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2011-17384

Dela Cruz Alexis


Philosophy of Language
Dr. Lee

What does a name do?

I was watching a movie few days ago; there was a part wherein the protagonist was trying
to give a name to the series of sensation she is feeling. These are, irregular heartbeat, and warm
sensations in the stomach and face. The protagonist consulted a medical dictionary to look for
the possible name to the condition. She arrived at the conclusion that what she is feeling is an
arrhythmia; this is a condition wherein the heart beats with an irregular and abnormal rhythm.
Arrhythmia is also a symptom of other diseases such as heart problems and cancers. After
finding that out, the protagonist consulted a doctor and she asked doctor, am I going to die? the
doctor laughed at her question and said what youre feeling is not arrhythmia, youre in love!.
Upon realizing this, the protagonist noticed other instances that verify this conclusion. She
realized that the only instance that she is in the state of these sensations is whenever she is with
the other protagonist. The result is that she became weary of being around the other protagonist
and would pick up other cues that would verify her, being in love.
Giving a name to the sensation of the protagonist, in both instances, had made her act in
such a manner aligned to the name of her condition for it seems that the name contains attributes
that we would only realize when we are aware of it. The first instance, she is in the state of panic
for other grave diseases could follow from arrhythmia. The second instance, she would become
fluster every time she would see the other protagonist for she have an awareness of the state of
emotion she is in. It seems therefore, that having a name for something makes us aware of other
things that is not included on our first hand observation. We tend to notice or become aware of
the other attributes that follow from the name. Consider this illustration;

Left Section Right Section

On the left section we can see images on its own and are separated from each other, for the sake
of this discussion we will call these images Attributes. The right section on the other hand, the
jar of attributes, we will call Name. Suppose that attribute A, B, C and D are the sensations that
person X is aware of, the combination of these sensations can be found in the right section and
together they are called Name Z. Notice that in Name Z there are attribute E and F that are not
present in the left section. Then again, once person X has figured out that the relationship of the
attribute A, B, C and D is called Name Z and because he knows that within Name Z there are
still attribute E and F he becomes aware of their existence. Moreover, Name Z is not attribute A,
or attribute B, C, D or even E or F; it is important to account that Name is not the attribute
themselves but rather it is the attribute A, B, C, D, E and F as a whole, as well as their
relationship. Having a name then, establish awareness to person X of the state of affairs included
in the name Z. It seems then that a name serves as a container of interrelated attributes and a
catalyst of awareness to the state of affairs that was not present during the first hand observation.
I remember a line in Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet during the balcony scene, Juliet
said, Whats in a name? A name which calls rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
What I like about this line is that it reduces a name to just an avenue for communication and
defines that which is being named to its attributes, as that a rose can be called yellow, Xongyl or
Periplaneta Americana but it will not deviate from itself. As what I had been saying earlier a
name is merely a container of attributes of that, which is being named. Then again, although it is
not the thing itself, we can talk about the state of affairs in the world conveniently because we
have a name for it.