The Instigator
WMdebate
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points
The Contender
YYW
Con (against)
Winning
14 Points

The word democracy has multiple definitions.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
YYW
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/8/2012 Category: Education
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 8,217 times Debate No: 25062
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (39)
Votes (5)

 

WMdebate

Pro

This debate is open to anyone. N00b sniping is not a problem for me. I'll take on all comers.

This is a serious debate. I was challenged on this resolution by a DDO member who shall remain nameless on a comments section of another debate.

To quote: "I believe Democracy in fact does have a definition whether or not the Economist beleives it or not is their own decision. Words just don't change meaning because people want them to fit their definition. Example: Marriage, one man and one woman. This has never been contested until recent years."

I challenged this person to a debate on the subject and he refused. I was greatly dissapointed.

I wish to give the person another chance to debate me on the topic by posting it publicly, but will also take on anyone who also shares the same belief as I am firmly against it (and in favor of the resolution).

I ask that DDO members not post comments that might help one side or the other until the debate is complete in order to keep this a fair debate. Other comments are welcome.

Rules:

5,000 character limit.

First round is acceptance.
Second round is arguments.
Third round is counter-arguments and closing statement.

The debate topic is: The word "democracy" has multiple definitions.

BOP will be shared.

Pro will argue that the word "democracy" has multiple definitions.
Con will argue that the word "democracy" has only one definition.
YYW

Con


I accept, and stipulate the following:



1) The meaning of “definition” should be understood as follows: “the formal statement of the meaning or significance of a word, phrase, idiom, etc., as found in formal dictionaries.”


Source: http://dictionary.reference.com...



2) This is a debate topic that necessarily predisposes itself to semantic arguments, which judges should take into due consideration when judging.



I thank my opponent for the debate and look foreword to an engaging discussion.


Debate Round No. 1
WMdebate

Pro

I thank my opponent for accepting this debate.

This debate is not limited to just formal dictionaries.

I have to note that Con has provided a definition for the word “definition” which limits the scope of the debate. As such Con should have notified me by PM or via the comments section of his request to limit the scope of the debate, particularly since there are other definitions, such as those provided by the World English Dictionary[1], particularly:

Definition:

1. a formal and concise statement of the meaning of a word, phrase, etc; and

3. specification of the essential properties of something, or of the criteria which uniquely identify it

Argument

There are various definitions to the word democracy.[2]

“There is no consensus on how to measure democracy, definitions of democracy are contested and there is an ongoing lively debate on the subject. Although the terms “freedom” and “democracy” are often used interchangeably, the two are not synonymous.”[3] Democratic rankings break up the term “democracy” into various categories when trying to determine how democratic a regime is.[4]

"Democracy [is] not majority rule: democracy [is] diffusion of power, representation of interests, recognition of minorities." (John Calhoun, as paraphrased by Roper 1989, 63).

Democracy is "the substitution of election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few." (G.B. Shaw, quoted in Danziger 1998, 155).

A ‘democratic regime’ is "first and foremost a set of procedural rules for arriving at collective decisions in a way which accommodates and facilitates the fullest possible participation of interested parties." (Bobbio 1987, 19).

"Rule by the people where ‘the people’ includes all adult citizens not excluded by some generally agreed upon and reasonable disqualifying factor . . . . ‘Rule’ means that public policies are determined either directly by vote of the electorate or indirectly by officials freely elected at reasonably frequent intervals and by a process in which each voter who chooses to vote counts equally . . . and in which a plurality is determinative." (Pennock, 1979, 9). [Note that initially modern democracies did not allow for the participation of a large portion of the population, yet were still considered democracies].

"Government by the people, where liberty, equality and fraternity are secured to the greatest possible degree and in which human capacities are developed to the utmost, by means including free and full discussion of common problems and interests." (Pennock, 1979, 7).

Formal dictionary definitions.

Even when limited to just formal dictionary definitions, there are many definitions of democracy. In fact no two dictionaries have the same definition for democracy. Even a slight variation in wording means that the definition is different from one dictionary to another. If Democracy had only one definition, it would be written exactly the same in every dictionary.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary presents five formal definitions of the word “democracy”:

1. Government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

2. A state having such a form of government: The United States and Canada are democracies.

3. A state of society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges.

4. Political or social equality; democratic spirit.

5. The common people of a community as distinguished from any privileged class; the common people with respect to their political power.

The FreeDictionary.com has another five definitions for democracy:

1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.

2. A political or social unit that has such a government.

3. The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.

4. Majority rule.

5. The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines democracy as:

- a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives:

  • o [count noun] a state governed under a system of democracy:
  • o control of an organization or group by the majority of its members:
  • o the practice or principles of social equality:

Conclusion:

Democracy has multiple definitions. There are many different definitions of democracy: (1) a system of government where decisions are taken by all eligible citizens; (2) a system of government in which majority rule is enforced by elected representatives; (3) a word used to describe a government which employs democracy in its decisions; (4) majority rule; and (5) the principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community. Therefore there are multiple definitions of democracy, even within a formal context, and Con cannot prove otherwise.

Vote Pro!

YYW

Con

I will stipulate to pro’s definition of the word “definition” which reads: “a formal and concise statement of the meaning of a word, phrase, etc; specification of the essential properties of something, or of the criteria which uniquely identify it.



Analyzing the Resolution:



The resolution states “The word democracy has multiple definitions.” PRO defines “definition” as “(1) a formal and concise statement of the meaning of the word, phrase, etc.” and (2) a “specification of the essential properties of something, or the criteria which uniquely identify it.” Because PRO has offered two components of a definition, it is necessary that he satisfy both conditions for multiple definitions (according to his standard for “definition”), to sufficiently meet his BOP, pursuant to his definition which will serve as the framework of this debate. PRO contends that CON’s BOP is to argue “that the word democracy has only one definition.” While I am required to satisfy both components of a “definition” as well, to satisfy my BOP I must only demonstrate that democracy has one definition.



1. Mere meanings of words are not definitions.



The meaning of a word is “the thing one intends to convey especially by language” or “something meant or intended” when one employs a given word in speech or writing [1]. Meanings may and often do vary according to context, but a definition “specifies the essential property of something” rather than any given isolated meaning it is appropriate to distinguish the two. The meaning or a word, in relationship to the definition of a word, functions then as criteria which uniquely identify it. The definition, then, is the sum of all potential meanings.



For example: conceive of a word, W, which has the various meanings, X, Y and Z. Where I may refer to that word, W, in a sentence, depending on context, while the meaning may vary, the word may be appropriately used to convey the various meanings X, Y and Z. Since it is the task of the definition of a word to encapsulate all possible meanings, that the essential property of the word may be understandable, X, Y and Z are components of the definition of W, rather than independent definitions in and of themselves.



To say that X, Y and Z are definitions independent of one another is to negate the possibility of a definition capable of capturing the essential property of a word, where the word in question W, may refer to meanings X, Y or Z. As such, words have multiple meanings, but the sum of those meanings (i.e. all potential meanings of a word) comprise the word’s definition.



2. The word “democracy” has multiple meanings.



The word “democracy” has multiple meanings, as many words do, which convey varying ideas according to the context in which the word democracy is used. For example, beneath Webster’s entry titled “Definition of Democracy,” several meanings follow.



Among them include “1a: government by the people; especially: rule by the majority, b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system or representation usually involving periodically held free elections. 2: a political unit that has a democratic government. 3 capitalized: the principles and policies of the Democratic party in the United States. 4: the common people especially when constituting the source of political authority. 5: the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.”



Where the word “democracy” is used in speech or writing, it is permissible that it could refer to any of these possible meanings, depending on the context in which the word was employed. It is the sum of all conventionally understood meanings of a word, however that makes up a definition. No singular meaning of the word “democracy,” such as those listed within the definition above, may be regarded as a definition itself. Because the isolated meaning only encapsulates a component of the meaning of the independent word (where the independent word is not set in context), they serve only as components of a broader definition, so long as the word “democracy” may refer to meanings other than any singular one listed above.



3. The word “democracy” has only one definition.



It is the function of the definition of a word to “define” the word in question independent of context by expressing potential meanings. Meanings themselves are distinct from definitions because only the sum of all potential meanings are sufficient to provide the criteria to uniquely identify a word independent of context. While multiple meanings do exist for the word “democracy,” no singular meaning is sufficient to define democracy independently of context, because multiple meanings do not (and thusly can not) constitute multiple definitions. Democracy, therefore, can have only one definition, which is the sum of all its legitimate potential meanings.





[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com...


[2] http://www.merriam-webster.com...


Debate Round No. 2
WMdebate

Pro

I want to thank my opponent for an interesting debate.

Definition vs meaning.

My opponent has stipulated to a definition for the word “definition” as “a formal and concise statement of the meaning of a word, phrase, etc; specification of the essential properties of something, or of the criteria which uniquely identify it.

My opponent then discusses the definition of the word “meaning” in contrast to that of “definition.” I have no problem with the stipulated definition for the word “meaning”, however the distinction that my opponent is trying to draw is incorrect and irrelevant.

Citing to no authority, my opponent makes the unsupported argument that a definition “is the sum of all potential meanings” of a word. Such a statement goes against the agreed upon stipulation for the word “definition” (and even against the stipulation which my opponent tried to introduce in Round 1).

A “specification of the essential properties of something” =/= “the sum of all potential meanings” of a word.

My opponent cannot make the jump that he is trying to make since there is no requirement that a specification of the essential properties of something contain *all* potential meanings (or even all of the potential properties) of a word. There might be disagreement on what the “essential properties” of a word are (such is the case with the word democracy). My opponent could argue that a definition might contain “some of the meanings” of a word. But that leads to there being multiple potential definitions that might contain different sets of meanings for any one word (as happens with the word democracy).[1]

A “formal and concise statement of the meaning of a word, phrase, etc.” =/= “the sum of all potential meanings” of a word.

It might contain all potential meanings of a word, but it doesn’t have to. In trying to contain the sum of all potential meanings, the definition would probably not be a “concise” statement, but rather something more like a multi-page article.

A specification of “the criteria which uniquely identify” a word =/= “the sum of all potential meanings” of a word.

Giving the criteria which uniquely identify a word does not require including all of the potential meanings of the word.

If a definition is “the sum of all potential meanings” of a word then many words do not have a definition, since it is nearly impossible to capture all the obscure potential meanings of most words.

The word democracy has multiple “meanings” and multiple “definitions.”

The fact that meanings vary by context does not mean that there is only one definition for a word. Even if I were to hypothetically concede that a definition contains multiple meanings or that a definition is “the sum of all potential meanings”, there could still be multiple definitions. The two are not mutually exclusive as definitions can also vary. They can vary by content, style and wording. That is why there is more than one dictionary in the world and why none of them contain exactly the same language for every entry.

The word “democracy” has multiple “definitions”[2] as shown by the different definitions provided by Merriam Webster’s dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary, and The freedictionary.com. These vary in style wording and notably, content, such as whether they include the meaning “a political or social unit that has such a government” which the freedictionary.com includes for the word democracy but the others do not.

If there were just one definition for the word democracy, it would be available somewhere.

My opponent has not provided us with an example of the single definition for the word democracy that contains the sum of all potential meanings of the word democracy. (Or even a single definition for the word democracy that is THE definition of democracy period).

None of the examples for the definition of the word democracy provided by either side is identical, nor do any of them contain “the sum of all potential meanings” for the word democracy. They are simply formal and concise statements of the meaning of the word democracy. In fact there is not a single dictionary on Earth that contains the sum of all potential meanings of the word democracy in its entry for democracy and I highly doubt that my opponent could craft such a definition.

My opponent cannot provide a definition of democracy that cannot be varied in content, style and wording.

Conclusion:

A definition need not show all the potential meanings of a word. It could just show some of the meanings. Definitions vary by content, style and wording. My opponent cannot show that there is only one definition for the word democracy. I have shown that there are multiple definitions for the word democracy by providing examples in my last round. My opponent cannot provide an example of the one definition of the word democracy or show that there is only one definition.

Therefore I have met my BOP and my opponent has not met his.

Vote Pro!



[1] See Round 2.

[2] Using the stipulated definition for “definition.”

YYW

Con

Well, this is awkward. I have presented a logically coherent case which proves that the word “democracy” has only one definition, and he now wishes to quibble over wether or not I adhered to the definition of the word “definition” that I -out of charity- stipulated to. My general theory is that my opponent misunderstood my argument because he is unfamiliar with conditional reasoning and linguistic analysis. In asking for an affirmative ballot, he is hoping that you are equally unfamiliar with both.

PRO gave the following definition for definition, which I agreed to, that establishes two necessary conditions, to sufficiently define a word: (1) “a formal and concise statement of the meaning of a word, phrase, etc.” and (2) a “specification of the essential properties of something, or of the criteria which uniquely identify it.”


In order to prove that democracy has multiple definitions, it should stand to reason that he must offer multiple examples of definitions for the word “democracy” which he categorically didn’t do. He offered multiple meanings for the word, which, although he may esteem them as “individual” definitions, they are merely components of the singular definition of the word “democracy.”


My opponent then proceeded to erect a clever straw man of my argument in the previous round, and refute that, rather than actually attack my syllogism.


Here it is again:

P) Mere meanings of words are not definitions.

P) The word “democracy” has multiple meanings.

C) The word “democracy” does not have multiple definitions.


Dictionaries are unique books, for of all the words they include, they provide only one definition with, comprised of many meanings, that are meant to collectively capture the essential property of the word to be defined. Referring again to the definition that my opponent and I both stipulated to, a definition must specify “the essential properties... of the unique criteria which uniquely identify [the word].” Pay special attention to the word “properties” and notice that it is plural, implying more than one property or unique criteria used to identify the word in question. Thusly described, for the definition of a word to by my opponent’s definition of the word “definition,” it is necessary that a definition describe the multiple properties which identify a word -which a definition does by listing all formally recognized meanings, in a concise way.


Although my opponent provided you, the judge, with multiple meanings for the word “democracy” (see his list in round 2), no single meaning is sufficient to define “democracy.” We know that no single meaning is sufficient to define democracy, because my opponent has listed varied meanings which he clearly makes apparent. The sum of those meanings (all of them, together, when assembled such that collectively they capture the essential property of the word) comprise the definition of the word “democracy.


I have demonstrated with various theoretical examples (none of which were refuted by my opponent) the substantive differences between meanings and definitions. I have demonstrated that my opponent has offered multiple meanings, rather than definitions, because none of the clauses he listed are individually sufficient to define “democracy,” pursuant to the components of a definition he listed. Because I have shown how my opponent has failed to meet his burden of proof (by not offering multiple definitions), and furthermore because I have satisfied the BOP that my opponent outlined for me in the first round (I have proven that the word democracy has only one definition), the outcome of this incorrigibly semantic debate compels a CON victory.








Peace and Love,

YYW

Debate Round No. 3
39 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by YYW 3 years ago
YYW
I love semantic debates... this one especially.
Posted by Man-is-good 4 years ago
Man-is-good
RFD: Ultimately, I should say that the stipulated definitions offer a powerful backdrop to YYW's claim in that, in only encapsulating ONE aspect, the definitions provided are actually meanings that constitute a whole. Pro failed to pick up on this and carelessly "refuted it" by attempting to note the inequalities while failing to actually address Con's point that the definition seeks to capture the whole image that which he has provided...does not (and making the move to state that there would be no overall definition, despite the lack of urgency or any compelling force for Con to provide one, considering how Pro is given the burden of proof). Now, while Pro did offer interesting glances into the various characterizations of the democratic model, he failed t anticipate (ostensibly) any semantic argument and, when given the mantle, failed to fully dispel it.
Posted by Maikuru 4 years ago
Maikuru
Tuf, what are you talking about lol? Your RFD seems to have nothing to do with the actual arguments.
Posted by Maikuru 4 years ago
Maikuru
Interesting debate. Maybe not Burn Notice interesting but you do the best with what you've got, you know?
Posted by Maikuru 4 years ago
Maikuru
I was going to watch a Burn Notice marathon on Netflix (they just put up season 5! What what!) but 3 day voting periods are killers. I'll give this a go.
Posted by YYW 4 years ago
YYW
lol
Posted by YYW 4 years ago
YYW
I havent even started on it yet. I have a general idea, but I'm waiting for inspiration. It usually strikes at the last minute... but it is equally possible it could strike tonight. Time will tell.
Posted by WMdebate 4 years ago
WMdebate
Anyway super curious to see your argument.
Posted by WMdebate 4 years ago
WMdebate
Anyway super curious to see your argument.
Posted by WMdebate 4 years ago
WMdebate
Thanks. I made arguments either way. (though kind of rushed since I'm on VK). Anyway good luck!
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by Man-is-good 4 years ago
Man-is-good
WMdebateYYWTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: See RFD in comments: http://www.debate.org/debates/The-word-democracy-has-multiple-definitions./2/comments/
Vote Placed by davidtaylorjr 4 years ago
davidtaylorjr
WMdebateYYWTied
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Reasons for voting decision: I agree that Con was more convincing based on his claim that there is one definition, many meanings. 2nd, my source vote goes to con because I can see the sources in the debate and not a "Tiny URL" listing. At least tell me where the tiny url goes.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
WMdebateYYWTied
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Reasons for voting decision: A nasty debate of semantics, but I guess that is what was desired. Con granted that democracy has multiple meanings, but successfully maintained that a "definition" is like a dictionary entry that gives multiple meanings. Pro wasn't careful enough with the semantics for a semantic debate. Pro gets the moral victory for establishing multiple meanings, but that wasn't in doubt. Somehow, "Democracy is the right of the 51to pee on the cornflakes of the 49." was overlooked.
Vote Placed by Maikuru 4 years ago
Maikuru
WMdebateYYWTied
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Reasons for voting decision: We're given 3 different definitions of the word "definition": Con's, which he drops, and two from Pro, which Con inexplicably combines into one. Without some explanation from Con as to why these two "meanings" should be judged simultaneously, I am left to judge the multiple forms of the word democracy independently across Pro's two definitions. They are each a concise statement of meaning (def 1) and they each specify the terms essential properties (def 2). Pro wins on either count.
Vote Placed by TUF 4 years ago
TUF
WMdebateYYWTied
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Reasons for voting decision: The resolution did indeed, have a major sense of semantics already implemented into it. I am giving arguments to Con for the reasons of principle, of his arguments. While it's true that democracy has several difference face definitions, the question to be considered is how they vary, enough to qualify as seperate definitions.A lot of the definitions offered by pro, lacked a sense of qualification. Is something a definition simply because someone important deems it so? Or is it commonly accepted?