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Arguments of Definition


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Presentation delivered to the English 104 class at Victor Valley College.

Presentation delivered to the English 104 class at Victor Valley College.

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  • 1. Arguments of Definition English 104
  • 2. Understanding Arguments of Definition Definition arguments try to establish whether someone or something belongs to a certain category  Examples:  Is a bear in the Rocky Mountains an endangered species?  Is an unsolicited kiss sexual harassment?  Is that person a man or a woman?  In order to answer each of the above questions, the definitions of ‘endangered species,’ ‘sexual harassment,’ and ‘man/woman’ must be determined
  • 3. Understanding Arguments of Definition Many definitions are subject to debate and controversy  Example:  ‘Human intelligence’ can be defined as any of the following:  A capacity measurable using mathematical and verbal tests, such as IQ and SAT scores  Ability to perform specific tasks  Emotional competence when relating to other people • Some may argue that one of the definitions is more appropriate than the others
  • 4. Understanding Arguments of Definition Arguments of definition can’t always be solved by using a dictionary  Dictionary definitions can be limited in scope or pertain only to a specific group’s usage  Dictionary definitions can reflect the prejudices of their writers You can disagree with dictionary definitions or use them only as starting points for arguments
  • 5. Kinds of Definition Formal definitions – the technical definition found in references, such as dictionaries Operational definitions – defining through the use of a process or set of validation tests  Example: Using chromosomal tests to define a person’s gender Definitions by example – defining through the use of classification and categorization, often using compare and contrast  Example: Pluto is no longer classified as a planet because it did not meet the same criteria as compared to the recognized planets
  • 6. Remember You’re entering into a definition argument when you:  Formulate a controversial definition  Example: In the 21st century, what it means to be a woman has taken on a new definition. No longer a simple issue of anatomy, we now know that women aren’t always born; sometimes, boys can grow up and become women too.  Challenge a definition  Example: Defining ‘woman’ based on genetics is limiting; instead, gender should be determined by a person’s mental rather than physical state.  Try to determine whether something fits an existing definition  Example: Although Geena Rocero was born a boy, she is a woman based on her current anatomy and involvement in feminine activities, such as beauty pageants.  Seek to broaden an existing definition  Example: Not all women are born with female genetic make-up; there can be many ways to be a woman that go beyond the boundaries of genes.
  • 7. Works Cited Lunsford,Andrea A., John J. Ruszkiewicz, and Keith Walters. Everything’s an Argument with Readings. 6th ed. NewYork: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013. Print.