The more important something is, the less attention it tends to receive.
It is maximally ironic that on the most important matters, we spend the least time and effort.
Nothing can be more important than foundations. Secure your foundations, or forget even trying to build anything that lasts, and that includes intellectual creations, and among them, the big answers to big questions.
Definitions are foundational – considered merely stipulative, they are thus considered a trifle.
Dead wrong – define a term incorrectly and inappropriately, and you preclude finding the correct answer to a question.
For centuries, the wrong definitions of being, god, creator, and nothingness prevented any possible explanation of where our universe came from.
People assumed that our universe was a creation. Dead wrong, that begs the question. That requires a creator. Just as some children create an imago of their parents that sometimes persists through adulthood, these people further mythologized the creator as god, and that god had to be the prime mover, himself unmoved, and had to be eternal. Highly creative, but wrong, and not remotely possible. If our universe had a creator, he is long dead, and was certainly not an immortal god. He would have laughed uproariously at the notion that people worship the creator. He or she or it may have been a goofball graduate student in physics who never even secured a doctorate, who failed to create a proper universe according to the directives.
In 2017, the definition of life precludes ever finding an answer to the origin of life.
The correct definition is that which yields the correct answer. The incorrect definition yields confusion, and our perpetual confusion about things, even trifles, is a testimony to our failure to secure the foundations of thought.
In 2017, the definition of nutrition references only essential nutrients and calories. If that were so, people on total parenteral nutrition could thrive. They do not. By rule, by the correct definition, nutrition needs to reference nearly everything the body is trying to absorb, because that is what the body needs. Included in that are all of the nutrients the body cannot make at all, the so-called “essential” nutrients. But included in that are also hundreds of nutrients that the body makes, but does not make enough of them to meet all of its needs. Failure to supply these “non-essential” needs implies that penalties must be paid. Because we are the sophisticated products of four billion years of evolution, the penalties have been reduced by, among other things, redistribution and better retention, but they are not non-existent.
Anselm’s faulty definition of existence as a perfection led to his faulty proof of the existence of god. Did Plato assume the same faulty definition of existence in his faulty proof of the existence of Forms? Defined properly, to exist is to be imperfect. To exist is to have qualities and qualities are necessarily imperfect. One can be only so beautiful or so smart. Perfection cannot exist. Perfection, like infinity, is correctly defined as an asymptote. We aspire to perfection, but by definition, we will never achieve it.
Etc. Etc. – there is no end to examples.