[Taxacom] (no subject)

Richard Jensen rjensen at saintmarys.edu
Wed Dec 9 10:53:24 CST 2020

Igor's bit of philosophy brings up a point I have made before: scientific
names are not "proper names" as the latter are generally understood.  The
philosophers quoted were wrong with respect to proper names.  Proper names
do not define anything; a thing and its proper name are not the same; there
are no true names for us to search for.  Proper names have few, if any,
"rules" for their application and use.  In conducting genealogical
research, I have found hundreds of individuals named Hans Christian
Andersen and probably many more named, very simply, Jens Jensen.  The same
holds for proper names of places: there are numerous counties, cities and
towns (in the US) named Washington, or Madison - the people of each
locality were free to choose whatever name they wished to use.  If I tell
you that someone lives in Washington, what do you know for sure?
Essentially, nothing.

Our binomials are different.  They are (within the bounds of the different
codes) unique names that apply to specific entities recognized by
taxonomists.  These names cannot be freely applied to other entities and
these names have a very important quality not found in proper names - they
tell us a great deal about the "thing" bearing the name.  If you are told
that there is a plant in my backyard that is a representative of *Quercus
palustris* Muenchh., you can immediately (if you are a reasonably
knowledgeable botanist) provide a list of many characteristics of this
plant, from general features (e.g., life form, anatomy, physiology) down to
"specific" characters (e.g., size and shape of fruits, floral structure,
leaf shape, etc.).  Our scientific names are not the same as proper names
because they do define the "thing" bearing the name, they are unique, and
they cannot be changed, except within the context of the appropriate code.
Proper names do not have these qualities.



On Tue, Dec 8, 2020 at 11:11 PM igor pavlinov via Taxacom <
taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> wrote:

> With regard to the indigenous names, one serious issue is that they are,
> in many cases, nature-philosophically sound. Actually, as Chuang Tzu said,
> a thing becomes what it is when named/called. According to Plato, a thing
> and its name are the same, as far as express the same eidos. From this,
> Tournefort’s idea of by giving true names to God's creatures echoed
> subsequently by Linne with his “proper names”. Such a mysterious attitude
> to the “true names” is evidently expressed, in many indigenous tribes, in a
> prohibition to use the names given to people at their born in everyday
> life, which to be replace by respective “nick names” (the “vulgar names” of
> Linne are analogies of the latter).
> Understanding of this seems to yield quite different accent in
> consideration of an aspiration of people to “get back to roots” that agrees
> fundamentally with Confucius’ call to “restore the true names”.
> However, this attitude contradicts fundamentally to the leading principle
> of contemporary taxonomic nomenclature “a name is just a name” set by
> Adanson.
> All this, of course, a “philosophy”, but is helps sometime to see “the
> other side of the Moon”
> Igor
> - - -
> Igor Ya. Pavlinov, DrS
> Zoological Museum of Lomonosov Moscow State University
> ul. Bol'shaya Nikitskaya 6
> 125009 Moscow
> Russia
> http://zmmu.msu.ru/personal/pavlinov/pavlinov1.htm
> http://zmmu.msu.ru/personal/pavlinov/pavlinov_eng1.htm
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Richard Jensen, Professor Emeritus
Department of Biology
Saint Mary's College
Notre Dame, IN 46556

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