What is conflict? What is aggression? Are these challenging questions?
This paper takes up the question of definitions in general and definitions as related to research on language and conflict in particular. I anchor my discussion in the proceedings of the panel ‘Researching and Understanding the Language of Aggression and Conflict’ held at the recent IPrA conference (Antwerp, July 2015). However, I also refer to a selection of articles in the Journal of Language Aggression and Conflict (JLAC) and books on language and conflict. I point to the fact that disagreements about what words such as ‘conflict’’, ‘aggression’, and ‘hate’ mean often lead to unrewarding debates. I trace such disagreements to the philosophical commitments that researchers make (consciously or subliminally). Subsequently, I argue against the essentialist philosophical position, which encourages seeking one satisfactory definition of any concept/term/word. As an alternative, I try to promote a non-essentialist position that encourages us to proceed only with working definitions. Moreover, I advocate working definitions that relate to objects and activities that are as tangible as possible. This way we can avoid unrewarding disputes and contribute to making our research more meaningful and convincing.
- 2.What’s the problem? Do we have a definitional problem?
- 3.Conclusion: What’s the solution then?
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