I lack a good background in philosophy and often get stuck while trying to understand it. There is a particular issue that keeps me from understanding or enjoying or appreciating many videos or texts on philosophy. I hope you can help me.
In such cases I feel the discussion is nonsense. Because of this, I do not know if:
- I have wandered blindly into a philosophical position (under which the discussion is nonsensical) without even realizing it.
- I do not understand what philosophers are doing or what their goals may be.
- Or something else.
My problem arises in some, but not all, discussions of the kind: "What is X". For example: What is love? or What is intelligence?
To me words like 'love' cannot have an intrinsic 'meaning to be discovered'. They are just inventions used to represent things (objects, feelings, etc.). As they arise from common people (non-experts in languages nor logicians) and they were used for hundreds or thousands of years with their meanings varying from person to person.
There is however an alternative: that 'love' really has an intrinsic meaning, that is, that 'love' has to mean X. I find this almost insane. Notice that this is different from stating that: 'It is preferable to give "love" the following meaning: ... ' in such a case we would be discussing the convenience of one or another definition for the word 'love'.
Clearly, the latter is not the case which bothers me, because it should have an argument line of the form: In THIS context, defining 'love' as X is advantageous because... which is easily identifiable.
But the talks I am referring to have another structure, for example something like: "According to P1 'love' means X1. But then appeared P2 who noticed that X1 does not include 'love' for animals, so P2 considered that 'love' means X2". Then P3...".
In such talks I find the following kind of problems:
Why does 'love' have to include, for example, 'love for animals'? I find that completely arbitrary and nonconstructive if 'love' does not have an intrinsic meaning.
In the case that P2 requires 'love for animals' because it is really a need in the context of some system of ideas, such a fact or opinion is completely overlooked when it must be essentially the only thing that matters.
Both problems are avoided if it is argued that what P1, P2, ... are trying to do is find a definition that represents as accurately as possible what people mean by the word 'love' which of course could be significant (useful or not). Again, in such a case another problem arises: This intention is never stated. No data is presented that supports such views (for example, statistical data or surveys). Even more, I doubt it is significant at all within philosophy.
What I am missing here?
Am I blind to the philosophical conceptions followed in such talks that prevents me from understanding something obvious to others?
If in fact there is an issue here, can you briefly comment about what philosophers have said on this?
PD: Although I found a similar question Is there a point to arguing about the meaning of words? I did not find there specific answers to my doubts.