definitions: marriage

Tomorrow in class we’re talking about definitions. In particular, there are four ways you might define a term in an essay: formal (like a dictionary) extended, historical, negative (what it’s not), and stipulative (“for the sake of this essay, I will define…”). I thought the following examples would help.

Jon Stewart uses a historical definition:

Keith Olbermann also uses a historical definition. Additionally, he uses classification by defining it as a right:

Dee Garrett uses an extended negative definition (it’s not a civil right):

Americans for Marriage have a formal definition of marriage, but also define gay marriage with an extended discussion of its effects:

I’m not sure which videos I’ll show tomorrow, and I do have some hesitancy showing the videos (because they might offend students or silence students on any side of the “debate”). I wish there was a better video from the pro-Prop 8 side that incorporated a definition of marriage besides a quick “marriage is between a man and a woman.” (Of course, a historical definition of marriage from a conservative point of view is impossible, if it’s historically accurate, because marriage has always shifted throughout history. Although I’d love to be proven wrong here.) But I think it’ll reinforce the point that the textbook makes fairly well: that definition is very important to argument. Hopefully, we can analyze these arguments for what they do (the moves they make) in class tomorrow.

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