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A friend of mine and I are having a bit of trouble communicating, because he insists that the word "faith" is so defined:

any belief not based on evidence and won't change because of evidence.

And my definition (from a simple google: define:faith) reads:

Complete trust or confidence in someone or something

And I can spice the question up (need to consider how to call it objective and have two parts, this may belong elsewhere or a second question) by questioning is invocation that I am instigating a "dictionary fallacy" when I feel he is the one doing so.

Thoughts? (I'll even take answers here if ya'll don't want me to ask this on main :p)

  • "Verify this definition" isn't suitable for this site, but you could provide some context and ask for the meaning in that context. – user19148 Jul 27 '12 at 22:26
  • Probably not, he was making an attack on a falsified church sign against the church, and then blamed the definition of faith when I tried to argue him. – jcolebrand Jul 27 '12 at 22:58
  • Words can mean different things in different contexts. Both of those definitions are valid (this is why I avoid the word faith: it leads to talking at cross purposes). – TRiG Jul 28 '12 at 15:41
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I don't think "Verify this definition" is a very good "definition" of the kind of question OP is really asking about. We'd normally just say such a question is "Not Constructive".

In the case of a word like "faith" - firstly, people's definitions vary according to how they feel about the "referent". Secondly, the referent itself will vary, depending on whether the context is religion, confidence, or whatever. Both OP's definitions are valid paraphrasings to some people in some contexts (but I doubt "and won't change because of evidence" would be grammatically acceptable in any credible "dictionary").

EDIT: Just to clarify - “verify this definition” questions are not suitable for this site if they're anything like OP's example.

  • I actually figured this was the likely consensus, thanks. Hard to have a discussion when he wants to change the terms under discussion and then accuse me of a dictionary fallacy... – jcolebrand Jul 28 '12 at 3:20
  • @jcolebrand: Well, of course, those are just my words - accompanied at the time we're writing by just your upvote (I suppose we can define that as a "consensus"! :) – FumbleFingers Jul 28 '12 at 3:23
  • Someone else gave a similar comment, as did two of my friends that it probably wasn't a good EL&U, that brought it to five. – jcolebrand Jul 28 '12 at 19:13
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The best way to resolve a definition dispute is by consulting dictionaries, rather than framing the dispute as an EL&U question. Dictionaries are great resources for "verifying the definitions" of words, whereas asking this sort of thing as an EL&U question seems more like soliciting individual opinions. Such "what's-your-take" questions may run afoul of these sentiments, found in the FAQ:

Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site... Avoid asking subjective questions where...

  • every answer is equally valid
  • your answer is provided along with the question
  • there is no actual problem to be solved
  • we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question

Furthermore, by arguing with your friend about which definition is the "more accurate" one, you miss the greater point. Most words – faith among them – don't have a single definition, and even when you find a word with only one definition, this definition will often vary some from dictionary to dictionary.

In this case, if you look up faith on Wordnik, you'll see that both of you are right! The only thing wrong about your stance is insisting that your friend is wrong in his definition of the word; he's no less right than you are. The two of you are merely emphasizing different nuances of the word, where it can be used in varying contexts.


ADDENDUM

(this additional information answers a follow-on question posed to me by the O.P. in a comment below):

I don't see "an unwavering sticking to of a belief in the light of concrete proof contrary to and disproving the belief", so if you could point me at which dictionary and entry said that, I'll concede that he is using a version of the word faith that I've never heard before. Otherwise, I can't imagine the word he wanted is faith so much as some other word.

Very well; since I can't answer that in a comment, let me try to answer that here:

Definition 1 (from the conversation):
Any belief not based on evidence and won't change because of evidence.

I thought this mapped (roughly) to (from Wordnik):
Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

Definition 2 (from the conversation):
Complete trust or confidence in someone or something

I thought this mapped to (from Wordnik):
Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.

Granted, "won't change because of evidence" (from the conversation) sounds a bit more cynical than "does not rest on logical proof" (from the dictionary), but my main point was that there is a difference between

belief not resting on material evidence or logical proof

and

complete confidence or trust in something or someone

so there was room for you both to be right.

As for the latest wording (in your comment):

an unwavering sticking to of a belief in the light of concrete proof contrary to and disproving the belief

that sounds more cynical still, but that wasn't part of your question when I composed my original answer. That latest "definition" seems to have a sardonic bias aimed at belittling those adhering to some sort of (presumably religious?) faith, and therefore seems like an informal, personal, sarcastic definition, as opposed to an authoritative and recognized one. I'd put that in the same category as this "definition" of stupidity, often mistakenly attributed to Einstein:

"The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

which is more of a quip than a true definition.

  • Eh, when I consulted a dictionary, he said "that's not how I define it" to which I "that's not how language works" and then he got really offended. I mostly want to know if my definition is right, but don't think this is a great EL&U question, so figured I would ask about the semantics of the mechanics of asking before asking about the semantics of the argument. – jcolebrand Jul 28 '12 at 19:14
  • Additionally, while I've never heard of "wordnik" before (Thanks for the link btw), I don't see "an unwavering sticking to of a belief in the light of concrete proof contrary to and disproving the belief", so if you could point me at which dictionary and entry said that, I'll concede that he is using a version of the word faith that I've never heard before. Otherwise, I can't imagine the word he wanted is faith so much as some other word. – jcolebrand Jul 28 '12 at 19:16
  • @jcolebrand: "I mostly want to know if my definition is right..." If your definition is found in a dictionary, it's hard to argue that it's not a definition of the word. "if you could point me at which dictionary and entry said that..." That one is harder to answer in 500 characters; see the edit in my answer above. – J.R. Jul 29 '12 at 0:52
  • -1 This isn't an answer to OP's question Are “verify this defintion” questions suitable for this site?. It's an answer to the totally off-topic (for meta) issue of whether OP or his belligerently-atheistic friend have the backing of dictionaries in their theological argument. – FumbleFingers Jul 29 '12 at 2:50
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    @FumbleFingers: My first paragraph addresses the question, and even quotes directly from the FAQ. Nevertheless, if you feel like I got carried away in my edit, I'll accept your downvote. I know you mean no harm; I've got faith in you. :^) P.S. I realize that my edit would have been more apropos in a comment (see my other comment above yours), but I wanted to answer the O.P.'s question to me, and it simply wouldn't fit in a 500-character comment. – J.R. Jul 29 '12 at 3:06
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    I'm glad you've got faith! I almost doubted myself there! Seriously, I managed to miss the significance of your "short but circumspect" first paragraph. But when I went to check my own answer I realised others could miss mine to, so I repeated it at the end in different words. Anyway, I'm sure you see what I mean - you only need to reference OP's example question just enough to show it's not constructive to conflate disagreement over philosophical/theological issues with disagreement over [conflicting?] dictionary definitions. You don't need to answer it. – FumbleFingers Jul 29 '12 at 3:16
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    @FumbleFingers: It wasn't my original intent to plunge that deeply into the question itself, not until I was asked about it point blank by the O.P. in a follow-on comment. Based on your feedback, though, I've reformatted my answer to make that more clear. Hopefully, that'll prevent others from missing my "short but circumspect" first paragraph, and ward off any additional downvotes. :^) – J.R. Jul 29 '12 at 3:33
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    @FumbleFingers no, the question still carried with it "am I going about this right" before asking on main, thus creating issues, and he addressed that from the standpoint of "this is likely to be highly subjective given the religious tones involved" and by pointing to other resources. – jcolebrand Jul 29 '12 at 5:17
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    @jcolebrand: I think we established that. The "religious overtones" themselves aren't the issue. The problem is you'd effectively be asking ELU to "vote" on different but equally valid definitions of words. – FumbleFingers Jul 29 '12 at 14:09

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