An Exploration of the Name from a Philosophical Perspective Open Access

Kahn, Madeline Jaye (2013)

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An Exploration of the Name from a Philosophical Perspective
By Madeline Jaye Kahn

This thesis will discuss the role of the name in language and the power it holds, through an exploration of the formation of language and the name's connection to religion. Citing two accounts of the history of language development, according to Giambattista Vico and Ernst Cassirer, the name proves to be the first element of articulate, spoken language. It was first uttered in conjunction with identification of a god. This utterance, prompted by a particular thought, was only possible once man was able to escape from an immediate understanding of his environment, and engage in the acts of reflection and recognition. Through a symbolic understanding of the world, man was able to create a universal language, and assign names to all things. These names would eventually become categories, which allowed for a more particular and advanced understanding of the things in man's experience. The power the name holds is evident in its employment, and is seen most astoundingly within a religious context. Men of different religions across the world recognize the significance of the name, as their accounts of creation, legends of gods, their ability to speak the names of gods, and naming of one another all stemmed from the idea of the power of names and naming. This thesis finds that the name is not only the fundamental building block of language, but once learned is a tool for uses ranging between a greater understanding of the world to the invoking of the spirit of an ancestor. The name is frequently overlooked in the study of language and theology, and it is primarily the connection between the two that highlights its significance.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Chapter 1. The Evolution of Language

1.1 Vico's Perspective...12
1.2 Cassirer's Perspective...15

Chapter 2. The Act of Naming

2.1 Vico's Perspective...18
2.2 Cassirer's Perspective...22

Chapter 3. The Role of the Name in the Theory of Knowledge

3.1 Vico's Perspective...26
3.2 Cassirer's Perspective...28

Chapter 4. The Power of the Name in Religion

4.1 Cassirer's Perspective...32
4.2 Maimonides' Perspective...35
4.3 The Power of Man's Name...39

Chapter 5. Conclusion...42

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