|NAME: the unique symbolic tag associated unambiguously with
an entity |
A 'name' is one or more words that are created expressly for the purpose of acting as a label identifier
for a specific existing entity.
The essential social, scientific and epistemological purpose of a 'name' is to provide an entirely unambiguous marker for an object, thing, entity, location, etc, that is useful for the purposes of communication.
It is not one of the purposes of a 'name' to be a 'noun' in a grammatical sentence.
Thus 'John XVI' might be created to name a newborn baby, 'Titanic' to name a ship, 'Kakepuku' to name a mountain,
'346' to label a dairy-herd cow,
'IVPP V12811' a fossil, and 'AF80' a computer memory location.
It needs to be assumed that the object being labelled is unequivocally unique, and that no two entities can occupy the same space-time.
For those of us who are the pragmatic and down-to-earth philosophical gardeners of this world,
this assumption needs to be insisted upon as axiomatic.
It is unsubstantiated nonsense to assume that a demon named 'Satan' can occupy the same body, space and time as
that of a particular human.
Similarly, there is no evidence whatsoever to justify the existence of an entity called 'Fred's Soul' which inhabits
exactly the same physical body as the person named 'Fred'.
It is only very approximately the case that a parasitic worm named 'Helmin' occupies the same space-time as 'Billy Bunter'.
'Helmin' won't have exactly the same 'life-cycle' as 'Billy Bunter' for a start,
and 'Billy' doesn't actually occupy the space that 'Helmin' is in.
Different entities occupy different paths thru space and time and humans label those that are significant to them with
socially understandable spoken sounds or written symbols.
Many 'names' that are used in general communications do not refer to existing things... even though
much essential and practical communication relies upon specific names being tags for specific existing entities.
Novelists, playrights and poets are endlessly creating ficticious names for their literary endeavours.
Fraudsters promote names of invented investment companies, priests and prophets promote their fantastical 'God',
politicians and revolutionaries talk of 'Virtue', 'Duty', 'Nationhood', 'The Economy'... and so on... all as if they were substantial.
Incorrect, false and ficticious names are so prevalent, that having a continuous filtration system is an essential
component of any communication system that hopes to minimise vulnerability to exploitation.
Emergency services need to detect hoax requests as much as possible.
Commercial and banking systems must be on guard against imaginary individuals.
Computer software needs error detection procedures in place to catch non-existing memory locations.
Individuals need to have a very acute awareness about whether 'name' and person associations are genuine or not.
To avoid being disadvantaged to a greater or lesser degree, 'names' that are validly associated
with existing entities must somehow noted... often just in the memory... as being in some sense 'active'.
'The Sun' and 'The Statue of Liberty' are 'active' names because they are associated with existing entities.
'Father Xmas' and 'God' are not.
In the true spirit of pedantry, is should probably be insisted that 'names', 'labels', 'tags', 'markers'... call them what you will...
should only be 'active' during the life-cycle of the object they are labelling.
Naming something before it actually exists is a precarious undertaking... even though it is very commonly done.
Naming a child before it is born, a monument before it is built, or a chicken before it is hatched is a recipe for disappointment.
Similarly, attempting to keep a name 'active' once the entity no longer exists results in much epistemological nonsense.
Prophets, priests, priestesses, do not continue to 'live on' after death in some sort of deified after-life...
'Ramesses II', 'Dracula', and 'Jesus Christ' are not somehow still living in a spiritual universe.
Having said that though,
the pragmatic reality is that the names of extinct entities like 'Ramesses II', 'Napoleon', 'Jesus Christ', 'Pompeii', 'Titanic'...etc
do need to remain in circulation as the label for the archive data which was associated with the entity during its life-cycle.
Since naming an entity is a pragmatic method of referring to it in any exchange of information and thinking,
it should be as unique as the entity being labelled...but this is often not the case.
The same 'name' gets allocated to a person, a planet, a space-craft, a city or a mountain.
In some contexts, attempts are made to create unique names... as in digital image labelling, MAC address locations on networks,
GPS coordinates and so on... and there are often naming conventions... rules devised to help create a supply of new and unique names.
For the most part however, duplication is the order of the day.
Very frequently, specifying the arena of context can be enough to resolve the situation.
" We are talking about 'Aeroclub Mary' not 'Queen Mary' ".
" I meant 'Mount Taranaki' not 'Taranaki Province'"
Within a family context, 'John' would be quite adequate if there was only one individual by that name, but be totally ambiguous in
a broader social context.
The addition of further different names can also partially resolve the situation... 'John Smith' is different from 'John Brown' and
from 'King John'... but this procedure has not proved adequate as the numbers of human individuals increases.
In the domain of the world wide web, the Internet Protocol version 6 attempts to solve this problem of having a unique label for
each and every individual thing(device) connected to the internet, by using a 128bit binary word to uniquely designate the thing's name(address).
Since the number of unique addresses is 2128... which translates to about 3.4x1038 in gardeners decimal notation...
it is hoped there will be sufficient unique labels to satisfy demand for some time into the future.
The identifying address of your latest internet device... expressed in hexadecimal... might possibly be something like '2015:abd7:309f:54cd:bb05:ef00:1234:fedc:'.
Intrinsic to the process of 'naming' an entity, is the assumption that every instance of using the given 'name' to refer
to that entity, will designate the 'same' entity.
In the arena of astronomy the name 'Jupiter' is meant to designate the 'same' object to everyone... alive or dead...
But 'Jupiter', like everything else in the universe is evolving and changing in space and time.
Many aspects of 'Jupiter' are not the same for you or me or someone who lived several hundred years ago.
A similar concern is relevant in a science like biology.
Early attempts at biological taxonomy assumed that 'species' were unchanging things and hence could be 'named',
but subsequent observations and reflections
have obliged us to concede that matters are not quite that straightforward.
For most of the circumstances of everyday living, such considerations are more or less irrelevant, but for the more
demanding unravelling of sociological, scientific and linguistic dilemmas, it becomes necessary to specify exactly what endures
during the life-cycle of an entity,and hence exactly what is being labelled with a 'name'.
Since naming entities is such a common procedure, we should have at least a few guidelines as to what can count as
An entity...at a particular time... is the actual physical/genetic configuration,
of an interrelated continuity of material elements,
that is associated unambiguously with an evidential space-time record.
Over the life-span of an entity, its configuration may change unrecognisably...
eg a butterfly's series of transformations from egg to imago... but it retains
its unique identity by virtue of a 'remembered' recording of the evidence that tracks the
unbroken coordinated continuity of (construction/cellular/genetic) material.
The less ambiguity and the fewer the number of possible candidates there are to which a label-name
can be acceptably attached, then the less elaborate the 'description' of the entity needs to be.
An entity is a perceived existential simplification and as such is defined by limits created by the awareness doing the simplifying.
In effect, labelling an entity with a name amounts to designating it as a unique countable unity...a 'one'.
Decisions or assumptions are imposed as to when the entity 'began', what material continuity integrated it,
what its spacial limits were, what phase it is in now, and when it 'ended'... if it no longer exists.
Such considerations are often unexpressed and implicit, but when any form of detailed analysis is required,
these details need to be very carefully examined.
All entities have a life-cycle as they participate in the evolving chaotic existential continuity.
The 'beginning' and 'end' of the life-cycle of any particular entity are not so much detectable moments
along a time continuity, as designations by humans according to their pragmatic requirements.
Does the 'beginning' of a specific butterfly 'Fleur' occur when the egg is fertilized in the maternal abdomen, or
the moment the egg is deposited on a leaf, or the hatching of the caterpillar,
or even the splitting of the chrysalis and metamorphosis into a spectacularly coloured winged insect?
The moment of fertilization would probably carry the day, but who would bet on what humans think is important?
In the case of the creation of a complex structure, the situation is less certain.
Did the 'Eiffel Tower' begin when Eiffel first imagined it, or after he had finished the final design drawings and calculations,
or when the first sod of dirt was turned for the foundations?
And when did the 'Sun' begin its life-cycle?
When the first turbulent perturbation initiated a spiral gravitational attraction of interstellar dust,
or the spherical accumulation of material, or the moment of nuclear ignition that created the radiant star?
Does everyone agree that the fossil labelled 'NGMC 91' is merely evidence for the previous existence of an individual dinosaur,
and not to be counted as the final phase of an as yet unfinished life-cycle?
Is the life-cycle of a building to be considered as 'ended', just because it is no longer inhabited?
Whatever perspective is adopted, it is always helpful to communications if there is a significant consensus.
The existence of archive evidence is essential to link a 'name' to an entity.
In casual social communications, names are used in the course of the interactions with relatively little
concern for absolute accuracy, verification or security.
As society has evolved in complexity and increased in numbers however, it has become necessary to invest considerable
operational effort into verifying that a particular entity is uniquely linked to a specific name-label that
is associated with a life-path record.
Human individuals, pets, vehicles, real-estate, paintings, astronomical objects, library books, computing devices, scientific specimens...
and so on... are all the types of entities wherein their names(ID codes) are kept in some sort of database where details of their
unique space-time pathway is recorded.
The proliferation of technological ingenuities ensures that a bewildering array of recorded information can now be
called upon to counted as 'evidence' about any particular entity.
Human memory, birth certificates, death certificates, DNA profiles, finger prints, biochemical analyses, physical residue analyses,
bank accounts, passports, micro-chips, x-rays, MRI scans, ultrasound images, video clips, audio recordings,
geophysical surveys, fossils, radioactive isotope analyses, ... the list is breathtaking.
If the accumulated and archived evidence about a particular named entity... 'John X Smith', 'The Sun', 'Australia',
'Fleur' the butterfly, the tower 'Eiffel', the fossil 'NGMC 91', etc,... can be unambiguously linked to
an actual existing and observable entity, then the entity being considered is entitled to be labelled with that name,
and the name can be recorded as being 'active' at that time.
It is quite compelling to suppose that because each individual cow of the herd actually exists, then one is
absolutely justified in claiming that the 'herd' exists.
There it is... in front of my eyes...
When I check to see whether a specific cow exists or not, I am focussed on its existence, not its 'cowness'.
Did it have a beginning?
Is there a record of its life-path?
Can I personally detect it directly with my senses or with a reliable technology?
If these sorts of questions can be answered with convincing evidence, then I can
assume its existence without being particularly concerned about its 'cowness'.
It I try and decide whether a 'herd' of cows exists or not, I must first of course check for the existence of
each and every individual entity, before I can consider their 'cowness' and decide whether or not each and
every individual conforms to my idea it.
But my idea of 'cowness' might exclude calves and heifers.
Your idea of 'cowness' might include bulls and steers.
My 'herd' is quite likely to be different from your 'herd'.
The epistemological reality is that 'collections' of things do not exist as entities in the real world.
They are invented classifications that are created to suit the whims and conveniences of groups of one or more humans.
When a 'name' is used to label a class of objects... like 'baby', 'boat', 'mountain' or 'dinosaur'...
it is no longer an identifiable entity that is being designated, but an invented
category that is claimed to include many objects.
The objects may exist, but the invented category is only a concept used for the purposes of communication.
Thus for example, one particular fossil has been informally called 'Dave', formally labelled as 'NGMC 91', and
classified as being an example of 'Sinornithosaurus millenii'.
Clearly the name 'Sinornithosaurus millenii' does not label a particular individual 'dinosaur', but attempts to
hypothesise a 'species' grouping called 'millenii' as a sub-grouping of a 'genus' grouping called 'Sinornithosaurus',
of a whole population of actual dinosaur individuals deemed to have similar characteristics.
However, the difficulties of describing unambiguously just exactly what concept of 'species' is being applied to the process
of classification, is illustrated by the fact that over a score or so definition formulations have been used at
various times in taxonomic endeavours, and the above classification is very likely to be challenged.
For example...when the morphological species concept was the accepted perspective...
ie when species were discriminated and classified according to
the different proportions and forms of the fossils... it was decided that there had been about 20 different species of the
extinct flightless bird the 'moa' 'Dinornous'.
Applying the biological species concept... where species were defined according to
their ability to sexually reproduce... was not an option, since the animals no longer existed.
Only when the phylogenetic species concept was used... where the biochemical DNA analyses indicated evolutionary lines...
was it realised that several of the supposed moa species were in fact dimorphic sexual variations of the same species.
The males were very much smaller than the females.
The current number of distinct species is now considered to be more like 9 or so.
Similarly, the extreme variations of colour and shape of the feathers for the different sexes in birds has also given rise to
the creation of unnecessary 'species'.
The male and female of many bird species are so different that unless the sexual display behaviour and mating is actually
witnessed, the hypothesis that they are two different species is likely to be accepted.
Common usage and casual conversation sometimes bandies terms around with little attention paid to
the intent and origins of the meanings.
A hard-headed pragmatism will usually assist in at least appreciating the cause of a naming dilemma and keep
attempts at 'naming' sensible.
If an individual fossil is convincing enough evidence for the previous existence of an individual dinosaur, then
it makes sense to create an individual name for the fossil... like 'NGMC 91'... because it is an existing identifiable entity.
This is not the name of the dinosaur... because it no longer exists... even though the use if the familiar name 'Dave'
is very likely to entice us into thinking we are 'naming' an extinct dinosaur creature.
In conversation, documentaries and descriptive writings... even though we appreciate that the hypothetical conceptual construct
'Sinornithosaurus millenii' does not actually exist...
we are almost irresistibly inclined to express ourselves as if it did.
Common practise and grammar however, is no basis for scientific and epistemological reflections.
A grammar is a set of idiosyncratic rules, created by humans, which purports to define the detailed usage of different
types of words, and to outline the permissible combinations into linguistic structures that serve communication functions.
Within the context of (english) grammar, a 'noun' is defined as being either the name of a specific thing (a 'proper' noun),
or a set of things ( a 'common' noun).
In terms of the fundamentals outlined above, this is not strictly possible.
Classifications of things... cups, towns, herds, species, and so on... fail the existence test.
As well as this, when attempts are made to attach labels to times... like 'New Year Day' or 'Bastille Day' and so on...
the grammatical situation is no more secure.
It appears as if a specific time is named, but since the date is regularly celebrated and repeated,
the label rather attaches to a class of days than to a single event.
Secondly, since the actual event referred to is now in the past, we have no way of verifying that the label in question
was actually applied to the correct time in the past.
Whilst the issues are being resolved, it is important to remember that
whereas a named thing may actually exist in time and space,
classes of things... like 'animals', 'plants', 'species', 'places' and so on...although supposedly 'named'...
do not actually exist.
They are inventions of the human mind.