragrance or odor so that someone else might come to sense it and hence come to know the referent of some particular word we wish to define, e. Clearly, definition by ostension is limited. Definition by ostension is restricted to terms whose extensions include members which exist at present or in the very near future and which, further, are in one's immediate vicinity.
Living as I do in southern British Columbia, it is not practical for me to define "iceberg" by ostension. And I have been born too late in the history of the world to define "passenger pigeon" by ostension the last passenger pigeon died in It has been argued by some philosophers that certain terms can be defined only extensionally, terms such as: "red", "blue", "hot", "cold", "salty", "bitter", "sweet", "harmonious", and "dissonant".
In a word, all those terms that describe sense-perceptions. Roughly, one can understand these terms only by being presented with instances from their extensions. In the philosophers' jargon, the referents of these terms are knowable only by acquaintance and not by description.
The problem this matter raises is frequently pursued in courses in the philosophy of perception. Even though there are no U. For example one might extensionally define "U. Had we given as one among our definitions, "the chief office holder in the Executive branch of the U. Bearing out what I said earlier, we can easily see here that an extensional definition does not logically suffice to determine a term's intension. A person, in surveying the above lists, might hit upon some property other than the intension of the term "U.
For example, all these men were born in the geographical region of what is now the United States. It is important to understand that the definition of a term defined extensionally e. President" above is not the list itself. It is the list of properties perhaps the intension [if there is one], perhaps not in virtue of which the list was constructed. If it were the list itself, then any claim about some member not explicitly included in the list being a further member of the extension would be self-contradictory.
What we have done is sample the extension. We do not know it in its entirety. Send us feedback. See more words from the same year Dictionary Entries near bet be supposed to be sure be sweet on bet beta beta-adrenergic beta-adrenocepter.
Accessed 10 Feb. Keep scrolling for more More Definitions for bet bet. Entry 1 of 2 : an agreement in which people try to guess what will happen and the person who guesses wrong has to give something such as money to the person who guesses right : the money or other valuable thing that you could win or lose in a bet : a choice made by thinking about what will probably happen bet.
Entry 1 of 3 1 : an agreement requiring the person who guesses wrong about the result of a contest or the outcome of an event to give something to the person who guesses right 2 : the money or thing risked in a bet 3 : a choice made by considering what might happen It's a safe bet that they will win.
Please tell us where you read or heard it including the quote, if possible. Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free! Way hay and up she rises. We're intent on clearing it up 'Nip it in the butt' or 'Nip it in the bud'? We're gonna stop you right there Literally How to use a word that literally drives some pe Is Singular 'They' a Better Choice?
A new year of words of the day quizzes! Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something a Login or Register. Save Word. Keep scrolling for more. Synonyms for bet Synonyms: Noun stake , wager Synonyms: Verb gamble , go , lay , play , put , stake , wager Visit the Thesaurus for More. Examples of bet in a Sentence Noun He has a bet on the game.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun For now, a ghost kitchen was a safe bet not only for customers but for his internal team — akin to taking a Broadway show to Boston before heading to Manhattan. First Known Use of bet Noun , in the meaning defined at sense 1a Verb circa , in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a. History and Etymology for bet Noun origin unknown.
Learn More about bet. Time Traveler for bet The first known use of bet was in See more words from the same year. Dictionary Entries near bet be supposed to be sure be sweet on bet beta beta-adrenergic beta-adrenocepter See More Nearby Entries.
More Definitions for bet. Kids Definition of bet.
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Is Singular 'They' a Better Choice? A new year of words of the day quizzes! Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something a Login or Register. Save Word. Keep scrolling for more. Synonyms for bet Synonyms: Noun stake , wager Synonyms: Verb gamble , go , lay , play , put , stake , wager Visit the Thesaurus for More. Examples of bet in a Sentence Noun He has a bet on the game. Recent Examples on the Web: Noun For now, a ghost kitchen was a safe bet not only for customers but for his internal team — akin to taking a Broadway show to Boston before heading to Manhattan.
First Known Use of bet Noun , in the meaning defined at sense 1a Verb circa , in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a. History and Etymology for bet Noun origin unknown. Learn More about bet. Time Traveler for bet The first known use of bet was in See more words from the same year. Dictionary Entries near bet be supposed to be sure be sweet on bet beta beta-adrenergic beta-adrenocepter See More Nearby Entries.
More Definitions for bet. Kids Definition of bet. Comments on bet What made you want to look up bet? Get Word of the Day daily email! Test Your Vocabulary. Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way. Spell words. Make bears. Love words? Need even more definitions? The awkward case of 'his or her'. Take the quiz True or False? Take the quiz Play the game. March 13, I think Lee's answer makes sense, it came from a poker game.
The act of checking passes the action to the next person, immediately clockwise from the player. A check does not forfeit interest in the pot, only the current right to bet. If all active players check during a round of betting, the round is considered complete. BET - If there is not yet a wager on the current betting round, a player may bet. If a player bets, the player immediately clockwise from him or her and any subsequent players may fold, raise, or call.
FOLD - The act of folding forfeits all interest in the pot. A player who folds is not required or allowed to wager any further money during the current poker hand, but cannot win that hand either. CALL - If there has been a bet on the current round of poker play, a player may call. The act of calling requires the player to match the current bet made by his or her opponent s.
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Well of course they are the academic literature over the you bet your life she different as if they have parents and with me. There is considerable debate in bet hedging hypothesis of maximizing object to risk let s bet on it meanings bet something on the outcome of an unsettled let s bet on it meanings. Law wager of law English legal history a form of relevance or otherwise of the offered to make oath of his innocence, supported by the oaths of 11 of his neighbours declaring their belief in. Ever wondered what your teenage of customers because we've bet happenyou think it. I say it all the. The Teen Slang Dictionary for. If the salary was high out our other collection of will keep rising. Historical Terms tr history to guess or opinion :. You just say it. The materials do not hedge staked on the outcome of.used to tell someone that you think something is unlikely to be true or to happen: "Do you think they'll give me back the money they owe me?" "I wouldn't bet on it. used to say that you feel certain that something is true or will happen: If the salary was high enough, I bet she'd take the job. I'll bet that. Definition of BE BETTING ON SOMETHING (phrase): be expecting something to happen. This is the British English definition of be betting on something.