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Rationalist Taboo

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Amaroq
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What would you say of someone who semi-constantly asks you to play "Rationalist Taboo" during a debate with you. Say you use a word such as Rational or Possible, and then they ask you to describe the word you just used without using that word or five other words related to it. It sounds like a dishonest game meant to stall debate to me. What do you make of it?

The guy who does it to me took it from here. http://lesswrong.com/lw/nu/taboo_your_words/

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Say you use a word such as Rational or Possible, and then they ask you to describe the word you just used without using that word or five other words related to it.
Is there a predetermined list of the five other words related to the taboo word? For example, if someone asks you to do this, you should respond by demanding that they describe "describe", "list", "related", "word" and "other".
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Yes, the list is always determined by the guy asking me to play the Taboo.

I can't remember any specific examples. But the words chosen always make it impossible to continue until I've figured out how to construct some elaborate sentence. For example, define free will without using the words free, will, can, possible, etc. Basically making it nearly impossible to figure out a way to define the concept and then using my inability to come up with a definition as an attack. Something akin to "You don't have the right to assert that, because you don't even understand it yourself."

I waited a while before saying this, because I didn't want to poison the well before a few people got a chance to respond. I always perceive this "Taboo" as an attack still, so take into account the fact that I'm probably biased against the practice for that reason.

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For example, define free will without using the words free, will, can, possible, etc.

Off the top of my head, the ability to choose to focus, or not, one's mind.

Asking someone to define their terms is annoying when the goal is to disrupt the conversation, even though the definition is obvious to both parties. When someone has trouble giving a definition, it's perfectly warranted to raise the issue.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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Where I think the bad and underhanded aspects of this sort of thing may come in though are when people are not just trying to be clear on exactly what you are referring to, but they insist on everything being able to be defined and broken down further with other words and not synonyms even when you get down to the point of the stuff that we basically just directly observe and then give a name to. They're looking for an infinite regress. For example, somebody demanding you provide a definition for "soft" without reference to synonyms or antonyms and saying they won't consider examples counting for forming definitions. Basically, if you go on asking for definitions of stuff like that on and on, applied that sort of standard to every word, of course it will end up seeming like you know nothing at all, because it gets to trying to undermine the fact that all our concepts are eventually derived from observation. You could make it seem like anybody at all doesn't really know and understand anything you want if you just keep pushing them to define things further without accepting reference to observable examples eventually which you could say "it's this, and what these things have in common."

Edited by bluecherry
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But the words chosen always make it impossible to continue until I've figured out how to construct some elaborate sentence. For example, define free will without using the words free, will, can, possible, etc. Basically making it nearly impossible to figure out a way to define the concept and then using my inability to come up with a definition as an attack.
A thesaurus is handy, so substitute "unrestricted" for "free", "volition" for "will", "able" for "can". You can thus translate one definition of "free will" from "The ability or discretion to choose" to "The capability or option to select". It seems to me simply asking a person to define a term is sufficient; but it's a two-way street. Both parties need to offer their definitions of "will", and only then is it possible to determine the cause of the disagreement.
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