Sorry I disappeared for about two weeks. Last week was Fall Break for the Atonement Academy and even though my family and I did not go anywhere it was nice not to have to do anything in particular. The week before that was just busy.
I’ve decided to begin this re-start of blogging with a new category of posts – that being ‘Definitions’. The primary thing that has prompted this is the fact that, due to my increased reading of philosophy, I have had to look up very many terms in order to understand what I am reading. Some of them are terms that I never knew before and some are terms I only thought I knew before I discovered their true meanings.
It may be asked – why bother with such an endeavor? Because if we do not have a common understanding of the meaning behind the words we use then we cannot communicate with one another. If I say something is red in color then the listener, if he speaks English, understands what I am talking about. But when I am reading St. Thomas Aquinas there are many times I do not understand what he is saying because I do not understand what he means by this or that word (or any of them at all sometimes). By writing about these words and what they mean I hope to gain a better understanding for myself and perhaps someone else will as well.
To begin this category off it seems that the most logical place to start is with the definition of the word definition itself. I am taking my meaning from a book I recently purchased: The Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy by Bernard Wuellner, S.J. The section for the word ‘definition’ contains seven different senses in which it can be defined. Therefore, so this post does not get too convoluted, I have chosen just one of those senses to list here.
definition, n. 1. logical and philosophical senses. a proposition either stating the meaning of a term or explaining what an essence is.
But of course this definition leads to the necessity of another definition for the word ‘essence’. In the same book it describes essence as “what a thing is” (and I will stop there because this word deserves its own post). Therefore, when we are defining some particular thing, we are trying to describe what that thing is. I suppose many people would respond to this by saying “Yeah, duh!” Even though this definition of definition may seem obvious but it is not insignificant. The fact that we can define things so that others can understand what we are talking about shows us what kind of universe we live in: that being a universe where we can know what something truly is and are able to communicate that to others. The reason this is so important is because there are other philosophies that would say that we cannot really know anything at all. But if that were true then those who hold such philosophies would not be able to communicate what they mean to anyone else because no one would be able to understand what it was that they were trying to define. In fact, if we could not know things and define them then no one would be able to understand anything at all.