Thursday, July 26, 2012

On to Stipulative and Legislative Definitions - Visually

Having taken care - for the moment - of the core conceptual model for concepts, terms, and definitions, I returned to where I began, which was to try to show how Stipulative Definitions and Legislative Definitions differ, and to do so visually as shown in Figure 1

Figure 1: Conceptual Model of Stipulative and Legislative Definitions

Basic Definitions

The concepts shown in Figure 1 are defined as follows:

Stipulative Definition: a definition that a Definition Creator creates to describe a concept and which the Definition Creator assigns to a term.  In performing the latter, the Definition Creator acts as a Terminologist. 

Legislative Definition: a Stipulative Definition whose Definition Creator is an Authority, and whose acceptance is obligatory for Legislative Definition Users.

Authority: an individual person or organization who has legitimacy sufficient to make any Legislative Definition they create binding upon one or more Legislative Definition Users

Definition User: an individual who can potentially use a definition

Legislative Definition User: an individual person or organization that is obliged to accept the Legislative Definition assigned to a given Term by the Authority within a given context.   The context may be a contract, regulation, agreement, etc.

Be warned that these definitions are preliminary, and I think I see quite a bit of circularity in them.  However, they will have to do for now.

Preliminary Thoughts

What is shown in Figure 1 triggers the following immediate rough thoughts:

1.  Legislative Definition is a species (a subtype) of Stipulative Definition

2.  A Stipulative Definition is always created by an identified individual or organization (the Definition Creator).  Here we have an issue as every Definition must have had a Definition Creator at the outset.  The connection with the Definition Creator may be lost over time, at which point the Definition ceases to be a Stipulative Definition.  This requires much further exploration. 

3.  A Definition is not a Stipulative Definition unless the Definition Creator is also known by users of the Definition.  It is not a Stipulative Definition merely by having been created by a Definition User.  This relationship is essential for a Definition to be a Stipulative Definition.

4.  The essential difference between a Stipulative Definition and a Legislative Definition is that a Legislative Definition is created by an individual or organization that is an Authority.

5.  A Definition User can freely accept or reject a Stipulative Definition.

6.  The Authority must be legitimate with respect to the Legislative Definition User.  The Legislative Definition User must be aware that they have an obligation that they have directly or indirectly taken upon themselves to use the Legislative Definition.  If the Authority is not legitimate with respect to the Legislative Definition User, then we are dealing with a case of unlawful power being used to enforce the acceptance of a Definition on a person or organization.   Such a case is not a Legislative Definition.

7.  A Definition Creator has obligations to a Definition User.   This might include making a Stipulative Definition intelligible.  If the Definition Creator fails to meet these obligations, then the Definition User has one or more reasons to reject the Stipulative Definition.  This would seem to be a warning for those individuals and institutions who decide to become Definition Creators. 

8.  The burden of obligation of an Authority to a Legislative Definition User for a Legislative Definition is higher than that of a Definition Creator to a Definition User for a Stipulative Definition.

Further Thoughts

There is a lot in this.  A big part of how we operate in our culture and society includes what concepts we accept or reject.  Furthermore, any Authority who creates Legislative Definitions had better do a good job or they might cause problems.  I am thinking of the unintelligible definition of "Swap" in the Dodd-Frank Act here.

On the notation front, I do not like the fact that general relationships such as Definition User rejects Stipulative Definition cannot be related to more specific relationships that override them, such as Legislative Definition User is obliged to accept Legislative Definition.  Yet something more to be tackled.

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