Chapter 3 PPT

Chapter 3: Lecture Notes
Looking at Language
Chapter 3: Looking at Language
Goals for Chapter 3
• Identifying emotionally charged
language and euphemisms
• Identifying claims that are vague or
• Identifying fallacies of equivocation
• Understanding how definitions can
shape issues
Pay attention to some of the different ways
language is used:
• Informative language (cognitive): provides
information which can give us the basis for
• Emotive language: language which merely
expresses emotion. Language consisting of
words or statements which possess a tone or
force that evokes emotion.
• Euphemisms and buzzwords are categories
we reserve for language which contains emotive
tone or force (or both).
Chapter 3
Emotionally Charged Language
Emotionally charged language is sometimes called “loaded
language” and it functions to create a mood or attitude
without argument or reasons.
Consider the difference in these two phrases:
(i) Welfare reform
(ii) Cutting welfare entitlements
The second has a negative feel or attitude, but the first
does not.
Chapter 3
Neutrality in emotional tone with language is
probably impossible, and if possible would
make language boring.
Just because an argument has loaded
language in it does not mean that the
argument is meritless.
Chapter 3
A euphemism is a bland, abstract, or polite use of language
used to refer to something that would otherwise be
embarrassing, demeaning, appalling, or horrible.
Collateral damage is a euphemism for the killing of
innocents bystanders
Pushing up daisies and kicking the bucket are euphemisms
for death.
Chapter 3
Euphemisms are often funny:
vertically challenged for shot people
follically challenged for bald people
Euphemisms become a block to thought and understanding
when they are used to block aspects of reality involving
serious matters like harm, torture, false arrests, poverty,
war, and humiliation.
Evasive, ambiguous, high-flown language
intended to deceive or confuse.
the poor
bum/street person
firing employees
safety-related occurrence
incomplete success
fiscal underachievers
service technician
non-goal oriented member of society
downsizing personnel
Chapter 3
Two types of unclear language that gives
rise to problems in arguments are:
Ambiguity and Vagueness
Chapter 3
Ambiguity occurs when a word or phrase may have several
meanings, any of which, could fit naturally in the context
being used. This newspaper headline for example,
“Home Delivery Sought”
There are several natural interpretations of this phrase,
which means it is ambiguous:
Giving birth at home instead of at the hospital
Getting mail delivered to residences
Having a house delivered
Context can matter and often solves the problem of
ambiguity for us in what interpretation to use.
Chapter 3
There are two basic types of ambiguity:
Semantic and Syntactic
Semantic ambiguity has to do with the meaning of the
words and occurs when there is more than one possible
meaning of the word in question.
Bank and right are two words with multiple meaning that
can give rise to ambiguous sentences if you don’t know
the context in question.
Syntactic ambiguity are due to issues of structure of a
phrase or the sentence.
“It is time for football and meatball stew”
Is syntactically ambiguous because of the linking of football
with meatball. Poor writing often gives rise to syntactic
ambiguity and this example could have been eliminated
if it had been written this way:
“It is time for meatball stew and football.”
Chapter 3
When an argument relies on or has an instance of
ambiguity in it, it is a mistaken in reasoning. When this
mistake occurs in an argument it is called the fallacy of
equivocation. For example:
I have the right to vote for higher taxes.
Therefore, I did the right thing voting for higher taxes.
In this case the word ‘right’ is being used in two sense, and
this means that the premise doesn’t support the
conclusion in the way intended by the author.
Consider the following example:
Fetuses have a right to life. This is clear
when we consider that fetuses are obviously
human and all human beings have a right to
• What’s the conclusion?
• What are the premises?
• How does this argument commit the fallacy
of equivocation?
1. Fetuses are obviously human.
2. All human beings have a right to life. Therefore.
3. Fetuses have a right to life.
Human in this argument is used equivocally. It has two
1. Human in the biological sense: a member of the
biological species.
2. Human (as in humane or human rights) in the moral
sense: a member of the moral class of beings
characterized by rights.
Another example:
Science has discovered many laws of nature. This
surely constitutes proof that there is a God, for wherever
there are laws, there must be a lawgiver. Consequently,
God must exist as the Great Lawgiver of the universe.
• conclusion?
• premises?
• equivocation?
1. Science has discovered many laws of nature.
2. Wherever there are laws, there must be a lawgiver.
3. God must exist as the Great Lawgiver of the universe.
Ambiguous between two senses of the term “law” –
prescriptive law (as a legislature or lawgiver might
create) and descriptive law (which identifies patterns or
regularities in the world)
Chapter 3
Vagueness is a lack of distinctness of meaning.
To be contrasted with ambiguity, vagueness has unclear
meanings, while ambiguous words and phrases have
multiple meanings.
I have a big house is vague. Big is vague because there is
not clear sense in when a house is big. Three bedrooms
or 30 bedrooms. Big is used vaguely in this context.

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