Jim O’Connor over at Patriot’s Lament makes the observation, as I have, of the terrible tendency people have to
misuse redefine the words they use at the beginning of, during, and after an argument as part of the destruction of language.
Addressing the current debate over whether a business owner should be forced to serve a potential customer, O’Conner correctly states that the only word that matters is “forced.” When Social Justice Warriors talk on the issue, however, what they mean doesn’t correlate with what they say.
There are plenty of unpleasant alternatives which aren’t “force” in the sense of modes of social cooperation/interaction. It is a logical fallacy to use definition one of a word to state a premise, but then shift to definition two when you want to reach a conclusion (bold emphasis mine).
This is an incredibly prevalent problem I have encountered. Having put away my Facebook debating ways forever, I post nothing on my wall, but others have, and the ensuing debates in the past week has been fascinating to watch as people toss around words like “civil rights” and “who are they to judge?” and other nonsensical, irrelevant statements intended to reframe the argument. That I did not eventually participate to squash these absurd claims either means I have become too cynical to believe I can change their minds or I’ve somehow gained the patience of Job (probably the former).
I’ve also seen how someone will use a word in a debate, then change it via a fire and maneuver strategy; having failed to win the argument by attacking directly, the disputant seeks to flank from the side by using a word differently than before. The tactic is common among those using sociopathic logic.
This is why the question “What do you mean by that?” is so effective in debate. You are forcing them to clarify, to define the words they use, which you can bring up later in the discussion when they try to change them.
Anyone looking to improve their debating skills, particularly in defense of libertarianism, would do well to spot these tactics, call them out when they are used, and refuse to accept them as valid.