Rectification of names 1



Aug 6 0400


Ancient China, Everywhere

Rectification of names

"If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant;
if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone;
if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate;
if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion.
Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said.
This matters above everything."

One of the mots important doctrines of Confucianism is that of the proper naming of things, what is known as the “rectification of names”. This principle implies that naming is not only important in practical and communicational terms but it also creates meaning and configures relations and structures within society. Confucius believed that the failure to understand and deal with reality stemmed, at least partially, of the failure of calling things by their proper names.

In Ancient China, part of the ritual surrounding the arrival of a new dynasty was the ceremony of the rectification of names in which reality was reshaped, a new era arose, all that because of a process of rectifying names. According to Rebecca Solnit, in this ceremony “the sloppiness and erosion of meaning that had taken place under the previous dynasty were cleared up and language and its subjects correlated again”.

Social harmony is of utmost importance according to the Confucian doctrine; so naming things by their name and taking into account this process is crucial for the construction of a better society.

This has been an inspiration for movements such as Occupy Wall Street and other initiatives against climate change, among many others. Diagnosis follows treatment, and an incorrect diagnosis will ,most likely, lead to erroneous action and treatment; hence the importance of naming things correctly. Taking this seriously involves not only a strong time and reflection commitment, but also courage to name things by their name; most injustices and horrible things nowadays are hidden behind erroneous names, a rectification of names ceremony would begin to unmask all those things that ,for any reason, are being ignored.

Posted by chinitagil on