glossary, definitions, definition

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Glossary of terms used on this site or otherwise helpful terms. The first definition listed after each word is the meaning I intend unless it is clear from the context that I mean one of the other definitions. I have listed good definitions for each word and, for fun, I have in some cases listed some bad, rhetorical meanings that some people use. Of course, it is sometimes wrong to use rhetorical definitions because they:

·        Create confusion and blur important distinctions.

·        Manipulate an audience into conclusions via definition.

·        Create apathy and cynicism about the uses of language and arguments.


1.      a rule that cannot be outweighed by any other claim

2.      having 100 percent probability of being true

3.      always or never the case



1. the clash between being both object and observer in our lives and being amused by, unhappy with, or in disagreement with the clash or results

2. in conflict with powerful human desires for justice, attachment, purpose, immortality, and understanding

3. ludicrous

4. the realization that what we attach great value may be little more than vanity

5. individual having a chasm between his beliefs and actions; or between his beliefs and the facts, often to the point of being a fool or demagogue or both

6. individual who pretends to have qualities he lacks

7. the chasm between the facts and those who act as if force, fame, image, repetition, persuasion, and aesthetics matter most



1. true

2. factual or sufficiently close to the facts


Actor-observer effect

believing others’ bad actions are caused almost entirely by their internal traits and believing our own bad actions are simply responses to situations


Ad hominem

fallacy of making irrelevant claims about an arguer's motives (any mental state) or character (often insults); it is not a fallacy if motives or character are the issue being argued


Adverse selection

occurs when someone in a decision making process has hidden information, uses selfishness, and prevents right alternatives from being selected (example: selling a car without informing the buyer that a safety feature on the car is broken)



a fouled up democracy--part democracy, kleptocracy,

plutocracy, punditocracy, emoticracy and estheticracy


1. benefiting others

2. benefiting others regardless of what happens to one’s self

3. benefiting others when their considerations outweigh other

considerations and considerations for oneself

4. actions ostensibly designed to benefit others but primarily serve the interests of personal self-esteem and self-justification

5. kindliness regardless of actual consequences

6. naive self-sacrifice



1. having at least two clear meanings

2. unclear

3. having a mixture of good and bad traits (often used in descriptions of character)



1. belief that members of a religion are excused from moral rules because of grace or faith or both

2. questioning or breaking rules merely for the hell of it or the thrill of it



vague, unfocused, almost anemic unpleasant feeling that often lacks an easily apparent cause


Anything effect

no matter how bad almost everything is on TV, the radio, and in newspapers, people will let their attention be controlled by the most enjoyable of the available alternatives


Appeal to momentum

fallacy of believing something because more or fewer numbers of individuals are beginning to believe it


Appeal to novelty

fallacy of believing something simply because it is new


Appeal to popularity

fallacy of believing something because large numbers or small numbers of individuals believe it


Appeal to tradition

fallacy of believing something because individuals in the past believed in it or did it



1. obnoxious claim of being better

2. one with values different from our own, but who does not belong to a culturally protected group



1. produced by humans

2. inauthentic

3. any government policy that benefits non-rich individuals more than rich people or that reduces the gaps in goods between rich people and others



1. habit of mind or pre-disposition to think some way

2. expressive body posture

3. disagreeable disposition

4. belief


Attitude polarization

tendency to react to several complex, contradictory, strong appearing arguments by ignoring all the arguments and fanatically increasing confidence in the beliefs held prior to hearing the arguments



1. an act or product produced with fitting, passionate motives

2. a choice made that accepts responsibility for results, without claiming that outside forces made you do it

3. doing whatever the hell you want with passion and without anxiety, no matter how much harm is done



1.      self-directing one’s life; choosing and doing one’s means and ends without coercion, without manipulation, and without seriously flawed psychological health.

2.      absence of restraints; freedom

3. the ability to govern oneself

4. actually governing oneself

5.      the right to govern oneself

6.      ability and willingness to govern oneself



1. wrong

2.      harmful

3.      fails to meet the criteria

4.      evil


Bad faith

1. dishonesty

2. believing you are a causally determined being, acting as a causally determined being, and pretending your choices and freedoms do not matter


Beauty effect

tendency to believe beautiful or attractive things are good in other qualities as well, even when no evidence exists to support the goodness in other qualities



an idea held to be true, good, beautiful, false, bad, ugly, better,

worse, beneficial, factual, harmful or so on with some degree of confidence



virtue of having both motives and actions that are directed at creating great beneficial results and good will among humans.



1. increasing the probability of helpful results

2. results better than would have been the case had the ideas or actions in question never existed



1. predisposed to arrive at a bad or inadequately supported conclusion

2. unrepresentative

3. any factor in a situation that introduces errors

4. unjust


Biased assimilation

tendency to under weigh claims that oppose current beliefs



an empty, disinterested pain combined with an anxiety that sometimes suggests misuse of internal and external resources



1. pay serious attention

2. concerned

3.      protecting and providing for


Categorical imperative (Kant)

If you think others in a similar situation should do a thing, you should do the thing. If you think you should do a thing, others in a similar situation should also do the thing.



1. a factor that changes the probability of a result; influence, contribute

2. activity that one is dedicated to



communication that is legally forbidden



1. having no doubts

2. inevitable

3. claim with 100 percent probability of being true


Character, Moral

1. aggregate of morally relevant traits in a being, especially the efforts chosen, consequences of those efforts, and the rules chosen; includes the motives and reasons behind those rules, efforts, and consequences

An individual with moral character:



Mistaken beliefs that consist of one or more of the following:

·        If someone makes some choice, others do not have any explicit or implied obligations (example: The people in East Timor chose to fight back. It they get their butt kicked, that’s their problem.)

·        If you make a choice, it must be the right choice.

·        If you make a choice, no one has the right to criticize it.

·        Morality is only about choose-didn’t choose.



fallacy of trying support a conclusion by repeating it, usually with words different enough so the repitition is not obvious.



easy to understand


Clarity, despair

improved knowledge and focus as a result of despair



Clarity, philosophical

increased knowledge and memory of that knowledge

Clarity, reamed

improved knowledge and focus as a result of being reamed



understandable, precise enough, and detailed enough



wrongful influence characterized by legal or physical force or the threat of legal or physical force



1. two or more interests acting together in a way that is morally or legally wrong--or should be legally wrong.



1. sympathy combined with an urge to do something about it

2. charity

3. support




intuitive response claiming that something is morally at stake, often guilt or other anxiety



moral theories and practices concerned with the overall benefit or harm of moral results



1. asserting and denying the same thing in the same or a relevantly similar situation (example: They should pass the football more and pass less is not a contradiction if one means they should pass more on first down and less on second down.)

2. two or more things that sometimes conflict with each other


Courage, moral

doing what is morally right despite major threats to self, others or goods that should be highly valued


Cross-sectional study

compares one group of individuals with another group of individuals



1. distinguishing beliefs, actions and possessions shared by a group of individuals.

2. high art

3. pretentious art



moral theories and practices concerned with moral rules, especially rights and duties; believes a thing is morally good in proportion to the quality of moral rules acted upon



1. owed to someone because of their merits or rights

2. owed to someone because of some trait



1. hopeless sorrow

2. choosing and acting as someone you should not be

3. lacking selfhood



self, demeanor, and actions that suggest weightiness, worthiness or

self-respect or some combination of all three


Discretionary income (disposable income)

money left after paying taxes and basic items. Food is considered basic whether it’s a two dollar meal or a 90 dollar meal. Basic is broadly defined by those who make these measurements.


Double loss

goodness lost combined with bad done; difference between goodness opportunity losses and the evil caused.



1. deep apprehension

2. dizzying apprehension

3. approach-avoidance anxiety

4. anxiety over alternatives, freedoms, decisions, consequences in the present and future



belief that the equality of some results is the most important good.



1. the belief that morality is nothing more than emotions

2. overweighing the information carried by emotions to decide questions of truth and goodness.



1. every physical and non-physical entity that can influence an

individual, excluding the individual’s heredity, body, and consciousness

2. the collection of non-human energies, masses, and forces



1. sad, alienated desire for what another has

2. wistful, complimentary appreciation for what another has



similar in some respect regardless of how dissimilar in other respects



person who writes 15 pages of anecdotes on how disturbing changes have occurred when a handful of accurate statistics would demolish the anecdotes and reveal the trend in another direction



1. morality; suggests what must be done even if you want to do something else, overriding all other claims

2. the study of how to pursue the best available life


Excluded Middle, Law of

every claim that is sufficiently specific for the situation is either true or false



1. lessening guilt by good actions on behalf of victims

2. atonement


Extrinsic motivation

behavior motivated by rewards or punishments or both administered by outside forces



1.      just

2. sufficiently unbiased and impartial in a particular case

3. equal in some way, though not in other ways

4. in accordance with agreed upon rules



Any logically worthless claim that is psychologically persuasive to many, especially premises that do not support conclusions. Fallacies do not make conclusions false or weaken the support offered by non-fallacious premises. Fallacies merely fail to support conclusions. For example, an argument filled with ad hominem attacks can still be strong based on the strength of its good points. And a well-meaning argument with no deliberate fallacies can often be weak.


False cause

fallacy of claiming without adequate support that one thing caused another


False denial of cause

fallacy of claiming without adequate support that one thing did not cause another



being that is morally blameworthy for causing an event (a being

that caused an event is not always the being or sole being with the duty to change the situation)



having feet that lack vigor


Fiscal policy

governmental tax and spending policies


“For example” and “such as”

An illustration designed to increase understanding, not intended as a premise to support a conclusion



1. lack of external coercion

2. lack of governmental coercion

3. availability of, possession of, and ability to use resources and opportunities

4. autonomy

5. lack of government coercion in proportion to the amount of wealth or power one has (conservatives)

6. presence of beneficial opportunities and absence of harmful


7. amount of psychological health

8. range of plausible alternatives available

9. having control and feeling in control

10. believing that other things are more important than fate or luck


Fundamental attribution error

attributing others’ actions solely or almost solely to internal factors



masochistic seeking and enjoyment of feelings of guilt, shame,

inferiority, incompetence, persecution, mistreatment


Futility thinking

Thinking that one should not do much or anything because there would be so much evil left in the world despite one’s efforts. –Peter Unger



1. “Passes the test of appropriate criteria.” —Roth and Mullen

2. just, right, correct

3. beneficial

4. adequate

5. enjoyable

6. a sought after physical or non-physical trait or possession


Goodness lost

Difference in moral goodness between best available choice and actual choice. Morality opportunity losses.


Gordian knot

a problem that can be best solved by drastic measures.



excessively self-interested actions or motives or both.



1.      increasing the probability of destructive results

2.      results worse than would have been the case had the ideas or actions in question never existed

3. directly, immediately sufficient and necessary to produce destructive results


Hawthorne effect

improvements resulting from interest and attention, independent of the factor intended to improve results, often from novelty



individual with a great weight of good decisions and actions outweighing his bad decisions and actions


Immediate cause

factors that are nearer in time, geography, closeness of relationship



anger at something believed morally wrong


Induced compliance

saying something nice instead of something honest or good



1. degree of consistency between one’s actions and


2. willingness to say what one thinks; frankness

3. character

4. ability to lie and promote evil while using words and body language that expresses lots of sincerity, and “straight shooting”



belief that human consciousness affects the physical world and the physical world affects human consciousness



necessary attribute of a thing for it to be that thing


Intrinsic motivation

1. Behavior motivated by instant pleasure or the perception of instant pleasure

2. Behavior motivated by internal factors

3. Behavior motivated by ongoing enjoyment



reflexive or habitual response arrived at without current reasoning, though the intuition is often formed by previous reasoning



1. unexpected, paradoxical

2. temporary detachment

3. habitual sarcasm or contempt

4. belief that many things in the world are cynical, derivative, and manipulative; that things are produced by beings who are willfully ignorant of the consequences of their actions, beings having motives other than those professed, by beings who are oblivious to their motives or by beings who pretend evil motives are noble and go to a great deal of effort to ensure others go along with the ruse

5. a lifestyle of detachment



fallacy of using a claim that has nothing logically to do with the conclusion being argued, regardless of whether the claim is true, or whether the claim would be a good point in some other argument


Just, Legally

in accordance with the best available legal arguments


Just, Morally

1. agreeing with the best available moral consequences, except when rule(s) or other consequences combined with a rule(s) deserve enough extra weight to outweigh the best available consequences; morally right

2. morally owed because of one’s actions or traits; deserved

3. sufficiently impartial

4. in accordance with impartially agreed upon rules

5. well-reasoned

6. supported primarily by deontological arguments

7. beneficial.



1.      a range of factual, related ideas

2.      a range of true, related ideas



1. a surrender to simplicity by saying whatever benefits rich adults the most must be right and the most free

2. best friend of neoconservatism

3. philosophy that agrees with conservatives on nearly all important issues, yet pretends to be neglected and powerless

4. sheep-think masquerading as reason



see freedom



1. Any deliberate deception or deception resulting from laziness

2. Any deliberate deception –C. Bok

3. deliberate deception in personal matters, but not policy matters—Jonathan Chait on the conservative definition



study and application of right reasoning.



in accordance with right reasoning.


Longitudinal study

same individuals are studied over a period of time


Love, romantic

a complex mixture of many or all of the following: friendship, honesty, respect, devotion, resilience, sexual passion, ardor, enchantment, spontaneity, humor, tenderness, expressiveness, admiration, affection, responsiveness, gratitude, purposefulness, autonomy, toughness, courage, mutual efficacy, reliability, duty, romance, kindness, resourcefulness, solidarity, high standards, reliance, trust, concern, trustworthiness, care, supportiveness, yearning, interest, closeness, mutual beneficence, intimacy, seriousness, commitment to the process, comfort in presence, faithfulness, general mutual passion, shared goals, tolerance, adoration, inter-reliance, enjoyment of company, loyalty


Love, nonromantic

1. strong affection

2. great enjoyment

3. sibling-like affection

4. friendly affection

4. parental affection

J.T. Fournier


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