Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Challenge to Feminists and Social Justice Advocates

This is a challenge to all self-proclaimed feminists and social justice advocates in the United States of America.  More specifically, this is a challenge to all of you who sincerely believe that institutionalized sexism is responsible for the gender wage gap in the United States.  I am personally giving this challenge in all sincerity to prove an important myth in popular feminist narratives across the first world.

Dear Feminists and Social Justice Advocates,

I defy you to cite for me a single example of anyone within the United States who satisfies the following conditions:
  1. Is a woman,
  2. Is performing equal quality/quantity of work to her male peers within the same company,
  3. Is being paid less per hour than those male peers,
  4. Is demonstrably being paid less than her male peers because she is female and they are male.
Seriously.  Name me a single example of this happening anywhere.  Give the names of any individuals involved, the work they do, and the companies they work for.  One.  Single.  Example.

Now before you even think about providing an answer, please consider the following proposition. By definition, the moment you satisfy my challenge, you will immediately have satisfied the necessary burden of proof for a lawsuit under the Equal Pay Act.  I therefore have to ask, why the fuck are you wasting your time with me when you should be out talking to a good lawyer?  Seriously guys, did no one ever tell you that it is officially illegal in the United States to pay women less than men for doing the same work?  You people love to rant and rave about all this institutional sexism and gender wage disparity, yet I don't see a whole lot of lawsuits being filed.  Did it never occur to you that, just maybe, the gender wage gap is a tiny bit more nuanced than men in power unilaterally discriminating against women under their employment?

Now to be fair, perhaps you believe that gender pay sexism is more subtle than that.  Maybe businesses are just really clever in hiding their reasons for paying women less than men, but dammit, the sexism is still there!

All right, fine.  Prove it.  The very nature of this argument is an open admission you don't have any evidence to back yourself up.  Ergo, you don't really "know" that sexism is the reason for some instance of gender pay disparity, and all you're doing is speculating blindly.  So get off your ass, do your due diligence, and prove it!  I cannot stress this enough, guys.  The moment you have the hard evidence necessary to prove any form of gender discrimination, you now have the legal ammunition required to stomp it out of existence.  The mere fact that any of it exists in the first place can therefore only be the result of your own personal inaction.

So honestly, guys.  What exactly is stopping you?  The entire weight of the United States federal government is standing by, ready to come to your aid.  All you have to do is back up your assertions with cold, hard, evidence.

Then again, that's exactly your problem, isn't it?

There is No Such Thing as a Necessary Being

Here's a quote by Alvin Plantinga explaining the idea of necessary existence.
"A necessary being is one that can't fail to exist, no matter how things have been.  Or we can say that a necessary being is one that exists in every possible world, where a possible world is a way things could have been.  Sort of a "total" way things could have been; it says something about everything.  One of these possible worlds is actual, the rest of them aren't...  A necessary being is one such that for any world at all, if it had been actual, it would have existed." 

Before I respond to this claim, I think it’s worth pointing out that this is something Alvin Plantinga genuinely believes in.  The guy has written multiple books on this exact subject and even publicly defends them at every opportunity.  Popular Christian apologists like William Lane Craig have likewise appealed to this same idea whenever they argue for God’s existence.  Christian fanboys on YouTube will even publish multi-part video series wherein they explain and defend this principle in elaborate detail.  So I just want to be clear that this is not a fringe, philosophical claim, but a standard go-to principle within mainstream Christianity.  The word "God" is defined to mean a "maximally great being," wherein maximal greatness is defined in such a way that includes the property of necessary existence in all possible worlds.  Therefore, God exists in all possible worlds. 

Now let’s unpack what exactly is going on here.  Whenever we talk about possible worlds, it’s important to understand that we're simply talking about ways our reality might have been.  For example, maybe you can imagine some possible world just like ours, only where George Clooney is the president of the United States rather than Barack Obama.  That’s perfectly all right, and a lot of good philosophy is built on imagining all sorts of wacky what-if scenarios. 

But what is a world, really?  Because when we talk about possible worlds, we don’t mean to imply literal, alternative realities just floating around “out there” in some cosmic multiverse ensemble.  Rather, when you really get down to the nuts and bolts of it, a possible world is nothing more than a formal collection of propositions and truth values.  It’s like a giant book where someone has painstakingly written down every coherent proposition there is to make about our reality, followed by a simple check mark indicating true or false next to each one.  That book, if one were to be constructed, would represent one possible world, and there are an infinite number of such books, or worlds, we could conceivably create.  And if, by some fluke, we should ever happen to write a book that perfectly describes our present objective reality as it really is, then that book would be called the actual world.

Notice, however, that if we're going to describe our world using propositions, then we can’t just randomly assign truth values willy-nilly.  No matter what collection of propositions we use to describe some potential state of affairs, those propositions still have to obey the basic laws of logic.  For example, consider the proposition George Clooney is the president of the United States and George Clooney is not the president of the United States.  What if, for some reason, my world just so happens to assign a value of TRUE to this proposition?  Obviously, my world now contains a logical contradiction and thus, by the principle of explosion, cannot coherently describe anything whatsoever.  All such worlds that violate the laws of logic are therefore said to be impossible because they are not formally allowed within our hypothetical set of what-if scenarios.

In contrast, consider what happens when you encounter a proposition like Either George Clooney is the president or George Clooney is not the president. Obviously, this proposition is a logical tautology and therefore must be true under every possible interpretation.  Any proposition in this category is therefore said to be necessary because it must always be assigned a value of TRUE in every logically consistent world.  The very rules of logic don't allow for anything else.

This is all pretty straightforward material so far, and you can probably see why philosophers might get a lot of productive mileage out of conversing within this framework.  We like imagining how the world might have turned out differently, and we like having a formal set of rules for discussing any scenarios.  That’s why modal logic is such a popular system for guiding philosophical conversations.  However, modal logic is still a really flimsy system, and it doesn’t take much effort to trick yourself into deriving total nonsense.  For example, imagine a possible world where all bachelors have three wives.  Sounds like a contradiction, right?  After all, by definition, a bachelor is an unmarried man, while marriage, by definition, implies a man with at least one wife.  So to say that you are imagining a bachelor with three wives is the logical equivalent to imagining a man with no wives that has wives.  You can’t do it.  The words are literally put together wrongly, which is why any attempt to imagine such a world is said to be necessarily impossible.

Now watch what happens if I arbitrarily decide to redefine the word bachelor.  Instead of being an unmarried man, I want the word bachelor to mean a married man with three wives.  After all, it’s just a word, right?  I’m free to define my terms however I please, am I not?  Maybe I can even convince the staff at Webster’s dictionary to go along with my definition, thus rendering it totally official within the English language.  Now it’s not only logically possible for bachelors to have three wives but also logically necessary!  They can’t NOT have three wives, because the basic definition of the word doesn’t allow for anything else.  Thus, by claiming that all bachelors have three wives, I have just stated the logical equivalent to all men with three wives are men with three wives – a necessary logical tautology.

Hopefully you can see why this might be a problem in that I can now derive any necessary truth I want, simply by playing with my definitions. I could define Santa Claus as a being that exists, and that fact would necessarily be true in all possible worlds because any being that exists is, tautologically, a being that exists.  Any attempt to imagine a possible world without Santa Claus is now logically impossible because the very phrase Santa Claus does not exist is now the logical equivalent to saying A being that exists does not exist.  It cannot possibly be true!

Notice how this is exactly what Christian apologists are trying to do whenever they describe God as a necessary being.  God is, by definition, a maximally great being; and maximal greatness, by definition, includes the property of existing in all possible worlds.  Therefore, by definition, God is necessarily a being that exists in all possible words.  God cannot fail to exist, because again, the very phrase God does not exist is the logical equivalent to saying A being that exists does not exist.

Obviously, something is terribly wrong here in that you can’t just go around defining things into existence!  After all, if you get to define God as a being that exists, then I get to define God as a being that does not exist.  Not only is God’s existence now false, but also necessarily false in all possible worlds.  Now what, Christians?  My definition is just as valid as yours.  Who wins?

This is a really interesting dilemma to me because it forces us to address two fundamental philosophical questions:
  1. How do language definitions work?  That is to say, what's the point of defining things in the first place?
  2. What does it mean to say that a thing exists?  Why is existence different from other ideas in language definition?
To begin, simply consider the tautological proposition that all unmarried men are unmarried men; a necessary proposition to be sure, but also completely vapid and meaningless.  Sure, I can go then ahead and define the word bachelor to mean unmarried man, but you'll notice that nothing about this situation fundamentally changes.  The proposition that all bachelors are unmarried men is still the same, vapid tautology, but spoken in fewer syllables.  So unless you're perfectly satisfied with empty, meaningless substitution, we need to find something outside of mere wordplay on which to ground our use of language.

With that in mind, consider what happens when we formulate our language definitions in the form of a conditional, empirical proposition:

IF on some rare occasion I should happen to encounter the empirical manifestation of an entity that is apparently both a man and unmarried, THEN I will formally choose to call such a thing a “bachelor.” 

Now we have a definition with real, functional merit.  Rather than mindlessly swap words for other words, we instead use language to place labels on distinct sensory experiences.  It's a little thing called the verifiability criterion of meaning, and it represents the ultimate foundation for all human language itself.  Any time I state some language definition, then in principle I have to be able to use that definition to identify distinct elements within my immediate sensory environment.  Without this empirical foundation, all human language immediately collapses back into a meaningless, tautological void.

Now that we have a working conception of what definitions are supposed to accomplish, we can finally consider what happens whenever I try to lump existence into the definition of some word:

IF on some rare occasion I should happen to encounter the empirical manifestation of an entity that is apparently a man, unmarried, and existing, THEN I will formally choose to call such a thing a “bachelor.” 

You may not notice it right away, but there’s really something strangely off about this statement.  Because if I should ever just so happen to encounter the empirical manifestation of anything, then it seems pretty safe to conclude that this is also apparently a thing that exists.  Likewise, if I should ever happen to imagine a world that contains no bachelors for me to ever empirically identify, even in principle, then it should go without saying that bachelors don’t exist in such a world.

This is an important observation to make because it means that existence is inherently meaningless and redundant when stated as a formal property of bachelors.  The set of all things I can empirically identify as bachelors must, by definition, also be things that exist. It therefore makes no difference whether or not I define bachelors as existing because the set of all things that qualify for such a label is logically identical either way.  However, since we can readily imagine a logically possible world that contains no bachelors, it immediately follows that we can likewise imagine a possible world that contains no bachelors that "exist." Again, this has to be the case because the two sets are still logically identical. Yet the very idea of a world without bachelors is quite literally the textbook definition of a world where bachelors don't exist in the first place.  We therefore must conclude that things which exist as a matter of definition can, apparently, not exist!

This is where we get the famous philosophical principle that existence is not a predicate.  It means that whenever we say a thing exists, we cannot possibly refer to some essential property of the thing itself.  Rather, what we’re really describing is a property of the objective reality in which this thing is allegedly contained.  In fact, if you really want to get technical about things, the very phrase Bachelors are things that exist is not even a valid proposition to make in the first place.  Rather, the correct phrasing is more like There exist bachelors, or The set of all bachelors is nonempty.  That is how existence functions as a proper, logical operation, because that is how it is implicitly defined within first-order logic.  There is no such thing as a set of "things that exist" but rather only sets of things that are either occupied or empty.  Necessary existence is therefore not logically possible because it is logically incoherent to even talk about it in the first place.

Bear in mind now that all this practically boils down at the end of the day is the rather obvious principle that reality doesn't care how you define words.  I could define myself as the undisputed King of America, but that does not mean I can just waltz up to the White House and expect everyone to start treating me like royalty.  Christians can likewise define God as a thing that exists, but that does not magically require objective reality itself to contain anything worthy of that label.  Yet that’s exactly what Christian philosophers like Alvin Plantinga are trying to do whenever they describe God through this nonsensical property of necessary existence!  So let’s just cut through the bullshit for one second and state the obvious out loud:

Imagine a possible world where God does not exist.

Now ask yourself, was that sentence somehow utterly incomprehensible to you?  Is there some formal contradiction buried in that claim we somehow missed?  Does the very idea of objective reality itself get violated simply by our failure to insert a thing worthy of the label “God?”

No!  Of course not!  There is nothing incoherent about the proposition that God does not exist. Any attempt to force the issue as a matter of definition is, in and of itself, a logical impossibility.  The very definition of objective reality itself is arguably just the collection of all things that persist independently of human say-so.  And what are language definitions, if not the epitome of subjective mental constructs, asserted into being by literal human say-so?  So when Christians go out of their way to inherently define God as a thing that necessarily exists, they’re ironically forcing the concept of God directly into the realm of necessary NON-existence!  Nothing exists necessarily because the very idea itself literally means “existence by definition." 

On personal note, this is once again why I just have no respect for religious philosophers and apologists. I should seriously not have to explain to these people that you cannot just define things into existence.   Yet here is Alvin Plantinga himself, the very cream of academic Christian philosophy, apparently failing to wrap his brain around this simple little concept.  It’s just inexcusable how grossly incompetent these people are.  Their very best effort to prove God's existence is nothing but an inadvertent proof that God cannot logically exist at all!  So until Christian apologists finally learn the difference between words and reality, I’m just going to keep treating them like the philosophical children that they are.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, July 4, 2016

A Formal Response to Inspiring Philosophy

A long time ago I made a video that dismantled the Modal Ontological Argument for God's Existence as presented by Inspiring Philosophy.  To IP's credit, he later put together a formal response to my video called AntiCitizenX's Maximally Great Field of Straw Men.  You can tell that he put a lot of work into his response, so I feel that I owe him a formal rebuttal.  This is philosophy, after all, and good philosophy rests on a proper exchange of ideas.

Dear Inspiring Philosophy,

What part of "You cannot prove God's existence by rote definition" does your idiotic, peon brain fail to understand?

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Christian Apologists Fail at History.

So Inspiring Philosophy is making a video series detailing his case for the historical resurrection of Jesus (link).  Being true to form, pretty much everything he says is categorically wrong.  Consequently, any specific point-by-point analysis would simply take forever and waste everyone's time.  That's why instead, I'm just going to cut to the heart of the matter and talk about the fundamental philosophical failing of this entire argument.

To begin, when apologists like Inspiring Philosophy talk about "evidence" for the resurrection of Jesus, it's important to be absolutely clear about what that means.  In short, the sum total of all evidence for the historical resurrection of Jesus Christ has only ever been the written accounts contained within the New Testament - literally, the pure, unfettered say-so of human authors.  

That's it.  

Now ordinarily, that isn't necessarily such a bad thing thing.  After all, a lot of our historical knowledge definitely comes from basic human narratives.  However, there are standards you have to follow when evaluating the reliability of various written accounts.  Some documents meet those standards very rigorously, and are therefore objectively reliable in their historicity.  Other documents, like the Biblical gospels, completely fail to meet these standards at every opportunity; copies of copies (of copies!) of anonymous, secondhand accounts, written decades after the fact, translated through multiple language barriers, riddled with known corruptions, contradictions, and plagiarisms, then culminating with fantastic descriptions of physically impossible events.  That is the level of evidence Christian apologists would have you believe when evaluating historical claims

So before the argument has even begun, the case for the resurrection of Jesus is already completely sunk.  The canonical gospels are not reliable historical accounts, and nothing they claim can be taken at face value.  Yet despite these glaring failures, Christian apologists would still have you believe that these accounts are perfectly representative of reality - as if, God-forbid, that no human narrative could ever possibly record events that didn't really happen.  

But hey, you know what?  Fine.  Let's play their game.  If Christians want to trust in human testimony so badly, then let's look at some other human testimonies, shall we?  For example, consider this [link]:

This is called the Joseph Smith History.  I defy you, Inspiring Philosophy, and all your little fanboys, to read this document in full detail.  Then, when you finish, come back and tell me how reliable human testimony really is.  Because I can tell you right now, everything about this document is objectively more historically reliable than the Biblical narratives.  For instance:
  1. We actually have the original manuscripts.  Not copies of copies of copies - the true, honest-to-goodness originals in their original ink.  You cannot say that about the gospels.  
  2. The author is not anonymous, but has in fact signed and dated his own signature on the original manuscripts.  You cannot say that about the gospels.
  3. The original manuscripts are written in English, and have not been translated through any languages.  You cannot say that about the gospels.
  4. The manuscripts are genuine first-hand accounts.  The author is not merely relaying events to us from someone else's point of view, but is, in fact, writing his own autobiography.  You cannot say that about the gospels.
Now please, do tell us, Mr. "Inspiring" Philosophy.  How trustworthy is human testimony?  Do you honestly believe Joseph Smith when he claims to have been visited, in literal person, by God, the Father and Jesus Christ?  Do you believe his testimony that both God and Jesus told Joseph to restore the true gospel as recorded in the Golden Plates of Nephi?  Do you trust him when he claims to have been visited, on numerous occasions, by angels?  It's all first-hand testimony, guys, written down in black and white.  Why would he make this stuff up?  Is Joseph Smith a prophet, a liar, or a lunatic?

But wait, there's more!  You don't have to just take Joseph Smith's word for it.  Listen to the Testimony of the ThreeWitnesses: Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris.  Again, firsthand, eyewitness testimony, all signed and dated.  All three of these guys swear, in writing, that they personally handled the Golden plates of Nephi, and that a no-shit angel even visited them to prove its authenticity. 

What's the matter?  Don't you trust human eyewitness testimony?

Or better yet.  Don't just believe those guys.  There are eightmore eyewitness accounts, signed and dated, all testifying to the existence of the Golden plates of Nephi. 

Okay, maybe you think think Joseph Smith was a liar; a liar who somehow cleverly fooled everyone around him into giving up their homes and their livelihoods to migrate west.  Then why, pray tell, would he rather die at the hands of an angry mob, than simply recant his testimony?

That's right, Champ.  Joseph Smith was literally martyred.  Look it up.  Does that sound like the actions of a liar to you?  Why would someone cling to a lie, even if it meant his own death? 

Sound familiar at all?  Am I ringing any bells, yet?

And it doesn't just end there. Thanks to Joseph Smith and his descendants, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is now a global organization that boasts well over 15 million members.  You can even ask them in person, and plenty of them will be more than happy to share their own, personal testimonies on the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, as revealed by the direct personal witness of the Holy Spirit.  

Remember now, guys.  You're the ones who think eyewitness testimony is a viable standard of evidence.  So please, do tell us, how exactly is the Bible a reliable, historical narrative, yet not the Joseph Smith History or the Book of Mormon?  There does not exist a single argument you can offer against the truth of their claims that does not also apply equally well against your own.  Either
  1. Joseph Smith was telling the truth.  Or
  2. He was not. 
Take your pick, guys!  This is a perfect logical dichotomy you cannot win.  If your answer is (1), then you immediately admit that Mormonism is the correct religion, and your own faith is invalid.  But since that's obviously not an option with you people, your only other claim is necessarily (2); that sometimes, gee whiz, people can, for whatever reasons, actually write fantastic things down on paper that didn't really happen in real life. 

Wow!  Who'd a thunk?  People can actually record things that didn't really happen?  What is this sorcery?

What's more, you further concede that those same works of fiction can actually be so compelling as to convince many thousands of people to abandon their homes and migrate hundreds of miles, even in the face of violent opposition from the state.  You admit that this same fiction can even sprout into a full-fledged religious ideology, complete with several tens of millions of members only a few hundred years later.  You further admit that these same organizations can even willfully sanitize their own history, effectively downplaying the less appealing events from their past, while simultaneously embellishing the more positive, even to the point of rewriting other historical events which preceded their arrival.  Finally, you must likewise concede that this is apparently a perfectly common phenomenon, as given by the fact that hundreds, if not thousands, of similar religious sects have all followed very similar trends across human history.  

Well, guess what?  You now just admitted that your entire case for the resurrection of Jesus is utterly vapid.  A bunch of people claim on paper that Jesus rose from the dead, and you're stupidly gullible enough to take them completely at their word.  That's your entire resurrection case in a nutshell.

Thank you for listening.

Friday, January 1, 2016

How Words Work

If you're the kind of person who likes to study philosophy, then you probably understand the importance of rigorously defining your terms.  In fact, I would even argue that this simple task represents the heart and soul of all philosophy itself.  "Good" philosophy, in my view, is not so much about directly understanding the world as it really is, but rather about giving meaning to our ideas and exploring the logical relationships between them.  Good philosophers understand this, which is why good philosophers always begin theirs discussions by establishing what exactly their words mean, and how to apply them consistently.

But of course, with philosophy being what it is, there's always an overflowing tide of amateurs who constantly fail to grasp these basic principles.  Consequently, I often find myself spending far more time just asking people what on Earth they think it is they're arguing, rather than engaging them with any fresh, original ideas.  Some of these guys are even so bad that I've actually found myself literally explaining to them how words work.  It's happens so often, too, that I've honestly found myself simply copy-and-pasting the same, scripted responses to the same, recurring confusions.  Yet if it keeps happening this much to me, then it almost certainly must be happening to some of you out there, as well.  So to help everyone make better use of their precious philosophical time, here is a short list of common confusions I keep encountering over matters of language and definition. 

1)  How to define words.

"What do you mean by that?" is probably the most important question anyone can learn to ask when doing philosophy.  For example, what do you mean by truth?  What do you mean by God?  What do you mean when you say "free will?"  However, before you can even attempt to answer those questions, you first have to ask yourself, "What does it mean to establish 'meaning' in the first place?"  That is to say, how does anyone "define" words?

In my experience, there seem to be only two possible methods for defining words.  Either (a) you can use words as substitutions for other words, or (b) you can use words as labels for distinct, sense experiences.  That's it.  There are no other mechanisms in all of philosophy by which anyone can meaningfully define anything.

To illustrate the first option, consider a simple word like "bachelor."  Obviously, the most common definition is simply "unmarried man."  That's a direct, linguistic substitution you can apply at any time.  If someone hands you a proposition that has the word "bachelor" in it, all you have to do is scribble it out in your mind and replace it with "unmarried man" to preserve meaning.  Substitutions like this are great because they allow us to encapsulate a large series of complex ideas into just a handful of simple words, thereby saving both time and energy in basic communication.  However, it's important to understand that all we're doing is swapping mere words for more words, which immediately leads to a problem of regression.

To illustrate, suppose I ask you what "unmarried" means.  Or maybe what does "man" mean?  You might be tempted to define a "man" as "a male member of the human species," but again, I can just ask you what does "human" mean?  What does "species" mean?

Obviously, you can't just keep swapping words for more words forever.  That's why we need to use something outside of pure language in order to ground the meaning of basic words.  Yet the only thing I know of that does that is sense data.  For example, if I want to ground the meaning "human" to you without relying on pure words, then the only thing I can do is drag out a specimen and just show it to you.  [show pictures]  Here.  This.  This is what "humans" look like.  Any time I use that term in a sentence, just imagine something like this in your mind.  Done.  Now my language finally has real meaning.

This basic principle also goes to show exactly why it's impossible to ever describe a thing like "redness" to a blind person.  The very idea of "red" has no meaning except as a referent for some basic, sense experience.  So if you happen to be talking to someone who has never experienced red, and cannot ever hope to experience red, then you simply cannot use that word to express anything meaningful to them.  In order to properly function as a communication tool, human language requires some kind of shared sensory experience as a foundation.

Notice also how this principle is basically just the positivist idea of verifiability criterion for meaning.  Sure, you can substitute words for other words all you want, but sooner or later, you have to ground those words on something empirical to give them meaning.  Yet for some strange reason, there are actually people out there who honestly fight against this; as if words actually possessed some kind of magical, intrinsic meaning all by themselves, independent of any empirical reference.  It makes no honest sense to me whatsoever, but it does make perfect sense for people like Deepok Chopra; people who likes to impress others with vague, pseudo-profound bullshit, but never tie themselves down to anything concrete.

2)  All language definitions are fundamentally arbitrary.  All of them.

I don't know how many times I've gotten into an argument with someone who's one and only dispute against me was that "my definition was wrong."  That is to say, my definition did not match their definition, and so therefore at least one of us has to be objectively wrong in their use of words.  For example, many people have different ideas of what it means to be an "atheist."  Do you have to actively deny the existence of God in order to fit that label?  Or can you simply be unconvinced that God exists?  Likewise, some people define God in terms of the singular, personal deity of classical monotheism, while other people prefer to define God as the accumulation of all physical laws in nature.  Who's right?  Whose definition is "correct?"

The answer, of course, is no one.  There is no such thing as an "objectively correct" definition.  There are only "good" definitions and "bad" definitions.  Good definitions are clear, concise, consistent, distinct, empirically grounded, and generally capture the intuitive notions that people associate with that term.  Bad definitions are nebulous, long-winded, incoherent, inconsistent, redundant, or just plain fail to capture what people normally understand that term to mean. "Good" philosophers understand this distinction, which is why "good" philosophers work to hard to establish clear definitions.

So the next time you get into a dispute with someone over basic definitions, the question is not "whose definition is correct?"  That is a meaningless argument to have.  The real question you should be examining is, "which definition works better?"  Which one is more consistent?  Which one is more descriptive?  Which one is more distinct?  That sort of thing.  Sometimes two different people simply use the same word to mean different things, or even use different words to mean the same thing.  Oh well.  Language is funny like that, and we just have to live with it. 

3)  Definitions and language have zero influence over objective reality.

Religious apologists are notorious for this kind of fallacy, and it always grinds my gears every time I see it.  For example, take the modal ontological argument for God's existence.  God is, by definition, a maximally great being.  Maximal greatness, by definition, then includes the property of necessary existence, which, by definition is a thing that exists.  Therefore, by definition, God is a thing that exists.

Obviously, that kind of argument is completely circular.  Yet many modern Christian philosophers actually think this is a compelling train of thought.  Some will even go so far as to argue that logic itself is some kind immutable force of nature that magically binds our reality together.  For example, how many of you have ever heard reference to "the immutable laws of logic?"  That the law of identity cannot ever be violated, or that the universe is bound by the law of noncontradiction?  It's a classic form of Platonic realism that is surprisingly popular among wannabe philosophers.

But here's the rub.  Logic is not some ethereal force interwoven into the fabric of space and time.  Rather, a far better way to think of logic is as a highly formalized system of language.  The reason contradictions don't exist is not because logic governs the universe, but because contradictions literally don't describe anything!  They're just words put together wrongly. The rules built into our language simply don't allow them to cohere into anything meaningful.

So there you have it.  A quick and dirty primer on how words work.  Keep this in mind the next time you encounter some hack philosopher failing to grasp basic principles of human language.