Wittgenstein posited language as the source of philosophical disagreements and confusion. Such semantic confusion seems pervasive not only to philosophy, but almost all modern political and ethical discourse. Most issues involve tying to define words, not necessarily the issue in and of itself. For example:
- Bill Clinton and the meaning of “Is”
- The definition of pornography
- What constitutes ‘aggression’ in the NAP
- In the context of the 2nd Amendment, the dentition off a “well regulated militia”
- Regarding the abortion debate, when does ‘personhood‘ begin?
Likewise, disagreements online also stem from how words are defined, which is related to the moving goalpost fallacy, bait and switch/equivocation, and the no true Scotsman fallacy. For example, if you tell a Marxist how communism and socialism haven’t worked–citing empirical evidence such as deaths, economic weakness (communist and socialist nations v. capitalistic ones (N. Korea vs. S. Korea)), and famines–he would likely re-frame the argument as a semantic one: that the Marxism that results in deaths and famine is not the ‘true’ Marxism–but rather a poor imitation or incorrect definition of the ‘ideal’ version of Marxism that exists in his mind. Engaging in such a debate is futile because the opponent can contort the meaning of words to whatever he wants them to be, to advance his agenda. A Marxist may cite Norway and Sweden as examples of successful socialist states, but such an argument is fallacious because social democracy is is not the same as Marxism; the success of social democracy in Sweden does not imply the viability of Marxism, nor does that prove social democracy will work in America.
The Motte and bailey fallacy is also common, in which Marxism is the ‘bailey’ and ‘promoting social welfare’ is the ‘motte’.