Talk:Equivocation

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Margarine is better than nothing Nothing is better than butter Therefore margarine is better than butter

I have to say that the above passage is logical and correct: Margarine > Nothing > Butter

Wrong.

It's that simple. I don't see equivocation in it.

Sorry to hear it. Because if nothing is better than butter, that includes margerine.

Whoever wrote this passage was a fool, because he or she was using enthymatic language: Implied bread was in the equation. I like to use butter in my skillet instead of margarine.

Your reasoning as to who is a fool is fallacious.

How about this one?

Libraries contain books, and books contain knowledge. Knowledge is power and power is energy. Energy, frozen in one place, becomes mass. Too much mass in one place creates a black hole. Therefore The Library of Congress should be a black hole! (maybe that is why Wikipedia is gaining popularity, nobody can get anything useful out of the Library of Congress!) - KeyStroke


I'm not quite sure how an amphiboly is related to syntax, so I removed that reference. Lucidish 21:40, 19 November 2005 (UTC)

Context[edit]

Could someone add a few more words to the intro to explain what this is actually about? Is it used in logical deduction, writing, philosophy? Stevage 11:20, 17 December 2005 (UTC)

Cleared up. Said it was logical fallacy. Logic, however, is used in writing and philosophy anyway. Lucidish 05:56, 18 December 2005 (UTC)

I think its worth noting one of the most frequent usages of this fallacy, when politicians and activists attack evolution as being "only a theory." 66.44.106.4 17:36, 15 April 2006 (UTC)

{{Help Me}}

In elaborating on the explanation of how and why the quotation from Shakespeare was a significant comment on the events of those times, I inserted what I thought was a useful comment. I have found that the additionnal piece that I offered has not appeared in the article; but, it still appears in a "hidden form" (within my editing page) as follows:

According to Malloch (1966), the source of the doctrine of equivocation was a short treatise, in cap. Humanae aures, that had been written by Martin Azpilcueta (a.k.a. Doctor Navarrus), an Augustinian who was serving as a consultant to the Apostolic Penitentiary. It was published in Rome in 1584. The first Jesuit influence upon this doctrine was not until 1609, "when Suarez rejected Azpilcueta's basic proof and supplied another" (Malloch, p.145; speaking of Francisco Suárez).


The two ends of this piece have been added to my original piece: namely, (a) ": < ! - - What doctrine does this refer to?" at the beginning, and (b) "- - >" at the end.

I am new to Wikipedia, and I have been unable to find any explanation for the "< - -" and "- - >" coding.

I am supposing that it is either a case of someone suggesting that I place the short piece in a new sub-section entitled "What doctrine does this refer to?" (which I think is a very good idea), ot that somebody is asking me to supply some supporting evience (which I can do, from the article of Malloch).

Either way, I am more than happy to perform whatever actions are required of me. I simply don't understand the "< - -" and "- - >" coding, and I would be really grateful if somebody could explain the meaning and/or the intention of that coding to me. Thannks (in anticipation) cogtrue 00:38, 11 May 2006 (UTC)

The <!-- and --> tags are used to place comments in the source code so that editors can see important information before editing articles. See Wikipedia:How to edit a page. For various reasons, it is often convenient to "comment out" something from the main article while keeping it in the source code. For example, OrphanBot comments out images with unspecified sources, keeping the name of the image file in the source so that it can be replaced easily after a source is provided. In this case, Mel Etitis commented out the paragraph in question. I don't know why he did so, but I'm sure he'd be willing to offer an explanation. In case he doesn't see this discussion, you can ask him on his talk page. Thanks. I hope this helps! --TantalumTelluride 01:00, 11 May 2006 (UTC)
The commented question was asking for an identification of "the doctrine of equivocation". The article contains no other mention or explanation of a doctrine, only of the logical and stylistic uses of the term "equivocation; thus the suddent reference to the doctrine of equivocation was obscure. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 21:42, 11 May 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for the clarification. I will chase it up and submit a more coherent paragraph in due course. cogtrue 00:17, 12 May 2006 (UTC)

Riddles[edit]

Is this true? I typed it up and was going to include it but paused because these types of riddles are more of a play on the definition than the word.

Equivocation is often used in riddles. A fairly common example:

Riddle: You are standing in a room with nothing but a table and a mirror. There are no doors, windows, holes and there is no obvious way to leave the room. How do you get out?

Solution: You look in the mirror to see what you saw, use the saw to cut the table in half, put the halves together to make a whole and climb out.

Equivocation is used twice in the solution: once for the word "saw" and once for the word "whole". It is worthy to note that the extra definition of "whole" plays on its homophone "hole".

MrHen. 18:33, 25 January 2007 (UTC)

What you speak of is different from straight out equivocation where a word, as uttered, can not be immediately understood without further contextual information.
It seems that here, the issue is one of actively switching the (previously identified) referent; and, as a consequence, the phenomenon you're addressing is neither that of a "riddle" nor of an "equivocation", but simply, that of a "pun".
As in: "He told the sexton, and the sexton toll'd the bell"129.94.6.28 01:40, 26 January 2007 (UTC)
Also see Janus words for another sort of phenomenon129.94.6.28 02:23, 26 January 2007 (UTC)
Then you shout until you're hoarse, and gallop off into the sunset. Moon Oracle 21:13, 4 August 2007 (UTC)

Additonal Example[edit]

What does a man love more than life?
Hate more than death or mortal strife?
That which contented men desire,
The poor have, the rich require,
The miser spends, the spendthrift saves,
And all men carry to their graves?
(Leemings, 1953, 201)

The answer, Nothing, can only be seen through a kaleidoscope of equivocations.

"Jackass" implies gender? Really?[edit]

A Jackass is a male member of the species Equus asinus

What does that make a female member? A Jillass? --75.49.222.55 04:29, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Absolutely! The definition of Jillass is:
A Jillass is a female member of the species Equus asinus
Which of course implies that fe = Jill. Said: Rursus () 12:11, 8 September 2008 (UTC)

Jackass example is misleading.[edit]

The Jackass example could mislead people, because there are two logical fallacies in it, not one. There is equivocation on the term 'Jackass', but there is also a fallacy of the form 'X => Y, therefore Y => X' (not sure what this fallacy should be called). Specifically, the argument switches between 'Jackasses have long ears' and 'Things that have long ears are jackasses'. Unless anyone objects, I will replace this with a clearer example. TheAstonishingBadger (talk) 00:04, 27 November 2007 (UTC)

I see that someone has changed it - nice one. TheAstonishingBadger (talk) 21:13, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
I really should read the talk pages before editing articles. William Avery (talk) 22:34, 7 December 2007 (UTC)

It seems that there should be further delineation between equivocation and amphiboly. Vckngs7 (talk) 23:08, 25 February 2008 (UTC)

What about words with common origin that have come to mean different things?[edit]

As English is not my first language I have always been baffled by the lack of distinction between "medicine" and "illicit narcotics" - in everyday language they're both simply referred to as "drugs". While the term "drugs" can refer to any chemical with biological activity and as such encompasses both groups, illicit AND therapeutic, I would argue that "drugs" functions as a homonym because in normal conversation it will specifically refer to one OR the other.

However, now and then pharmaceutical treatments spark controversy and in the ensuing debate the word "drugs" is often used as a weapon because it evokes an emotional response in the collective subconscious (Drugs are bad. M'kay?) Furthermore the fundamental conceptual difference between illicit narcotics and medicine may be lost on a lot of people, and more still perceive the distinction as blurry at best, the lack of proper words is in itself preventing people from separating the two. This makes "drugs" a very effective rhetorical tool, and if we consider "drugs" to be a homonym it makes this a very subtle equivocation.

OlaIsacsson (talk) 19:52, 9 February 2009 (UTC)

With your example, there are two equiprobable possibilities:

(a) you have, unfortunately, overlooked the fact that various criminal elements took great trouble in the 1960s to encourage society to "position" these correctly named psychotomimetic (chemicals which, upon ingestion mimic the symptoms of psychosis) as the entirely irresponsible and dangerously misleading "psychedelic" ("Mind expanding"), or the outright criminally misrepresenting "recreational drugs; on the other hand . . .
(b) you may, unknowingly, be making a claim here that the term "drug" is a Janus word.129.94.78.159 (talk) 21:57, 9 February 2009 (UTC)

(a) More oblivious than overlooking (overlook being a janus word btw. :) ) Interesting to hear, though, that it may have been a conscious effort to mix the two concepts up.

(b) Close, but not exactly as "illicit narcotics" and "medicine" are not really antonyms, they are just grouped together by physical properties instead of purpose. An absurd but illustrative example might be as follows: Imagine replacing the words for various stick-shaped weapons (arrow, spear, club et.c.) AND any stick-shaped sporting utensil (hockey sticks, baseball bats et.c.) and just refer to all of them as sticks, then in a generation or so we'd start to see mothers concerned about the extent to which young people play with sticks. Clubs and spears might be a bit too anachronistic to cause this effect in reality, but again this is just to illustrate my point they all are sticks but it is an irrelevant grouping since whenever you would talk about "sticks" you would mean either one or the other, not both. Today "sticks" have only one meaning: any stick-shaped objects. In the aforementioned case this would still be true (as it is for drugs), but in everyday speech "sticks" would have two meanings: scary, nasty weapons for gruesome gore violence and sports accessories. OlaIsacsson (talk) 10:28, 10 February 2009 (UTC)

Outside formal logic[edit]

Apart from its use as a technical term in logic, equivocation can also mean the use of language that is ambiguous, i.e. equally susceptible of being understood in two different ways. There is usually a strong connotation that the ambiguity is being used with intention to deceive.

This type of equivocation was famously mocked in the porter's speech in Shakespeare's Macbeth, in which the porter directly alludes to the practice of deceiving under oath by means of equivocation.

Faith, here's an equivocator, that could swear in both the scales against either scale; who committed treason enough for God's sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven. (Macbeth, Act 2, Scene 3)

See, for example Robert Southwell and Henry Garnet, author of A Treatise of Equivocation (published secretly c. 1595) — to whom, it is supposed, Shakespeare was specifically referring.[citation needed] Shakespeare made the reference to priests because the religious use of equivocation was well-known in those periods of early modern England (eg under James VI/I) when it was a capital offence for a Roman Catholic priest to enter England.

A Jesuit priest would equivocate in order to protect himself from the secular authorities without (in his eyes) committing the sin of lying. For example, he could use the ambiguity of the word "a" (meaning "any" or "one") to say "I swear I am not a priest", because he could have a particular priest in mind who he was not. That is, in his mind, he was saying "I swear I am not one priest" (e.g. "I am not Father Brown".) This was theorized by casuists as the doctrine of mental reservation.

According to Malloch (1966) [citation needed] , this doctrine of permissible "equivocation" did not originate with the Jesuits.

Malloch cites a short treatise, in cap. Humanae aures, that had been written by Martin Azpilcueta (also known as Doctor Navarrus), an Augustinian who was serving as a consultant to the Apostolic Penitentiary. It was published in Rome in 1584. The first Jesuit influence upon this doctrine was not until 1609, "when Suarez rejected Azpilcueta's basic proof and supplied another" (Malloch, p.145; speaking of Francisco Suárez).

These paragraphs currently appear (out of place?) in our article on Amphibology. I think it belongs here, but we would need to change our introductory paragraph to include both the formal logic and the everyday senses on the word in one article. Would it be better to create a separate article on "Equivocation (outside formal logic)"? What does anyone else think? Dbfirs 07:22, 17 August 2009 (UTC)

Is evolution NPOV?[edit]

One typical form of applied equivocation is demonstrated in the following valid, but untrue syllogism, which revolves around the usage of the homonym "theory", when applied to evolution:

Evolution is a theory. Theories are uncertain. Therefore evolution is uncertain.

I am not sure whether or not the words 'valid, but untrue' constitute NPOV.

It is my view that the validity of evolution and the validity of intelligent design are both up to one's opinion. Religious persons may find the quoted statement to be offensive, and it is improper in the world of science to consider a theory to be certain; it wouldn't be a theory if it were.

Here and later the article transparently implies that there is no scientific uncertainty considering the theory of evolution.

The overall goal of this fallacious syllogism is to create the impression that there is a level of scientific uncertainty regarding evolution.

Among physicists and chemists, the theory of evolution is heavily disputed (as opposed to biologists, who generally accept the theory for the sake of their studies). A strong argument considers universal entropy. Discussions and experiments yield that there is not enough universal disorder to balance the amount of order that exists on earth alone in the form of organized life forms.

These references should clearly show that there is an opinion-war among religious people, namely Judeo-Christian, and evolutionists. Secondly, they provide opinions about universal entropy and evolution that should help in the discussion of this topic.

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

This is my first talk post ever, forgive me if I'm an idiot, and please help me with my formatting. Derek (talk) 15:32, 29 October 2009 (UTC)

It is my view that the validity of evolution and the validity of intelligent design are both up to one's opinion.

What isn't up to one's opinion? Now, there are some opinions that have very strong support behind them, and there are others that don't. But you're free to believe either way. However, wikipedia generally has a policy of following the consensus opinion of the science in question, and that doesn't change just because an unusually large % of the American population happens to have ideological issues with that consensus.

and it is improper in the world of science to consider a theory to be certain; it wouldn't be a theory if it were.

A theory is just a model that attempts to describe something. Literally everything in science is a theory. These theories have varying levels of evidential support behind them, of course. There are some theories that are tenuous (string theory), and others that are practically certain (the Theory of General Relativity). You may try to draw a distinction between theories and "laws". However, in fact, a law itself is really just a theory deep down. This is why, in recent years, physics has shied away from using the word "law" to describe anything. That's why the Theory of General Relativity isn't called the Law of General Relativity, even though it proved that Newton's "Law" of Universal Gravitation was incomplete at some level and didn't really describe all gravity. When a theory is tenous, it will usually be described as such, and the supporters of that theory will be searching for evidence for it. However, evolution is not one of the tenous theories. It's one of the bedrock theories, like relativity. In science, they use the word "theory" simply to describe a model of the natural world. You are using the word "theory" to mean "a model of the natural world that doesn't have a lot of support behind it". However, that's not what science is trying to imply. There are good theories and bad ones. Ones you have good reason to believe in and ones you don't. Being called a theory isn't meant to be a strike against it. But you're trying to use the word as if it is, implicitly reading meaning into the situation that isn't really theory. You ARE equivocating here. If we can't consider any model of the universe relatively certain, then we can't be certain about anything. At some point, we can really doubt anything. However, as a practical matter, there must be a threshold of evidence after which it's stupidity to continue skepticism.

Among physicists and chemists, the theory of evolution is heavily disputed (as opposed to biologists, who generally accept the theory for the sake of their studies).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Level_of_support_for_evolution#Scientific_support
Only 5% of scientists in general identify themselves as creationists. Perhaps they're all physicists and chemists, and physics and chemistry is a special bastion of creationist thought amongst the sciences. However, I find that doubtful. If the specific numbers for the field of physics and chemistry is anywhere close to that number, you cannot reasonably call the theory "heavily disputed".

>A strong argument considers universal entropy. Discussions and experiments yield that there is not enough universal disorder to balance the amount of order that exists on earth alone in the form of organized life forms.

The second law of thermodynamics only applies to isolated systems. Secondly, "order" is not a quantity. The law states that differences in temperatures, pressure, and chemical potential equilibrate tend to equal out over time. You don't measure "order" or "disorder" and compare them against each other. That's complete and total nonsense.

These references should clearly show that there is an opinion-war among religious people, namely Judeo-Christian, and evolutionists.

What about Muslims? If anything, doubt about evolution is much stronger in fundamentalist Islamic nations than it is in the west. Why isolate Jews and Christians, who are much more likely to believe in the theory? Anyway, all of your references work against your point. I'm not sure what you were trying to prove by post them.65.0.183.224 (talk) 19:30, 12 February 2012 (UTC)

Isn't evolution speculative? Seriously, crack open a Biology book, turn to the chapters on systematics and phylogeny and see all the times the book uses the words may, might, perhaps, etc. Whether or not it is true, evolution has not been proven, is still a theory (as opposed to a law) and therefore is based on speculation, educated or not.

-Andrew Knox, 19:19, March 08, 2010 —Preceding unsigned comment added by 76.28.140.5 (talk) 03:19, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

There's some common misunderstanding about what theories and laws are. Theories don't ever become laws. A law is a universal fact about the universe, where as a theory is a well tested explanation of observations which also makes accurate predictions about future observtions. Just like the germ theory of disease, theory of gravity, theory of plate tectonics, theory of tides, atomic theory, etc, the theory of evolution has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt and has achieved the highest status possible (scientific theory). None of these theories will ever become laws, nor can they attain any status higher than theory. (Note: The bottom of the scientific theory article has a brief section to clarify the difference between theories and laws)
Also if you look at the textbooks for any of those other theories (gravity, plate tectonics, germs, etc) you'll find words like "might" and "maybe" used as well. This is not because they're guessing, but because they are being honest. Humans do not have absolute knowledge about anything.. but just because a book on modern medicine says that a certain symptom MIGHT be related to a specific disease, that doesn't mean that the germ theory of disease is "speculative", and maybe there's no such thing as viruses, and maybe it was demons all along. All it means is that we lack absolute knowledge, and that the auther is being honest about where evidence seems to lead. When a book fails to mention phrases like "it might be" or "seems to imply" etc, this is a sign of dishonesty, not knowledge. 74.14.121.121 (talk) 05:21, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
"Humans do not have absolute knowledge about anything" - this is self contradictory - if we have no absolute knowledge about anything how do you know that we have no absolute knowledge about anything? A theory is anything based on assumptions which is not absolutely known - if it is absolutely known, it is a fact. The syllogism used is valid AND true because "theory" in both propositions means the same thing: a thing based on presumptions without absolute truth being known. It is not equivocation at all. Ironically though, what IS equivocation is the argument against the syllogism being true; someone is giving a second meaning "theory based on probable knowledge" as opposed to factual knowledge to the term "theory". —Preceding unsigned comment added by 121.73.151.5 (talk) 00:03, 22 July 2010 (UTC)
Sigh... Humans as far as we can tell do not have absolute knowledge about anything. There. All better? OlaIsacsson (talk) 13:55, 24 March 2011 (UTC)
"this is self contradictory - if we have no absolute knowledge about anything how do you know that we have no absolute knowledge about anything?"
Well, we may have absolute knowledge, but if we can't absolutely know whether or not this knowledge is truly absolute that doesn't get us very far, does it? It is one thing to say that there is a single objective reality out there. It is quite another to say you know what it is, and have made no errors.
"A theory is anything based on assumptions which is not absolutely known"
That's not what a theory is. A theory is a model that attempts to describe something. There are good models and bad models, of course. The word makes no evidentiary claims.
"if it is absolutely known, it is a fact."
The word "fact" or "truth" is, in itself, redundant. It is simply a roundabout way of asserting a proposition. There are good propositions and bad propositions, of course. Proposition that you would have to be stupid to believe and claims that you would have to be stupid to disbelieve. But, at their heart, they are really just claims. There is no logical difference between the proposition "Evolution is a theory that correctly describes the world we live in" and the proposition "'Evolution is a theory that correctly describes the world we live in' is true". "Truth" has an implied evidentiary claim behind it, of course - but that's a claim as well, so it doesn't really get you any further. Of course, there has to be a threshold of evidence at which we accept a proposition or a claim. Otherwise, we will simply run around with our hands in the sky accomplishing nothing as human beings. But you are abusing the features of these words in order to make something that is, in all honesty, pretty certain, seem as if it's the most uncertain thing in the world. Worse, you're probably doing so for no other reason than to bolster your claim to the existence of a certain being with far, far less evidence behind it. This is simply sophistry.
"someone is giving a second meaning "theory based on probable knowledge" as opposed to factual knowledge to the term "theory"."
Again, there is rightly no evidential claim behind the word "theory" at all. You are the one reading this evidentiary claim into the word and equivocating.65.0.183.224 (talk) 20:01, 12 February 2012 (UTC)

"It is my view that the validity of evolution and the validity of intelligent design are both up to one's opinion."

First, the views of editors are irrelevant. Second, virtually every claim you make is factually false. Third, see the Wikipedia policy on undue weight. -- 96.248.226.133 (talk) 04:38, 3 February 2013 (UTC)

"Better than nothing"[edit]

There are no omissions in the initial sentences. The augmentations of "to put" and "bread" are superfluous and can be eliminated for the example. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 130.75.103.189 (talk) 01:20, 8 September 2010 (UTC)

Amphibology[edit]

Is this concept called amphibology as well? If yes, please clarify the text and, what is more important, provide the references.

This is especially important, since some examples seem to be those of "amphiboly" as defined in the intro. Especially keeping in mind that the wikipedia article "amphibology" differs in definition. Lolo Sambinho (talk) 15:33, 15 June 2011 (UTC)

"Polysemic words" and "amphibology"[edit]

May I suggest that in the introduction, the term "polysemic words" be followed by "(words with multiple meanings.)" and "amphibology" with "(ambiguous sentences.)"

(Unless an expert feels it necessary to improve on these.)

It is of great help to the majority of readers if technical terms are explained in situ. Darkman101 (talk) 06:33, 20 March 2012 (UTC)

As there were no comments I have now done this. Darkman101 (talk) 08:01, 3 May 2012 (UTC)