Posted by Anton Hughes on Tuesday, May 15, 2007 with No comments
From (Berlinghoff, 1968, 6-7). The quote is talking about the axiomatic method in mathematics, but it seems just as relevant to the process by which the judiciary (and legislature) come up with definitions:
In order to arrive at a common understanding and remove all ambiguity from future discussion it is necessary to define the words we use. The concept of definition involves the statement of a characteristic property; that is, if we are to define a word, we must state a condition such that,
What we are doing, essentially, is developing a system of name tags for ideas. Thus to "define" a word merely by giving a synonym is either meaningless or useless. If we do not know what the synonym means, we have no criterion by which to apply the name; if we do know what he synonym means, it is a perfectly good name for that idea and there is no need to confuse the issue by supplying another.
- given any object whatsoever, we can determine whether or not that object satisfies the condition, and
- the word being defined is attached to an object if and only if it satisfies that condition.