Re: Draft for Review: Namespaces II, postmodernism

Simon North (
Tue, 26 Oct 1999 09:45:21 +0200

Rohit Khare wrote:

> > We use names to abstract away details: ...

Gregory Alan Bolcer wrote:

> I am not sure I agree with the first part of this. We give things
> names as a discrimination function, we only give names to ones that we
> want to distinguish. That's not abstraction. ...

I'm not sure that either if you is right. Surely it's only when we're
aware of the distinction that we are able to name it. For example,
the eskimo identifies and names more than 19 different types of
snow, while English only identifies about six. In the same fashion,
it's only after we have identified specific individuals that we append
their names (or not, as our memories want).

As we develop as individuals, the first hurdle we take is
establishing our identities; discriminating between 'me' and 'not me'
(babies do not have this ability at birth). We then start to acquire
language using a point-identify-label technique. The label (name)
then becomes a means of categorisation and in that much it
*does* abstract details. However, it's the focus on the details that
allows us to create the accurate names in the first place - how else
would we have such fine distinctions between species and sub-
species classifications?

As Wittgenstein would have it, language may not shape thought ...
but the processes of thought are reflected in the language.

Simon North