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Equivocation

 

Disciplines Argument > Fallacies > Equivocation

Description | Discussion | Example | See also

 

Description

This happens where the same word is used, but has two or more different meanings, leading to easy confusion as at least one of the meanings is likely to be false.

Example

The weather forecast is for high winds. We're ok as we are in a valley.

The honey is set on the table.

He is a cut above the rest.

Discussion

Equivocation can be accidental, and it can be deliberate. When we communicate, one person attempts to send a message and the other attempts to interpret the original meaning. When the perceived meaning of individual words is different from that which is intended, either the whole sentence is given new meaning or it loses all meaning. The latter is generally undesirable, so we will struggle to create some form of meaning.

Equivocation and other forms of ambiguity lead easily to confusion, which is a mental state where people become open to suggestion. It can thus be deliberately used as a persuasive device.

Equivocation is one of Aristotle's 13 fallacies.

Classification

Linguistic, Ambiguity

See also

Confusion principle

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