Two Dictionaries Represent Two Worldviews
It’s homework time. Mother: "Are you finished yet? Dinner is in half an hour!”Son: "I still have five words to define from the dictionary.”
In the next half hour will this son be getting educated or getting propagandized?
It all depends upon which dictionary he is using. Let’s look over his shoulder.
His first word is "law” and the first definition comes from a modern dictionary,
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, published in 1980.
From The New Collegiate Dictionary:Law: a binding custom or practice of a community; a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority. (This definition continues for two inches of one column of space.)Does that definition sound okay for the meaning of "law?" Maybe, but if you consider the alternative, absolutely not. Let’s look at the dictionary that bases definitions upon the authority of original languages and the Bible—the American Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster, published in 1828.From The American Dictionary of the English Language (1828)Law: A rule, particularly an established or permanent rule, prescribed by the supreme power of a state to its subjects, for regulating their actions, particularly their social actions. Laws are imperative or mandatory, commanding what shall be done; prohibitory, restraining from what is to be forborne; or permissive, declaring what may be done without incurring a penalty. The laws which enjoin the duties of piety and morality, are prescribed by God and found in the Scriptures. (This definition continues for twenty-one inches of three columns of space!)Will it make a difference to this student’s understanding of law which definition he spends time studying? How will he understand law from the first definition? What is the implication of "custom” in the first dictionary versus "rule” in the second one? What is the implication of law being defined as "prescribed” or "recognized” rather than "mandatory,” "commanding,” "prohibitory” or "permissive?” What will be his view of authority and enforcement? What will be his sense of responsibility for law?Does the second definition establish a different source and authority for law? What philosophical position will be inculcated by the second definition? What theology?