To pursue scientific work internationally, everyone, irrespective of their language, must use just one name for each entity. Discussion and development of knowledge is exceedingly difficult without a 1:1 correspondence between a name & an entity (or thing).
Naming can take two forms:
TOP has adopted a formula system using symbols as names; and has proposed formal names to ease discussion. A Glossary and Formulary are currently under development.
The name for any unique material is a formula e.g. CuSO4 is a formula of a unique substance. The formula is not bound by any culture or language and gives much information. There is also a natural language formal name: the IUPAC name is "copper II sulphate". There are also informal names in English (cupric sulphate, bluestone, blue vitriol) and in many other languages. In the formula, each alphabetic item (one or two letters) is a symbol that stands for an atom of an element e.g. Cu = copper, S = Sulphur O = oxygen. The subscript 4 after the O means there are 4 oxygen atoms in the compound; and so on.
The formula is constructed so as to specify the precise location of an entity within the taxonomic structure.
If we do not know what psychosocial phenomenon a particular cell or hierarchy in THEE refers to, we cannot refer to it with a natural language name. However, we can still specify the formula for that cell. You can see some formulae and names here.
Every part of the formula is meaningful and gives inquirers guidance as to the likely properties and relationships of an actual psychosocial entity. So THEE is similar to the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. A set of rules for constructing THEE formulae has been developed: see current version.
A name captures a useful category or class containing examples (or instances), so:
A category is necessarily clear and pure, while any thing in the social world is multidimensional and messy. As a result, there is never a full correspondence between the name-category-properties and the particular instance.
If we go in the reverse direction i.e. Examples ► Categories, there is always a danger of including properties that are temporary or contingent. As a result, observations, however detailed, careful and objective, cannot distinguish the eternal category from the temporal mix.
Confused? Get comfortable with «naming» by reviewing the naming of physical things.
Originally posted: August 2009; last updated 16 January 2011.