The way of naming

The opening words of the Tao Te Ching (in pinyin, Daodejing) as translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English:

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth;
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.

Ames and Hall, in their edition, offer an intimological account of ‘Daoist naming’ which seems well suited to anticipatory systems and their developing relationships with other subjects:

Naming as knowing must have the provisionality to accommodate engaged relationships as in their “doing and undergoing” they deepen and become increasingly robust. Such knowing is dependent upon an awareness of the indeterminate aspects of things. The ongoing shaping of experience requires a degree of imagination and creative projection that does not reference the world as it is, but anticipates what it might become.

In the Classic of Mountain and Seas, an ancient “gazetteer” that takes its reader on a field seminar through unfamiliar lands, the calls of the curious animals and birds that are encountered are in fact their own names. They (like most things) cry out what they would be. And having access to the “name” of something is not only a claim to knowing it in a cognitive sense, but more importantly, to knowing how to deal with it. Naming is most importantly the responsiveness that attends familiarity. Hence such knowing is a feeling and a doing: it is value-added. It is naming without the kind of fixed reference that allows one to “master” something, a naming that does not arrest or control. It is a discriminating naming that in fact appreciates rather than depreciates a situation.

— Ames, Roger. Dao De Jing: A Philosophical Translation (pp. 45-46). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.