18 September 2015

from Lawrence, SATURDAY (SEPT) PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: What’s in a name? + News

Dear friends,

This Saturday we are discussing: What's in a name?

In my few paragraphs on the topic (see below) I try to show how an issue
in philosophy of language can in reality affect our lives and more
importantly, give power to those who govern us. In other words
philosophy is no less real than politics or commerce.

Ruel has also kindly sent us a link to his essay:
Hello Lawrence,
Luckily I did find time last Tuesday night to write a very short essay
on Saturday's topic. Here's the link:

See you on Saturday.
All the best,

-- News about the next visits to the British Cemetery in Madrid:
Redacto el presente mensaje tanto en español como en inglés con el
objeto de comunicarles el programa de visitas guiadas para empezar la
nueva temporada.

El punto de encuentro, la entrada del Cementerio, y la hora será a las
11.00 horas
sábado, día 17 de octubre con explicaciones en español
sábado, día 24 de octubre con explicaciones en inglés
sábado, día 7 de noviembre con explicaciones en español

Si prefiere hacer la visita en una fecha no programada y siempre que
formen un grupo de un mínimo de 8 personas, avíseme a <butler_d_j@yahoo.es>

*Como colofón al presente mensaje la comisión gestora del Cementerio les
llama la atención al cartel que se acompaña sobre el evento que se
celebrará en el patio de la Iglesia Anglicana de San Jorge, c/NÚÑEZ DE
BALBOA 43, Madrid el día 24 de septiembre a partir de las 19,00 horas.
(please send me a message if you want the poster which is in pdf format)

*Aquéllos que tengan interés en el idioma inglés van a encontrar en este
evento la ocasión para conocer las diversas actividades de la comunidad
angloparlante de Madrid. Para aquéllos que no tengan nada más que unas
nociones incompletas del inglés el evento será de todas formas una
oportunidad singular para encontrarse en un ambiente que les anime a
acercarse más a nuestra comunidad y hay suficientes hispanoparlantes
entre nosotros para recibirles con entusiasmo. Por descontado, el
Cementerio estará entre las instituciones representadas.

TOMEN NOTA DE NUESTRA PÁGINA WEB < http://www.britishcemeterymadrid.com

************************************************************ I am
writing this note in both Spanish and in English to provide you with the
programme of guided visits to open the new season.

We will meet at 11.00 a .m at the Cemetery entrance
Saturday, 17th October : the visit will be in Spanish
Saturday, 24th October : the visit will be in English
Saturday, 7th November : the visit will be in Spanish

If you would like a visit on a different date and you can form a group
of 8 persons or more, let me know at <butler_d_j@yahoo.es>

*As a postcript to the programme of visits, the Cemetery Committee want
you to know about the event on the poster which is attached which is to
take place in the " patio" of St George's Anglican Church, c/NÚÑEZ DE
BALBOA 43, Madrid from 7 p.m. onwards on 24th September.
(please send me a message if you want the poster which is in pdf format)
*Those with an interest in the English language will find this a useful
occasion to meet and mix with people of the English-speaking community
in Madrid . However, those among you who do not speak English will
surely enjoy the occasion too as most of those present speak Spanish
well and will take the opportunity to tell you about all the British
institutions represented. It goes without saying that the Cemetery, with
its rich history, will be represented.
David Butler
David Butler

-------------my short essay

What's in a name?

Both our knowledge and our beliefs reside in our brain. Knowledge helps
us to manage future events and beliefs help us manage present emotional
experience. The key it seems is to bring these two brain states together
that will culminate into an act. Emotions already play a major role in
how we act and what we act. Indeed, without emotions we would be nothing
more than automata in a constant state of indifference.

Furthermore, our sense perception also gives us access to the external
world, external that is to us. And one category of sense perception we
experience is of course language. Language comes to us in packets of
data that we usually call words. But words are only part of a code, and
like the secret numbers that will open a safe, the language code,
precisely the meaning of words, has to be perceived in a given order for
language to activate the grand mechanism of the emotions and ultimately
manifest into an act; hopefully these acts are reasonable and rational.

For the purpose of our topic, that is the term "name," the debate in
philosophy has centred on the relationship between the language word,
that is the name, and the object it refers to. A particular problem has
been the connection between a name and a nonexistent object, for example
a name in a work of fiction. Another issue is the causal relationship
between the name and the object. Indeed the centre point of our topic is
the causal relationship between a name and an object. What causal effect
does a name have on us?

I personally do not think that there is a serious issue regarding
fictitious names. Basically the brain state of a fictitious name is the
same as a name of a real object. Both types of names exist first and
foremost as a language component and then a component of human brains.
The closest we come to a direct physical causal effect of a real object
is a sense perception and even then at a very superficial level. Meeting
my friend John in the street I can see him and maybe even hear him, but
these sense perceptions don't tell me much else about John. My
friendship with John such as experiences, biography, opinions and so on
are stored in my brain; there is more to John than just a chance visual
encounter in the street. Whilst, yes, there is a causal connection
between a name and a real object the real stuff about the object is in
our head.

And we can overcome the question of fictitious names by arguing that
these names are language structures and their reality is the imagination
of the person who coined the name; this is Descartes 101. For example,
we know that Sherlock Holmes was a fictitious character created by
Arthur Conan Doyle. Before I go any further I must also confess that
proper names and other nouns and words are the same language components;
proper names such as John, Jane and Tom are no different than nouns such
as cats, dogs and fish and no different than "is", "have", "on", "up"
"etc" etc. These are all part of the same language code, the fact that
we categorise these words differently is just the way we organise
language. Incidentally, I also do not like the term "word" I prefer the
term "concept" but that's a challenge for another day.

So what's in a name? Names, maybe, have a more direct impact on us
because they have a specific and narrow meaning: my friend John is more
specific than the more general term, my friend. Thus the word "John" has
a more impactful effect on my emotions than for example telling me "I
saw your friend." My reaction here would be which one?

Except that there is a big problem here. Language, especially a natural
language, is a public language that gives us universal meaning and
stability in a language. Can you imagine if we went around like Humpty
Dumpty believing that "When I use a word it means just what I choose it
to mean - neither more nor less." (Through the Looking Glass Lewis
Carroll; Humpty Dumpty was not a character created by Carroll). But like
any open systems, such as biological systems, languages are also subject
to infectious diseases and parasites, or in our case meaning memes.

In other words, a public language can easily be manipulated. For example
take the word "austerity". Not so long ago this term was used only for
mega huge disasters the most important of which was after the Second
World War (and usually during a war) or during the depression. In both
historical events most countries were in an economic disaster because of
the war, large movements of population because of the wars and after WW1
the impact of Spanish flu on European population. Governments after the
WW2 and beyond used other terms to describe economic problems and
deficit issues, such as: to economise, to tighten one's belt, to make
sacrifices, to look after the pennies. These were big words, but no one
ever understood these terms to mean drastic action or else (it's the end
of the universe). Only the term "austerity" had that meaning.

Hence, by governments using the term "austerity" by changing or
attempting to change the terms reference to what was once described as
"to economise" or "tighten one's belt", these same governments have
given themselves unlimited powers to cut down social spending beyond
what was once unimaginable. Rights that were established as a
consequence of the Second World War. Indeed names are very important in
politics and commerce.

A name is more than just a language reference to an object. A name can
be used in such a way that we believe it to be a real object, but in
reality it is just a chimera, for example the "American Dream" or the
"European Union". Indeed, marketers also believe that any technological
product would sell more if it had a number in the name; for example
iPhone 6 would sell more than just iPhone or Apple mobile phone.

My gut feeling is that the classical philosophical problems with names
stem from the belief at the time that language was somehow something
independent of our brain. But because language lives in our brain all we
need to do is to infect that brain with the meaning we want others to
use. Indeed, Humpty Dumpty had a good point and today there are many
Humpty Dumpties in commerce, politics, finance, and so on telling us
what to mean when we use words.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com <mailto:philomadrid@gmail.com>
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every
Thursdays at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h

from Lawrence, SATURDAY (SEPT) PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: What's in
a name? + News

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