Sometimes people don't say what they really mean: they can, and should, use better words to express what they are thinking. Sometimes this is because the topic is complicated; sometimes this is because people lack experience in productively engaging the topic. How to better respond when this happens can be seen through the controversial topic of abortion.
For example, people sometimes make and deny these claims when discussing abortion:
- if something is "life", then it's wrong to kill;
- if something is "alive", then it's wrong to kill;
- if something is "living", then it's wrong to kill.
You are being uncharitable! This isn't what people mean by "life," "alive," and "living"!
- "human life begins at conception";
- "fetuses are human";
- "each fetus is a human";
- "fetuses are human beings".
- "human life begins at conception": that depends on what is meant by "human life": when does human life end? Thinking about when life can end can help us understand when it begins.
- "fetuses are human": fetuses are surely biologically human, but a blob of random human cells wouldn't be wrong to kill. So what's meant by "human"?
- "each fetus is a human"; what's "a human"?
- "fetuses are human beings". what's a "human being"? There are different answers, with different suggested implications for abortion.