How is it that words – be they lines on a page or vocal utterances – come to have their meanings? To know this is to better know how to think clearly. Those who are ignorant of the language in which their own thoughts are worded, can commit errors in those same thoughts. How can we avoid said pitfalls? Semantics is one of the hardest parts of philosophy, and agreeing on the words for things can be fraught. After all, language is a social process; for a word’s definition to have authority, there needs to be a consensus about it between speakers.
When two people disagree about the definition of a word, who is to say who is right? Anybody can make up their own words, so what is it that makes a definition authoritative? This essay aims to provide a rigorous and well-justified solution to semantic disputes – to disagreements over the meanings of words.