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Sense division[edit]

Copied from User talk:EncycloPetey.

My instinct is that it is misleading to try and find a distinction in the senses. Every reference work I can find gives them together as one sense (including the OED,, Websters, Merriam-Webster, and AHD). Why do you think it's necessary or useful to separate them? Widsith 15:45, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

Two reasons, there are distinct religious implications tied to the word and differences of translation. While the word thaumaturgy could legitimately be applied to both "actual" working of miracles, a distinction exists in meaning between this and "trickery" or "magic". The Wells quote I provided fits the first sense of true miracle-working to change the natural order (and is a good short story which I recommend reading anyway). Thaumaturgy could also be used to describe the actions of Moses in the Biblical account of the Egyptian plagues, or Christ in the Christian Bible. Both of these situations differ from any use of "witchcraft" or "magic" (and amny people would be offended deeply by linking the two), and so do not carry the same meaning. The sense of "witchcraft" also translates differently (as can be seen in the French already listed) from "miracle-working". When there is a separate set of translations, there is usually good cause for separating the senses in English as well. --EncycloPetey 16:57, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

I appreciate your thoughtful response, but I must disagree. The reason a separate French translation has popped up is only in response to the English glosses of ‘sorcery, witchcraft’; but it is not exact to claim that these represent a separate sense of the word thaumaturgy. In fact, thaumaturgie has exactly the same range of meaning as the English word, which is to say it encompasses both ‘miracle-working’ as well as the more general ‘magic’. You would only use sorcellerie to translate specifically ‘witchcraft’ or ‘sorcery’, which is not a very good definition of thaumaturgy anyway. The religiously-minded would certainly feel upset by any claim that ‘miracle-working’ and ‘witchcraft’ are equivalent, but the point of the word thaumaturgy is that it takes in the whole range of supernatural work. To me, dividing the senses is creating difference where there is none, and somewhat comparable to adding ‘Labrador’ and ‘spaniel’ as separate senses of dog. Widsith 17:16, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

To me, it sounds as though the real issue is what should be included in the definition at all. I see three possible points of inculsion: (1) "actual" working of miracles (whether historical or in a work of fiction), (2) the working of miracles through trickery, (3) withcraft and sorcery (and the negative connotations those carry). Clearly the first point is included in the definition, as we have a cite from H. G. Wells to support it. The other two are (so far) only supported by definitions in published dictionaries. I'll take a look at the OED when I have the chance, and will see what quotations they've used. I'll also hunt for additional citations that may (or may not) support inclusion of the other two points. If we can accrue enough citatrions, we may be able to make a clearer determination. --EncycloPetey 14:29, 22 September 2006 (UTC)