Hayakawa Ch. 10
Length: 529 words (1.5 double-spaced pages)
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• Giving Things Names
o A differentiation set itself up, and, abstracting the common characteristics.
o The question what is it really? Or what is its right name? are nonsense questions.
o Things can only have “right names” only if there is a necessary connection between symbols and things being symbolized.
o What we call things and where we draw the line between one class of things and another depends upon the interests we have and the purpose of the classification.
o Each is useful for its purpose.
o If our culture upbringing was different, the world would look different to us.
o Also, many people can’t distinguish between like things. For example salmon, perch, pickerel, etc. They just call them “fish.”
o When we name something we are classifying.
o The individual object or event we are naming has no name and belongs to no class until we put it in one.
o The extensional meaning of a word determines a prior existence.
o In matters of “race” and “nationality”, in the way in which classifications work is especially apparent.
o The effect that each classification has upon what he may or many not do constitutes their “reality.”
o It would be exactly as justifiable to say that any person with even a small amount of “white blood” is “white”. Because the former system of classification suits the convenience of those making the classification.
o Classification isn’t a matter of identifying “essences” but it is simply a reflection of social convenience or necessity.
o As soon as the process of classification is completed, our attitudes and our conduct are determined.
• The Blocked Mind
o Snap judgments suggests that such errors can be avoided by thinking more slowly; this isn’t the case, for some people think very slowly with no better results.
o What we are concerned with is the way in which we block the development of our own minds by automatic reactions.
o Some people may say, “A Jew is a Jew and there’s no getting around that.”
o They have an extensional Jew with the fictitious “Jew” inside their heads.
o The fictitious “Jew” inside their heads remains unchanged in spite of their experiences.
o Some people ignore the characteristics left out in the process of classification.
• Cow 1 Is Not Cow 2
o Practically all statements in ordinary conversation, debate, and public controversy taking the form “Republicans are Republicans” are not true.
o An example is “business is business.” The 1st business invokes denotes the transaction under discussion and the 2nd invokes the connotations of the word.
o The terms of the classification tell us what the individuals in that class have in common.
The index numbers remind us of the characteristics left out.
o This prevents us from confusing levels of abstraction and forces us to consider the facts so we don’t regret it later.
o Many semantic (relating to the meaning) problems are problems of classification and nomenclature (assigning names).
o The decision you make rests not upon appeals to past authority, but upon what society wants. Society regards as “true” those systems of classification that produce the desired results.
o The results by society may be irrational, superstitious, selfish, or humane, but the scientists produce predictable results.
o Science seeks only the most generally useful systems of classification.