Definition

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Whether it be "molecule," "fact," "law," "art," "wealth," "gene," or whatever, it is essential that students understand that definitions are hypotheses, and that embedded in them is a particular philosophical, sociological, or epistemological point of view. ~ Neil Postman

Definition is a word used to indicate sets of conditions related to identities and their peculiar similarities or differences with other ranges of entities. The term is most commonly used in relation to the definitions of words and notions in terms of other words and notions, which usually can bring about adequately harmonious or congruent assessments of agreement or disagreement as to various usages, within various contexts. Definitions play a major role in many conscious and unconscious relations of living beings with Reality and many appearances within it, including those within themselves.

Alphabetized by author or source:
A · B · C · D · E · F · G · H · I · J · K · L · M · N · O · P -Q · R · S · T · U · V · W · X · Y · Z · Anon · External links

A[edit]

B[edit]

Annie Besant:That is the true definition of sin; when knowing right you do the lower, ah, then you sin. Where there is no knowledge, sin is not present.
  • That is the true definition of sin; when knowing right you do the lower, ah, then you sin. Where there is no knowledge, sin is not present.

C[edit]

D[edit]

Ani DiFranco:Art is why I get up in the morning but my definition ends there. You know I don't think its fair that I'm living for something I can't even define

E[edit]

F[edit]

Let's give this entity which you call soul another name. Soul has too many incorrect meanings for humans, too many verbal reverberations, too many contrary definitions. ~ Philip José Farmer
  • Let's give this entity which you call soul another name. Soul has too many incorrect meanings for humans, too many verbal reverberations, too many contrary definitions.
    Speak the word soul, and unbelievers will automatically become deaf to what follows. Those who believe in souls will always hear you through the mental constructs that they formed on Earth.
    Let us call this nonmatter twin the... ah... ka. That is the old Egyptian word for one of the several souls in their religion. Except for the Egyptians this will have no special connotation. And they can adapt to it.
  • Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself.

G[edit]

H[edit]

Audrey Hepburn:I heard a definition once: Happiness is health and a short memory! I wish I'd invented it, because it is very true.

I[edit]

J[edit]

  • Unsheathe your dagger definitions. Horseness is the whatness of allhorse. Streams of tendency and eons they worship.

K[edit]

L[edit]

Abraham Lincoln:The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep's for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty. Plainly, the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of liberty.

M[edit]

N[edit]

O[edit]

P[edit]

A definition is the start of an argument, not the end of one. ~ Neil Postman
Definitions, like questions and metaphors, are instruments for thinking. Their authority rests entirely on their usefulness, not their correctness. ~ Neil Postman
  • A definition is the start of an argument, not the end of one.
    • Neil Postman, in Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk : How We Defeat Ourselves by the Way We Talk and What to do About It (1976)
  • Now, what is it that students do in the classroom? Well, mostly they sit and listen to the teacher. Mostly, they are required to believe in authorities, or at least pretend to such belief when they take tests. Mostly they are required to remember. They are almost never required to make observations, formulate definitions, or perform any intellectual operations that go beyond repeating what someone else says is true. They are rarely encouraged to ask substantive questions, although they are permitted to ask about administrative and technical details. (How long should the paper be? Does spelling count? When is the assignment due?) It is practically unheard of for students to play any role in determining what problems are worth studying or what procedures of inquiry ought to be used. Examine the types of questions teachers ask in classrooms, and you will find that most of them are what might technically be called "convergent questions," but what might more simply be called "Guess what I am thinking " questions.
  • Definitions, like questions and metaphors, are instruments for thinking. Their authority rests entirely on their usefulness, not their correctness. We use definitions in order to delineate problems we wish to investigate, or to further interests we wish to promote. In other words, we invent definitions and discard them as suits our purposes. And yet, one gets the impression that... God has provided us with definitions from which we depart at the risk of losing our immortal souls. This is the belief that I have elsewhere called "definition tyranny," which may be defined... as the process of accepting without criticism someone else's definition of a word or a problem or a situation. I can think of no better method of freeing students from this obstruction of the mind than to provide them with alternative definitions of every concept and term with which they must deal in a subject. Whether it be "molecule," "fact," "law," "art," "wealth," "gene," or whatever, it is essential that students understand that definitions are hypotheses, and that embedded in them is a particular philosophical, sociological, or epistemological point of view.
    • Neil Postman, in Language Education in a Knowledge Context (1980)
  • In the field of education. I refer to the meaning of the word "basic," ...the meaning given to this word by some educators is not its "real" meaning. The word "basic,"... has been assigned certain meanings in order to further an education philosophy which is thought to be both sensible and effective. ...neither you nor I are under any obligation to accept their definition of what is "basic." ...In short, the definition of something is usually the starting point of a dispute, not the settlement.
    • Neil Postman, in Language Education in a Knowledge Context (1980)
  • Language education must include not only the serious study of what truth and falsehood mean in the context of a subject, but also what is meant by a fact, an inference, an assumption, a judgment, a generalization... In this way students will be learning both the language of a subject and the methods of inquiry in that subject, since inquiry consists of nothing else but the generation of questions, the invention of definitions and metaphors, the separation of facts from inferences, the forming of generalizations...
    • Neil Postman, in Language Education in a Knowledge Context (1980)
  • There are two levels of knowing a subject. There is the student who knows what the definition of a noun or a gene or a molecule is; then there is the student... who also knows how the definition was arrived at. There is the student who can answer a question; then there is the student who also knows what are the biases of the question. There is the student who can give you the facts; then there is the student who also knows what is meant by a fact. I am maintaining that, in all cases, it is the latter who has a "basic" education ; the former, a frivolous one.
    • Neil Postman, in Language Education in a Knowledge Context (1980)
  • It is precisely through one's learning about the total context in which the language of a subject is expressed that personality may be altered. If one learns how to speak history or mathematics or literary criticism, one becomes, by definition, a different person. The point to be stressed is that a subject is a situation in which and through which people conduct themselves, largely in language. You cannot learn a new form of conduct without changing yourself.
    • Neil Postman, in Language Education in a Knowledge Context (1980)
  • Technopoly eliminates alternatives to itself in precisely the way Aldous Huxley outlined in Brave New World. It does not make them illegal. It does not make them immoral. It does not even make them unpopular. It makes them invisible and therefore irrelevant. And it does so by redefining what we mean by religion, by art, by family, by politics, by history, by truth, by privacy, by intelligence, so that our definitions fit its new requirements. Technopoly, in other words, is totalitarian technocracy.

Q[edit]

  • I think 'having it all' is a phrase I don't particularly like. You need to have what you want. 'All' seems to me to be an imposed list, an imposed definition by society of what 'all' is supposed to be.

R[edit]

God... a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man's power to conceive.
  • If we wish to express our ideas in terms of the concepts synthetic and analytic, we would have to point out that these concepts are applicable only to sentences that can be either true of false, and not to definitions. The mathematical axioms are therefore neither synthetic nor analytic, but definitions. ...Hence the question of whether axioms are a priori becomes pointless since they are arbitrary.
    • Hans Reichenbach, in 'The Philosophy of Space and Time (1928), as translated by Maria Reichenbach (1957), § 14
  • One definition of simultaneity differs from another because events that are simultaneous for one definition occur successively for another. What may be a simultaneity projection of a moving segment for one definition is a "focal-plane shutter photograph" for another.
    • Hans Reichenbach, in 'The Philosophy of Space and Time (1928), as translated by Maria Reichenbach (1957), § 25
  • Once a definition of congruence is given, the choice of geometry is no longer in our hands; rather, the geometry is now an empirical fact.
    • Hans Reichenbach, in 'The Philosophy of Space and Time (1928), as translated by Maria Reichenbach (1957), § 27

S[edit]

Jonathan Swift:For in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery.

T[edit]

Alvin Toffler: I think that intelligence is such a narrow branch of the tree of life - this branch of primates we call humans. No other animal, by our definition, can be considered intelligent. So intelligence can't be all that important for survival, because there are so many animals that don't have what we call intelligence, and they're surviving just fine.
  • I think that intelligence is such a narrow branch of the tree of life - this branch of primates we call humans. No other animal, by our definition, can be considered intelligent. So intelligence can't be all that important for survival, because there are so many animals that don't have what we call intelligence, and they're surviving just fine.

U[edit]

V[edit]

  • Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so.
  • A huge part of keeping women in their place has to do with creating a really limited definition of what a 'real' woman is like. And a ton of that what-makes-a-woman nonsense is attached to motherhood. Apparently, by virtue of having ovaries and a uterus, women are automatic mommies or mommies-to-be.

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Y[edit]

Malala Yousafzai:When someone tells me about Malala, the girl who was shot by the Taliban - that's my definition for her - I don't think she's me. Now I don't even feel as if I was shot. Even my life in Swat feels like a part of history or a movie I watched. Things change. God has given us a brain and a heart which tell us how to live.

Z[edit]

Anonymous[edit]

  • Define yourself and don’t fall victim to the whims and wishes of what others want you to be. Being who you truly are is where the world finds out the talent and genius you bring to it. Don’t disappoint the world by allowing others to control the gifts you have that to help make it better.
    • Quoted in “Zoggle: Your Mind", p.323

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