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Stipulative Definition

Language grows and we sometimes need new words to speak of things and ideas. When we create a new term or make use of an old word in a new way, we are stipulating its use. When we explain the meaning of the novel concept, we are giving a stipulative definition. One way stipulative definitions figure into philosophy is by way of argument and hypothesis. We may stipulate a definition for the sake of argument - that is, in order to see where the definition and related claims may lead.

In 1984 science fiction author William Gibson wrote the novel "Neuromancer" where he coined the term cyberspace, there defined as "a vast electronic matrix of data controlled by powerful corporate entities." This is a definition for something that does not exist (yet). It is one sort of stipulated definition.

In doing philosophy you may stipulate a definition (coin a new term or give a new use to an old word) when you are developing an argument or a theory. When explaining what you mean by a concept that is commonly used (e.g. faith, knowledge, truth, good), merely stipulating a definition is not a sufficient to answering the philosophical demands for clarity. Stipulating a definition requires a lot of explanatory effort to show what the outcomes and implications of the definition may be.

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