The Definition Essay (20%)
Read the article “Definition” by Kent Lewis (Course Reader). Write an essay (double spaced, 12 point font) of 800 words (approx. 3 pages) that defines a concept and analyses the definition criteria presented by Lewis in his article “Definition.” Include a Reference list (APA) or Works Cited (MLA).
Base your definition essay on one of the terms / concepts listed at the end of his Lewis’ “Definition”–feel free to choose one of the terms/concepts appearing in either of the lists he presents at the end of his essay. Here are two examples:
a) Define the terms “artistic merit” so that you will protect legitimate art works, but criminalize the stuff that goes “just too far.”
b) Define the terms “confidential information.” What type of news leaks are, in your opinion, legitimate?
*You can choose any of the words from Lewis’ lists – the above terms are merely examples
Start by defining the term. Provide an essential definition of the term – refer to a dictionary, a legislative document, an expert’s definition etc. Also, use an illustration, comparison, negation, or a short narration to better define the term. Then explain why the definition might be problematic. Is there an agreed-upon meaning of the definition? Use Lewis’s typology of definitions: arbitrary, subjective, definitions with purpose, and problematic definitions. How does the definition fit into Kent’s typology? In the introduction you should answer the following questions: Who defined the term? From what point of view? Is the definition biased? Is it descriptive or prescriptive? What purpose is served? What power backs up the definition.
Analyze the definition by using Lewis’s three criteria: content, purpose and effect. Just as Lewis analyzed the terms pornography and the First-Nations identity, you should also provide a detailed analysis of the term you chose by applying the criteria of content, purpose and intent (each criterion should be discussed in a separate body paragraph). Demonstrate the effectiveness of the definition if only the criterion of content is used. What happens when you include the intent and the effect criteria? How do the definition process and the authority behind it affect the social context? Can the definition be used as a tool of manipulation and how? For example, explain what happens when the term “confidential information” is defined by the criterion of content. How do the intent and effect criteria contribute to the clarification of the term? Explicitly refer to Lewis’s concepts and statements. However, you should not simply quote or paraphrase the author, but should apply the author’s method when analyzing the definition process.
Evaluate the effectiveness of the three criteria in defining the term. Have the boundaries been established? Does the definition reflect a prejudice? Has the cultural norm has been used as reference? Are any parts of the definition questionable? Summarize the social implications of the definition process
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