Saturday, 14 February 2009

In praise of labelling

Labelling, that is describing something and giving it a name, is wrong, apparently

I thought it was characterizing, describing in an incorrect, misleading or prejudicial fashion that was wrong. Trouble is, what I've just described is now called, 'labelling' for short and labelling is wrong. Sorry, but that is itself wrong, labelling is right and good.

As getting it wrong has in some cases caused immeasurable harm that has been difficult to get rid of. It's understandable that people have come to see it in a negative light. In certain contexts that is. Most people don't think that the intense efforts to label by scientists, philosophers or researchers are wrong at all. They just want accuracy. That's the point. To label things, is one of the greatest achievements of being human. Without the ability to characterize and name phenomena, it would be harder to progress, to understand ourselves and our world.

Nor would falsehoods end or mistakes cease to be made, it's just that you would have a specific word or phrase for it. Can you imagine it, no name therapy. You don't name things and the boo boo goes away. Please.

I have no problem with labelling mostly, it's inaccuracy or mislabelling that's the problem.

Saying things like 'labelling is wrong' is the kind of thing we tell kids when they are very young to start them off with, to give them something to be going on with.

We expect them to gradually develop the skill judgement and intelligence to work out in time, that it is bad, hasty snap prejudicial labelling, the unexamined and the trite that is wrong. Not the idea in and of itself.

So with this in mind, I'm in favour of labelling that illuminates, that enlightens and facilitates learning and understanding. Every single word I've written is a name, is a phrase.

To know what say a feeling or an experience is called, can give a sense of completeness, or merely something to work with, even if what you're describing is not particularly nice. It can be the beginning of gaining a sense of control. Something to bind further understanding to. It may mean changing the name and the altering the description in part or in whole, once you are further along in your understanding.

I'll keep thinking and trying to learn more about this strange species of which I'm a part of; the human one in case you're still guessing.

And I'll even try and get it right too.

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