The conflating of concepts via the misuse of words

I

I will start this examination by offering the following equation: A =

!A (A is the opposite of A). This is a specific equation for a special

type of conflation of words. I will get to the General Equation later

on. A = !A is the equation used in the phrase “freedom is slavery”

from the novel, 1984. It is well-known and an extreme (albeit,

fictional) example of the conflation of concepts. However, the amount

of reality the equation holds is yet to be seen. [1] The idea that

freedom can be conflated with slavery, i.e., that the lack of

constraints could be conflated with the reality of constraints, is

something that may seem unfathomable to the reader. Alas! Less extreme

examples of such a thing very much do exist and yet people dismiss

their critics as mere pedants and semantically-obsessed buffoons! I

will examine the examples of conflations of concepts via the misuse of

words in the following manner: an equation, the usage, and an expanded

concept form. Here is the representation of the phrase “freedom is

slavery”:

Equation: A = !A

Word Usage: Using freedom to mean slavery.

Expanded: The lack of restraints is being restrained.

The expanded form may seem fairly useless as of now, but it will be of

utmost importance later on. In the phrase “freedom is slavery”, we see

two clear concepts being made equivalent and therefore this may not

seem to be a very realistic example or have anything to do with

misusing words. Whether it is possible isn’t something I would highly

doubt, but I am not certain of it. Although the phrase itself does not

have any misuse of words, the important thing to contemplate is what

would happen if freedom were actually used to mean slavery.

II

I will now introduce the General Equation that we need: A = B, i.e.,

some concept is the same as some other concept. Although A = B is the

General Equation, it is only adequate to a point. We will have to use

special case equations for a deeper understanding of individual

scenarios. Now, let us examine a very misused word: pedophile. A

pedophile is someone who is sexually attracted to children. However,

the word is often used to mean someone who rapes children. [2] This

misuse of the word pedophile conflates having a sexual attraction to

children with raping them. Thus, we have a conflation of concepts via

the misuse of words. Here is a representation:

Equation: A = B

Word Usage: Using pedophilia to mean rape.

Expanded: Being attracted to children is raping children.

This example shows why the expanded concept form is important.

Pedophilia, a word meaning the sexual attraction to children is made

to mean raping children. Making these two concepts equivalent allows

for condemning people based merely on their sexual attractions to not

look so bigoted. I can only speculate as to whether there is some

mastermind behind this confusion or whether it came up organically.

Either way, it is something that needs to be rectified. I believe the

reader should compare this to how the words homosexual and

homosexuality used to be treated (and still are by some). Let us take

a look at how a people who are against homosexuality treat the word.

Homosexuality is often used to mean, by homophobes, a homosexual who

has homosexual sex. The reason for this conflation is different than

the pedophilia one, though. In this case, the misuse is used so that,

while disliking homosexuals, one can accept homosexuals who don’t

engage in homosexual sex. [3] Religious homophobic homosexuals do not

identify as homosexuals. I have not investigated this conflation as

throughly as my previous, and my next example, so I will leave this as

something the reader can contemplate. Before moving on, here is

another example:

Equation: A = B

Word Usage: Using racism to mean systematic racial discrimination.

Expanded: Racial discrimination is systematic racial discrimination.

III

Is it often that case that people do not directly state that

pedophilia is raping children, but instead they may state, as with the

homophobes, that it is having sex with them. Having sex with someone

is different than raping them, however, having sex with a child is

considered equivalent to rape regardless of consent. Thus we see the

Simple Form of the equation: A = C. At first appearance, this

distinction may seem meaningless. The Simple Form could be represented

as A = B or A = X or with any other combination of letters. Before

examining A = C further, we should make note of the Apparent Form. The

Apparent Form of “pedophilia is rape” is A = B, although in this case,

it is not pedophilia = rape, but instead, pedophilia = adult-child

sex. The distinction between the Simple Form and the Apparent Form is

that the Simple Form is a representation of the conflation that is

actually going on, i.e., that pedophilia = rape, while the Apparent

Form is the conflation that seems to be going on. I hope that the True

Form is obvious now. The True Form is A = B = C. In other words, some

concept equals some other concept that is equal to some other concept.

There is also one other equation required for the representation of

this conflation: B = C. Here is a representation of all that’s been

said:

Equation: A = C (Simple Form)

Expanded: The sexual attraction to children is rape.

Equation: A = B (Apparent Form)

Expanded: The sexual attraction to children is adult-child sex.

Equation: B = C

Expanded: Adult-child sex is rape.

Equation: A = B = C (True Form)

Expanded: The sexual attraction to children is adult-child sex is

rape.

The final step here would be to go back to the General Form, but that

has already been represented above. A = B = C could also be used to

equate racism with racial discrimination by Whites. One would have the

B = C be “systematic racial discrimination is racial discrimination by

Whites”. Although, in that case, if one accepts that Whites are the

ruling race, systematic racial discrimination would have to be racial

discrimination by Whites. Although, that semi-truth would not apply in

countries where non-Whites rule.

IV

We could further examine the racism example and come up with the

following equation: A = A*, i.e., some concept is equal to some

variation of that concept. In this case, it would be that racial

discrimination is equal to some type of racial discrimination.

Although this distinction could be made, I don’t think elaborating on

it further would add much to this discussion.

V

One might ask whether misusing words in the way described would lead

to the conflations described. After all, most words have multiple

meanings, yet there is no conflation of the concepts (although, there

might be a confusion about what meaning is being used). The problem

herein described arises not from the word simply having multiple

meanings, but the separate meanings being used interchangeably and the

word meaning two separate concepts simultaneously, or the appearance

of that. Whereas, in the normal case of words having multiple

meanings, two distinct meanings are used, but at different times and,

generally, in clear contexts. When using W word both the real A

meaning is being implied (purposefully or not) as well as the B

meaning. Even if the A or B meaning is not explicitly being implied,

to all, save those who know the jargon, the meaning will be implied.

The conflation could also arise from the confusion of the two meanings

in one’s mind, i.e., the appearance of what was earlier described,

without any deliberate misuse. Racism generally means racial

discrimination in general; to a layman racism means racial

discrimination, however, the word is also used as jargon by certain

people. [4]

VI

i.

Although I believe that the possibility of the conflations I have

hitherto described are obvious, I feel compelled to give a more

detailed account of the process of concepts being conflated in the

manner earlier described. For this, I will use an example of the first

equation given, A = !A. The reason being that extreme examples tend to

be easier to work with.

ii.

Imagine being told up is down. You already know up is up and down is

down; do not imagine being an imbecile or an infant. Now, in this

hypothetical world, everyone starts using the word “up” to mean “down”

and vice versa. And this has been going on for years. The next

generation of humans are taught that “up” means “down”, however, their

parents still have the memory of the time when “up” did not mean what

it does now, and indeed, meant the opposite. Surely, one can imagine

the confusion people might get from such a thing! Perhaps, more so,

one can imagine the confusion of the next generation when their

parents mistakenly use “up” to mean up! And when there hear it in old

movies, et al. Moreover, one can surely imagine that a conflation is

more likely to happen if such confusion was done purposefully. [5]

VII

There are numerous other examples of this type of conflation, such as:

Communism, Fascism, etc. In the case of Communism, an economic system

is being conflated with a certain type of political system. In the

case of Fascism, a certain type of political system is being conflated

with numerous other political systems (e.g., Nazism), as well as

governments that are anti-freedom in general. [6]

VIII

The point of this essay was to examine the conflating of concepts via

the misuse of words, something that seems to not have been examined

very extensively hitherto. I hope I have made the reader more aware

of this phenomenon and that the reader will help rectify the misuse of

words that leads to such conflations.

Notes

[1] There may very well be a real example of A = !A, but I am not

familiar with it.

[2] It might be more accurate to say the word is often used to mean

someone who has sex with children, but having sex with children is

oft considered equivalent to raping them. This will be elaborated on

later.

[3] I am less sure that this is the reason for the misuse than when I

wrote this passage. Regardless, it’s possible inaccuracy does not

affect the essay in general.

[4] See my essay “A Critical Analysis of Artistic Marxism”.

[5] I am not attempting to claim this example is possible, although,

it may indeed be. This fictional example is merely an illustration.

[6] It may seem there is a contradiction that a concept is being

conflated with various concepts via the misuse of some word. However,

I never claimed the contrary. Such examples would serve little

purpose. The conflations herein described are of a subjective nature,

and therefore, a conflation existing in one’s mind need not exist in

another’s. And multiple contradictory conflations may exist in one’s

mind.