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Is Trump a Tyrant? Part I: Argument by Definition

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Image Credit As this is being written, the House has started its impeachment investigation of President Trump. While this is a matter of great importance, there is also an interesting question about Trump’s moral and political legitimacy. From a Lockean perspective, this is largely the question of whether Trump is a tyrant. A rather reasonable way to address this issue is to make use of an argument by definition. This method of argumentation involves argue that a thing belongs to a general class because it fits the definition for that class. The goal of this method is to show that the thing in question adequately meets the definition. This method can be used to argue that Trump is a tyrant by showing he meets the conditions set by the definition of the term. Alternatively, it can be argued that he is not a tyrant. The method involves the following steps: Step 1: Present definition D. Step 2: Describe the relevant qualities of X. Step 3: Show how X meets (or fails to meet) definition D. Step 4: Conclude that X belongs within that class (or does not belong within that class). Since dictionaries conveniently provide a plethora of definitions it is tempting to use them as the basis for an argument from definition. However, such arguments tend to be rather weak when addressing matters of substantive dispute. For example, referring to the dictionary cannot resolve the debate over what it is to be a person.  As another example, looking up “God” in the dictionary will not settle the questions of God’s nature or existence. This is because dictionaries just provide the definition that the editors regard as the correct, acceptable, or as the generally used definition as opposed to what would be the correct, philosophical definition of such a metaphysical concept. Dictionaries also generally do not back up their definitions with arguments-the definitions are simply provided and are not actually defended. Dictionaries are very useful in terms. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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