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definist fallacy

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


L ogic Frankena's term for the mistake of defining one predicate by means of another predicate which cannot properly define it. This is the fallacy of identifying two distinct properties. He regards Moore 's “ naturalistic fallacy ” – the practice that attempts to define general ethical terms such as “good” in terms of some supposedly identical natural property – as a species of definist fallacy. In logic, “definist fallacy” refers more generally to a tactic in argument that defines a term in a way favorable to one's position, and then insists that the debate should continue on that basis. For example, an anti-abortion activist insists on defining a fetus as a person, and turns the debate about the morality of abortion into a debate about the morality of killing a person. Sometimes “definist fallacy” also refers to an attitude that requires that a term must be defined before it can be employed. “The definist fallacy is the process of confusing or identifying two properties, of defining one property by another, or of substituting one property for another.” Frankena, “Naturalist Fallacy,” Mind XL VIII ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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