Dictionary Definitions — suck!


Look, if I NEEDED to know what a word means, I can look it up.

If YOU need to know what a word means, you should look it up.

That information doesn’t need to be part of your paper.  It just doesn’t…

The thing about standard dictionary definitions is that they are just a reporting of how the word is commonly used.  The dictionary is great to use if you don’t understand something, but — here’s the kicker — students use them in the bodies of their papers all the time — and it’s generally just filler.

IF the paper is about the meaning of words, then fine — use one as an example.  BUT, that’s a high-level philosophy topic that isn’t generally on the community college philosophy curriculum — SO, don’t.  just don’t…

It’s often a GOOD idea to use definitions from philosophers, “what does Plato mean when he uses the term ‘knowledge'” is a perfectly acceptable thing to ask — and it’s a great paper topic.  It’s NOT helpful if you then conclude that Plato is wrong because the dictionary definition is different… so what?

If you feel the urge to use a definition, use one from a philosophy dictionary — at leas that will get you a more relevant definition.  I’m tempted to advise you to ONLY use a dictionary definition if you disagree with it, and then the focus of your paper should be justifying your disagreement…


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