Bloody shovel

Don't call it a spade

Names

This has been going around. Guess I should say something. I really don’t know how to comment on that pile of nonsense. I might as well let the sages do it for me.

子路曰:「衛君待子而為政,子將奚先?」
子曰:「必也正名乎!」
子路曰:「有是哉,子之迂也!奚其正?」
子曰:「野哉,由也!君子於其所不知,蓋闕如也。名不正,則言不順;言不順,則事不成;事不成,則禮樂不興;禮樂不興,則刑罰不中;刑罰不中,則民無所錯手足。故君子名之必可言也,言之必可行也。

Confucius and his disciples were gathered at the master’s house. One of his disciples, Zilu, asks the master.

Zilu: The Duke of Wei has asked for your opinion in how to rule his realm. He’ll call you for an audience any time. What will be the first thing you tell him?

Confucius: Oh, that he must fix the names.

Zilu: What? That? Oh come on, master, what does that even mean. “Fix the names”. I don’t get it.

Confucius: Shut up, you stupid brat, and listen. It is like this. If the names aren’t correct, what you speak becomes nonsense. If you speak nonsense, you can’t get things done. If you don’t get things done, you can’t get the rituals to work. If the rituals don’t work, the law isn’t applied as it should. If the law isn’t applied as it should, the people can’t make a productive living. When a ruler names something, he must be able to make sense when talking about it. And when talking about it, he must be able to do what he means.

My translation. Philosophy of language was a hot thing in China in those days. The topic was “names”, not “words”, but of course it’s the same thing. Words are just names we put to things. Names we put to things for a reason. That reason should be to make communication more smooth, to make society work better.

Alas it works the other way around too. If you mess with words, if you use them in ways which don’t make communication more smooth. If you lie and manipulate and make up bullshit constantly; well society goes to hell. But making society go to hell through the purposefully wrong use of language is a common profession in our days. Certainly it’s the bulk of the work done by most of the academic establishment.

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21 responses to “Names

  1. Jefferson June 7, 2016 at 23:06

    We must have similar thought patterns; meanings and names have been on my mind a lot lately, too. Where I’ve been struggling lately is when an idea is impossible for some (most) people to understand, regardless of names. Trying to explain why the current strain of progressive western atheism is a religion derived directly from (a perversion of) Abraham’s trait of kindness has been a challenge. People can’t seem to reconcile the idea of a Christian religion that doesn’t include Jesus.

  2. Chuck June 8, 2016 at 00:55

    The ChiComs need to get on this stat. Whatever they’re doing these days is surely not communism.

  3. Anonymous June 8, 2016 at 07:23

    A Rectification of Names would be a good thing to have, yes.

    • Howard J. Harrison June 8, 2016 at 16:37

      In the U.S., where I live, wrong names for everything just seem to have spread everywhere since — I am not sure when, the year 2000? In casual, private speech, usage is somewhat plainer, but white men in particular are still fairly careful not to name things in a way that will get them in trouble.

      I have no insight to add, nor any interesting story to tell. (I am a white man. I stay out of trouble. This is not an interesting story.) Nevertheless, like Anonymous, I have enjoyed your article.

      • Karl June 8, 2016 at 17:03

        Howard, you might not seek trouble, but trouble will find you nonetheless. I takes less and less to get into trouble. Unless you are an old man, your chances of staying out of trouble, i.e. avoiding the adverse effects of a declining and eventually collapsing society, are extremely slim.

        Speak up! You might not be able to make much of a difference, but at the end you’ll have a clear conscience.

        • Howard J. Harrison June 8, 2016 at 17:10

          Karl: I am in my late 40s, with six children (all my own, by one wife), five of whom are still living at home. My conscience is thus not so much clouded as merely submerged by circumstance. Pleading no excuse for habitual cowardice, I admire those braver than I.

          I remember being young and brave. Those were the days.

        • Howard J. Harrison June 8, 2016 at 17:41

          Karl: If it matters, my children know what I really think: antiracism is awful; blacks taken together (with numerous individual exceptions) are probably incapable of any tolerable level of civilization; Western mankind has gone mad; Hitler had his redeeming points; Christ died for my sins; mere abstractions should not be suffered to sit the saddle; the women’s franchise is somewhat problematical; mass democracy is somewhat problematical; revolution is wicked; etc. (I assume that few readers will agree with me on every point listed, but I did not mean to provoke a debate on every point. I merely meant to say that my children know that, and how, and why, I dissent rightward. So, it’s no secret at home. If the kids tell others, they tell; I don’t mind.)

          Also, were a white national strongman on horseback, an American Mussolini, to seize power, some of my fellow citizens would be astonished to learn how little such an abuse of the U.S. Constitution (which I love) would disturb me under the circumstance. So, to the dissident Right, I constitute quiet support in waiting. I’m a sleeper cell.

          But that’s the best I will do, I fear. If I am a sleeper cell, then I await the man on horseback to activate me; and, even then, I’ll not count for much.

          Thanks for asking.

          • Jefferson June 8, 2016 at 19:44

            I suspect that a Mussolini would receive considerable support from (((the Jews))), probably on the order of 30-40%. Giuliani was basically a New York version, and was quite popular.

            • Toddy Cat June 9, 2016 at 00:23

              No doubt. Actual Fascism was not, anti-Semitic, and Mussolini had quite a few Jews in his government, until Hitler leaned on him.

              And of course, Netanyahu is essentially a fascist, and lots of Jews love him, of course, as they should. We should be so lucky…

          • spandrell June 9, 2016 at 01:08

            If that list is controversial in this blog I’m doing something wrong.
            I guess the question is what do your children themselves think?

            • Howard J. Harrison June 9, 2016 at 02:51

              An idle curiosity to you, your question is of course of greatest interest to me, so the question is appreciated.

              The answer is that I do not yet know what my children themselves think. The eldest is 17, so it is too soon to tell.

              The children belong to another generation, a generation with its own problems and perspectives. They will marry persons raised in other homes. The kids are going to have to make up their own minds, and it would be astonishing if they all ended up agreeing with their father on every relevant point — which is just as well, because I certainly don’t know everything.

              However, my home is not much poisoned by political correctness as far as I know. The kids have been counterindoctrinated by their mother and me. They attend public school (with some years of homeschooling mixed in), but there is no television in the home, and the books on the bookshelf, mostly predating 1960, have been carefully screened by me. If all this is a service to the kids, well, I hope that it benefits them in the long run. We shall see.

              Thanks for asking.

              • Karl June 9, 2016 at 15:59

                Howard, if every man would even do half as much as you have done, we wouldn’t be in this terrible mess.

            • Rhetocrates June 16, 2016 at 06:27

              Of course the list is controversial. Somewhat problematical? Fie fie I say, call them what they are: mainlining Satan off the breasts of Sin.

              I say this with a smile, but I think it’s true.

              Still, I’m not one of those ‘shittier than thou’ types, because if I’ve learned anything from this blog it’s that you should avoid holiness spirals, even those camoflauged as unholiness. There’s room for dissent on the Right, and passive support is appreciated.

              • Rhetocrates June 16, 2016 at 06:29

                The discerning addict will spot that drug metaphors are not my strong suit, especially early in the morning.

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  7. Laret Luval June 22, 2016 at 04:56

    The interesting thing about Rectification of Names is that it’s less about manipulating language to make it fit reality better, but rather more about manipulating society to make everyone’s behavior totally appropriate for and predictable from their titles. A very useful strategy for a central coordinator.

    For instance, the famous 君君,臣臣,父父,子子is usually translated as “make the lord resemble a lord” etc. rather than “call the lord a lord” etc. — although thanks to the wonders of Classical Chinese grammar those are both possible readings.

    • spandrell June 22, 2016 at 06:32

      The hundred schools were not hung up by things like “reality”. Reality is what the Lord says it is, might as well try to change the Lord’s speech then.

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