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The Philosophy of Names -- Names As Indicators (And Subcategory on Names)

Updated: Feb 18

Bamboo forest.

(Articles on the philosophy of names:


Commonly, names are indeed combinations of words and/or sounds we use to address, mention, or call others. At their most fundamental level, they serve as tools to identify individuals and distinguish them from one another. While this might be considered their primary function, it may not be their only one.

If we choose to view names as more than mere identifiers, they could hold deeper significance. They could potentially reflect our life's purpose or destiny, even if on the stereotypical level alone. While this remains a possibility beyond the realm of first impressions and unconscious biases, it's one we shouldn't dismiss outright.

In fiction, names often carry far greater weight, often symbolizing a character's role within the narrative. Scar from the Lion King, for instance, is likely named not only for his physical scar but also for the emotional scars he inflicts on his nephew, Simba, by killing his father, Mufasa, and forcing him into exile.

Similarly, Darth Vader's name alludes to his role as an invader. His first appearance coincides with an invasion of an enemy vessel. "Vader" also means "father" in Dutch. Likewise, the name Lazlo means "Glorious Ruler," and true to his name, Lazlo from Suikoden IV is both a squad leader and a naval commander.

While names in the real world may primarily serve as identifiers, in fiction, they often carry deeper meaning, reflecting a character's purpose, personality, or actions within the story. While both functionalities may be combined on purpose, they most often than not, do not.

Why? Because life isn't a neatly structured plot like a movie, book, or any other type of fiction. People navigate through various arcs and phases, and for many, life unfolds at a pace that might not be considered captivating enough for a story. Many of us lead ordinary lives, our experiences too mundane to trigger the interest of the majority. Sometimes our names may sound glorious, but in reality there may be nothing glorious about our lives. Our names may also sound noble, and yet there might be nothing noble about us, not in blood, nor in character.

We don't all have clearly defined villains, conflicts, or even definitive conclusions, other than death itself. When a relationship ends, the curtains don't necessarily descend on the stage; life simply carries on, indifferent to whether or not our next chapter is worthy of being written down. We therefore cannot precisely conclude that our names are very influencial. Surely, they themselves are not enough for a life to be altered in a significant way, correct? If your name, for example, has something to do with financial prosperity, that won't be enough to determine that you will prosper financially throughout life.

But... what if our names actually hold a deeper significance, influencing the course of our lives? That, you see, depends on whether there is, as one might call it, a "cosmic writer", much like the author of a fictional work. As long as we remain in the realm of the unknown, we cannot deny that as a possibility. If we cannot properly determine the existence of gods, or any other cosmic force, we cannot determine for sure the existence of fate, as prescribed in our given names.

I rarely liked my original name, Tom. It means purity, naivety, and most commonly, finality. I find it strange, to be born and be referred to as "the end" or "the completion". It's why I've planned for years to change this name to something I would find more appealing to my taste, which I did to Tomasio. The name holds a symbolic meaning to me: As the letters are more than "Tom", I am more than an innocent man. I find it imperative, as a philosopher, to lose one's innocence in the name of wisdom.

In theory, all our names have literal meanings that could be converted into titles. I used to be the "Final Master of the Ruby Grace", and now I am the Heretic Master of Grace (it changes depending on if you include surnames). Tomasio, after all, is a variant of Thomas, which refers to Thomas the Apostle.

Based on these examples, maybe it is possible that our names could change things beyond the form we are identified with. Maybe, the universe, is a one, big stage, defined by a single or group of writers, unseen by us, but perhaps, recognized through our sense of logic.

Now that I am a "heretic" like Thomas the Apostle, I could better fit into the role I've given myself: to philosophize. Even philosophers who were theists, like Spinoza and Solomon Maimon, were also considered heretics by their communities and were persecuted as a result.

Socrates himself was accused of corrupting the youth with his constant questioning, and if I'm not wrong, Ludwig Wittgenstein deemed philosophy as meaningless, as evident by his desire to solve/end it entirely (despite not quite succeeding), thus retiring from the philosophy altogether. Indeed, there is no good philosopher that is not skeptical.

When I was a Tom, come to think of it, life was a bit different. Many things ended so quickly, mostly relationships with others. The vast connections I had with people throughout my life, have been vanished, and I eventually became a loner, a hermit, to this day. I was more innocent was well, to the point of seeing my innocence as inevitable because I have Asperger's syndrome. However, I now know that spectrum-related disorders are not necessarily disabilities, even if necessarily different ways some brains work. We can't therefore say that a trait necessarily makes us disabled just because it alters our brains, as in the example of drinking coffee, which in my case, calms me.

Ever since I became a Tomasio, I found out that I'm getting more power in the world. I slowly began getting apprentices and becoming a mentor, as well as recieving more guests posts to Philosocom. If my understanding is not impaired by the causal fallacy, then it may be possible that names to have an affect on the course of our lives -- even if on how others see us and therefore, interact with us.

As for my "nemesis", Chen... Now that she's married, let's just say that her new surname now contradicts my former name. You will not know it from me. "Chen" means grace, and I am Avichen, or the so-called Master of Grace. Does it mean, that she is beneath me? A lesser grace?

My former master, the one whom I learned the basics of philosophizing, sees himself a common man, and indeed, his surname means, "A common person". You will not know his name from me as well. Perhaps this is why he finds so much comfort in anonymity, despite being a veteran philosophy professor. His adoration for laying low, quite saddens me, because I believe he can do so much more for the world.

Now, with all of this in mind, my readers, I suggest looking at your own names, and consider the contents of this article. Perhaps you could then know yourselves better, as I did, with myself.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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