[lit-ideas] Re: Language, Justice and Social Practices (long)

  • From: "Phil Enns" <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 28 Sep 2005 10:35:10 -0400

Robert Paul wrote:

"If 'the-piece-that-starts-at-this-position' is now a name, then I quit. The
German language and Phil have settled the issue. Before we were arguing over
the common noun 'pawn.' Now it seems that a name just is any concatenation
of words making up a description joined by hyphens."

I agree with Robert that a description is not a name.  However, I am
perplexed as to why 'the-piece-that-starts-at-this-position' would be
problematic as a name.  Surely Robert is not suggesting that a name that
possesses descriptive force can't be a name since that would rule out
'Treppenwitz'.  Furthermore, it seems to me that good names do have
descriptive force.  My wife and I, and I would guess virtually all parents,
spent quite a bit of time thinking of a good name for our children for the
very reason that names matter.  In Africa, many people have names that
describe something.  A friend of ours had the name 'God willing we won't
have any more girls'.  A newly discovered insect is named after the one who
discovered it.  Why would these discourage Robert?

I agree that a description is not a name and in some cases one would have to
look at the context to decide whether a bit of language is a description or
a name.  I recently saw a T-shirt that read "When I was young my parents
told me I could grow up to be anything I wanted - so I became an asshole".
Not very clever but it had the virtue of appearing to be accurate.

I sympathize with Robert having to read a thoroughly bad book.  It is one
thing to start a book and realize it is bad, but worse to know it is bad
before even beginning.

Thanks to Robert for his comments.


Phil Enns
Toronto, ON

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