Sunday, October 14, 2007

Zodiac, Unabomber, Adam & Eve

Fitting with recent discussion of the rectification of names, I enjoyed this article about why police give nicknames to criminals of unknown identity. The interesting part is that the article claims the act of giving a criminal a name serves to "plant mental images of the suspects in the minds of patrol officers and the public, improving the odds of spotting and catching the crooks."

This is something of a different take on names. Instead of things having one proper name that must be discovered, rather it pits named vs. unnamed things, as if something without a name is somehow less real than something named. This brings to mind a post from last October on my friend Ben's blog, entitled "A name by any other rose." Incidentally, he and I are working on a new project together, and the name was the first thing we came up with after the basic concept.

But perhaps this isn't really so far off from Confucius. In both interpretations of the significance of names, there is a strong connection between name and identity. Confucius says if you know the true name, you can truly understand the thing. And when cops give a name to an unknown criminal, they are giving him an identity, and in a way creating him.

And all of this reminds me of the Judeo-Christian doctrine that as first man on earth, Adam named everything. From KJV Genesis 19-20: And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. But it also sounds like Adam named Eve. After God takes the rib and creates woman, he brings the woman to Adam (just like it says he did with all the animals). KJV Genesis 3:20 says, And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. Compare that with Moses 4:26, from the LDS Pearl of Great Price: And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of allliving; for thus have I, the Lord God, called the first of all women, which are many.

In the PoGP version it sounds like God came up with the name, but even the straight biblical account has some ambiguity--it says he "called" not "named" her Eve. So was Adam told the name, or did he divine the "correct" name through inspiration? And if the latter, did Adam really name anything, or was he revealing the proper names of things?


[Criminal nickname article found via The Lexicographer's Rules]


Scott Abbott said...

The proper name. The natural name. The name that reveals and/or creates identity. The names Adam gave to the creatures (Adamic language, the one lost at the Tower of Babel). The name Adam and God shared and gave to Eve. The secret name promised in Freemasonic ritual. The philosopher's stone that will be revealed at the end of the 33rd degree.

In the first years of the 19th century, a German Freemason grew tired of the frauds such beliefs made possible (Calliostro, St. Germain, etc.) and decided that if he made the names and rituals public they could be seen by everyone as what he thought they were: rituals that served metaphorically to make a place for the masons, to teach them good ways to relate with each other and with others. There is no secret other than what art reveals,

Or in Nietzsche's memorable line: "Truth is a mobile army of metaphors. . . ."

It was this context that had me ask in an earlier post whether Confucious really thought there was a correct or perfect name for things or if he was thinking metaphorically.