Any taxonomy demands names for its elements. For «words» or «terms» or «concepts» or «constructs» to become useful names (i.e. labels for categories), they need to have a 1:1 correspondence with something substantial and socially recognizable.
Such naming applies as much to psychosocial reality as to physical reality. Done well, it can help us to see our inner states and social realities more clearly. Proper formal naming helps us discuss with others and accept new relevant perspectives, which, in turn, expands our awareness and supports our creativity.
Natural scientists take naming for granted, while social scientists use definitions of concepts as a substitute. But naming is not hard: computing technologists have used common words to create large numbers of technical names that are unambiguous and useful. Our confusion of names in the social arena creates a modern tower of Babel that we seem unable to renovate.
Currently, people do not refer in an unequivocal way to discrete categories of purpose, decision, responsibility, communication, value &c. even when that is evidently essential to be effective. Confusion in management, politics and social activities of all sorts is regarded as the normal state of affairs. Yet most of us can be harmed because the unscrupulous are quick to take advantage of our confusion: they manipulate names rather than addressing the issue openly and honestly e.g. an «expenditure» or «cost» is called an «investment» or «gift»; «lying» is referred to as «mis-speaking».
Confucius expressed concern about such verbal trickery: read more.
Naming can remove ambiguity about what is going on, but it requires people to commit to using those names. As Humpty might have suggested, we should call this « »: it will be examined repeatedly.
Originally posted: August 2009; Last updated: 15-Apr-2011.