Natural language has its own life, so it helps to distinguish:
|= the definitive taxonomic label or THEE-name which is chosen to be meaningful i.e. evocative of the entity referred to.|
|= alternative evocative name that might be judged more satisfactory as the formal name at certain times or places.|
|= name which is commonly used but is not an alternate and may be better assigned elsewhere in the Taxonomy.|
|= term chosen for an entity by individuals or groups irrespective of systematic criteria like consistency, coherence or wider concordance.|
|Priority, Criterion, Political Aim, Emphasis|
|Policy, aim, object, goal, intention &c.|
There are three Axioms that enable effective and valid naming using natural language
The entities in human endeavour are recognized by the function they perform as determined by the person responsible.
All aspects of personal and social functioning require clarity as to their specific and unique function i.e. entity-names have functional definitions. Function is a form of purpose. As a result, every entity is a psychosocial tool: it has an intrinsic power to make something happen.
THEE is therefore about designing and pursuing purposes. It is not primarily an explanatory device. If two things, utterly different in physical or social form, have an identical psychosocial function, then they are instances of the same entity/category.
Corollary to Axiom 1: THEE Names are Verbs.
A function is a process and more like a verb than a noun: in other words, ais only truly a in the . We like to use nouns (in English at least): they solidify and concretize processes, enabling reflection and communication, monitoring and appraisal. So nounal forms will often be used rather than verbs.
A desired function may be to stimulate someone to activate a chain of events at a particular moment. We could name such a function: a trigger (verbal form: to trigger).
Many different physical phenomena could serve as a trigger: a call, a gunshot, a gesture, a non-occurrence, a period of time, an event sequence, an unusual movement.
In seeking to design a scientific experiment to count or measure triggers, this poses many problems. We are back to the fluidity, subtlety and complexity so typical of experiential phenomena.
From the point of view of assisting with human endeavour, pseudo-scientific quibbling by independent observers is irrelevant. What is important is:
all those involved and responsible agree on what to look for and what to do when triggered,
and so on.
The elements of human endeavour need to be given:
(i) distinctive and meaningful labels if they are to be used effectively by people, &
(ii) unique identifiers if they are to be studied by independent investigators.
Note: In the Taxonomy, «names» are not identical to «concepts».are used for , while are used for . In practice, the same word may suit both purposes.
Corollary to Axiom 2: The naming process has 2 stages: psychological and social.
Stage 1: A precise, lucid, discriminating account of relevant entities—which may be led by single individuals. Yet many can and should contribute to improve and refine formulations.
Stage 2: The widespread voluntary acceptance of suitable labels for each entity—which is a social process for communities or societies.
Academics typically build their disciplines using concepts, and generate conceptual schemas and explanatory theories. Absolute reality is judged inaccessible and only to be studied through empirical data that serve as an indicator for the pre-defined concept (even though concepts are themselves somehow mysteriously abstracted from data).
By contrast, THEE engages with the realm of everyday life where reality is taken for granted and where truth is pragmatic. Is the function (entity) part of human endeavour? If the answer is YES, then arguments about its conceptual status are too arcane.
Responsible individuals will determine spontaneously that a particular taxonomic element is required.
Entities (elements) within human endeavour exist in two forms: meaningfully in the minds of individuals («psycho-») and also in an expressible and shareable fashion within a social or inter-personal situation («-social»). That gives us the term: «psychosocial».
If self and context were not so intermeshed, group activity and organization would be impossible.
For example: a particular purpose is meaningless unless the relevant person actually experiences themselves as genuinely holding the purpose, understanding it and feeling appropriately responsible for its pursuit and realisation. Without that human functional component, we are not talking about a person’s purpose at all but a meaningless string of words, at best pretending to be a purpose to fool oneself &/or others.
At the same time, that purpose can be, and in organizational settings usually needs to be, announced or written down so that it is socially accessible, communicable, modifiable, referable, checkable and able to be specifically pursued.
A purpose may change over time, but that is beside the point. It then simply becomes a new or revised purpose: the category remains unaltered.
A particular purpose may be forgotten and the duty to articulate certain purposes may be removed, but purpose as a category of human endeavour cannot be wholly abandoned. To do so would be to be without any will at all: which means to be in a vegetative state or dead.
"Is this really a «trigger» I see before me?" the responsible person asks—knowing full well that deep consequences both for themselves and for their project may hang on that judgement.
Recognizing entities is not always easy. However, the process of naming categories and using categories and names is a normal part of everyday life. It happens in a semi-automatic, common-sense, practical and unsophisticated way.
The challenge of systematicis perhaps better grasped as what is there rather than pre-defining it. That entails what it means and its uniqueness and relationships.
The English language, my native tongue, is so rich that it is highly unlikely that an appropriate name will ever be unavailable for our inner states, social activities and institutions.
Neologisms cut you off from reality. If a suitable word does not seem to exist, then you probably have not grasped the entity correctly, or you are playing games with yourself &/or your readers or co-workers. Perhaps you see it as branding and crucial to your marketing.
Metaphors are so attractive, especially if that is your natural way of writing. Many like them as it forestalls thought. But labeling things by colours (e.g. red hat, amber consciousness, green thinking) or using a biological metaphor (e.g. neuronal networking, left-brain thinking, amygdala response), avoids the hard work of naming.
Metaphors will actively mislead you or impede your developmental work. And they will certainly confuse others who will either use them too concretely, or try to extend the metaphor beyond what you intend. But I do admit: they may help sell your book.
Be careful to focus on your target entity, which is concrete. Abstractions distance you from the concrete, and your mind or your listeners’ minds will start going fuzzy. On the plus side, people will think you are superior and terribly clever.
THEE is about staying close to the concrete: even if that concrete phenomenon, like «imagination», seems rather intangible at times; or like «task» just too mundane and unexciting.
Avoid general terms where possible. For example, a term that applies to biological and physical states as well as to psychosocial phenomena is likely to be mysterious.
If possible, find a term that only or primarily applies to the psychosocial realm. Referring to the circulatory system of an organization may not be metaphorical, but it is primarily a term for a biological structure within animals. So, something more specific is preferable for «whatever it is that is being identified by that name».
Originally posted: August 2009; last updated 15-Jan-2013.