A definition is the enclosing a wilderness of idea within a wall of words.

Samuel Butler quote explanation

This quote metaphorically describes a definition as a process of confining or encapsulating a vast and complex idea within the constraints of language. Let’s break down the quote:

  1. “A definition is”: This phrase introduces the concept of a definition, a statement that explains the meaning of a word or a concept.
  2. “the enclosing a wilderness of idea”: Here, the metaphorical language is used to describe the expansive and intricate nature of an idea. The use of “wilderness” suggests something vast, untamed, and perhaps challenging to navigate or comprehend.
  3. “within a wall of words”: The metaphor continues by likening the definition process to the construction of a “wall of words.” This implies that language is used to create boundaries or limits around the idea, transforming it from a vast and untamed concept into something more structured and contained.

In essence, the quote suggests that while definitions serve the purpose of providing clarity and understanding, they also impose limitations on the richness and complexity of ideas. Language, though a powerful tool for communication, can act as a kind of enclosure, reducing the expansive nature of ideas to a more confined and simplified form. The quote invites contemplation on the interplay between language and the inherent complexity of the concepts it seeks to define.

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