Archive for April, 2010


Naming the Thing

April 1, 2010


When we endeavor to talk about a thing by assigning to it a word, what we are really summating are three different aspects of their existence as they are known to us.

The first is the idea of the named thing as something observed by our outer senses. The color, scent, feel, sound, and taste of a thing. When we use a word to name a thing, these things are certainly considered though they may vary in particular cases.

The next is the use of a thing so derived from its history in both our particular experience and universal experience. If we see a chair used as a chair we shall call it a chair if it is used for the similar purposes of a chair, even if its outward appearances are new to us. Furthermore we may mistake something for a chair if it looks like a chair to us and we may misuse it accordingly, but when another reveals to us the use they have for it, that too must be taken into consideration when naming the thing.

Lastly, when we name a thing we also take into consideration its connotation. This includes its relationship to us, its relationship to other things, and apparent similarities or disparities with other things. Chairs go with tables, and tables should have chairs around them. When we call a chair a chair we imply these things about it. Its connotations could be multiple and variant but they are certainly present and help us understand what a good table is, and what a good chair is.

The thing we are most certainly not talking about when we name a thing is what it actually is. We do not name something in order to know it at the core of its essence but rather to convey an idea. So when the philosophers say “you cannot talk about ‘it’ because you cannot know it” I disagree. We talk about it precisely because we don’t know it. We name a thing so as to bundle all our particular perceptions while considering other interpretations.

 If the truest nature of all things we apparent by logic or by the grace of your senses, we would have no use for naming things at all. For if all objects had a clear function then we could merely say “sit” and there would be only one true option for that command. Yet there are questions. From where or what reasons those questions come makes little difference to me, but it is clear that something is ambiguous. So let us not concentrate on knowing a thing as such, but rather how we know things at all.