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Making a Name Valid

If we use a name for an entity, we must be quite certain that such a category exists. If it does not, then the naming is invalid: it is just a word or idea pulled out of nowhere. Such a 'name' serves to confuse rather than clarify. The history of science reveals many instances of erroneous naming: phlogiston is one of the most famous.

So scientific validity is less about the name and more about whether the name refers to something discrete, real and relevant.


To be confident that any entity/category we identify is valid (i.e. can be recognized, agreed and willingly used by others), we must be as clear and precise about its function as possible.

The function of a THEE entity will end up being called a functional definition by those who prefer to work with concepts. However, the rest of us who need to use the function of (say) a priority, so we can allocate money sensibly, will not think of priority as a concept. We regard it as a practical social tool for managing a limited resource. A priority is a powerful tool because it can be used to change personal behaviour and social situations.


We will expect concrete recognizable psychosocial things to have a range of distinctive properties: formal and practical, experiential and social. The particular properties of an entity-category need to be specified via comparisons to rather similar entities-categories. That helps us discriminate and provides the desired benefits from precision.

Knowing the function and properties, we can confront someone who asserts he is choosing, embodying or pursuing a particular form of purpose when that is not so.


Finally: closely-related entities will have characteristic relations and interactions with each other: e.g. types of purposes would be expected to interact—strategies affect tactics, missions affect priorities. Interaction means influence and a greater or lesser degree of influence or power. There would or could also be interactions with other things like motivations, feelings, inquiry and so on.

Originally posted: August 2009; last updated 15 January 2011.

All posted material is part of a scientific project and should be regarded as provisional. Visitors are encouraged to think through the topics and propositions for themselves. Copyright © Warren Kinston 2009-2016.
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