There is a principle in the laws of logic that one cannot argue against something that is true by definition. We can argue whether or not a definition applies, or it has been applied correctly, but we cannot argue with a conclusion based on definition. This is because anything based on definition is true by its very nature. For example: by definition, something either exists or it does not exist. It is impossible for something to exist and not exist at the same exact time and point in space. This is because of the definition of exist. Therefore, anyone who argues against the fact that thing cannot exist and not exist at the same time is being irrational. Or, put another way, they are ‘not all there.’ Now, let’s take this and apply it to a commonly occurring theme in our modern political arena: the claim that we cannot apply ‘labels’ to other people based on what they say and do.
Now, let me start by saying that I agree with the idea that we should not use ‘labels’ as ad hominem attacks. In other words, we should not call people names or try to slap a name on them so as to shame them or otherwise influence the exercise of their free will for fear of the repercussions generated by that label: no name calling, if you will. However, at the same time, I reject the tendency to equivocate: the practice of redefining the proper and appropriate application of a definition by calling it ‘labeling,’ then proceeding to act as though the definition and the label are factually the same. Let me provide a real-world example:
I frequently encounter people on line who, after a short conversation, invariably fall in to a predictable pattern of thinking. They will claim they are seeking a reasoned discussion, but they soon steer the discussion into an ‘Either/Or’ situation: either you agree with them and their position, or…. (fill in whatever they call you, it doesn’t matter — they will throw a label on you). When I encounter one of these folks, I will usually tell them they are ‘Liberal/Progressive’ in their thinking and, almost all the time, they will reject this and attack me for ‘labeling’ them. This is equivocation, and it is almost useless to try and discuss anything with such a person. Once you get to this point, you can be all but certain that you are dealing with a person who has renounced the use of reason in favor of their own reality. But why is this equivocation and not ad hominem?
The answer is simple, and it is found in the definition of ‘Liberal/Progressive.’
In this case, when I use the term, ‘Liberal/Progressive,’ I am using a lose definition. Essentially, it is a person who thinks in terms of the collective, ‘my-way-or-the-highaway,’ do not apply my words against me, etc.. They are also blind to their own guilt. They will say you are labeling them when you call them a Liberal/Progressive, then accuse you of being whatever they decide is the best derogatory comment at the moment. In other words, they label you, whereas, you actually applied a definition to them. They are the ones committing a fallacy. They are the ones who are labeling. They are actually doing what they accuse you of doing, and they absolutely cannot see their own guilt — ever!
So, here is the deal. If the definition fits, then the definition fits — wear it! This applies to all of us, no matter what our political persuasion. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with the proper and accurate application of a definition. So long as the definition is properly and accurately applied, it does not matter how bad it makes someone feel, it is still true — by definition!
Therefore, the next time you properly and accurately apply a definition to someone based on what they say and do, stand your ground. No matter how much they complain, or how loudly, or how viciously they attack you, do not budge. Just tell them that, if it bothers them sooo much, then, maybe — just maybe — they should re-evaluate what they believe. Because, if the definition fits, that is what they are!