Names of Collectives (Sets) versus Names of Individuals

Individuals are members of classes or sets (hereinafter referred to as “collectives”). Names of collectives are fundamentally different to names of individuals:

Individuals cannot own their names, collectives can and strive to possess their names and protect them against incursion and misuse. This is especially true in the case of brand names;

Individuals do not have exclusive names. When they do (tattooed numbers in Auschwitz; prison numbers) such exclusivity tends to be humiliating and dehumanizing. In contrast, collectives aspire to exclusivity on their names, although, in practice the enforcement of such self-imputed exclusivity may be fraught with difficulties (witness the name dispute between Macedonia and Greece). Collectives find name-exclusivity uplifting;

The names of individuals do not reveal the attributes of the bearers or referents, nor do they contain or convey any information regarding the traits or qualities of said. The names of collectives come laden with context and history and, therefore, are infused with data regarding the collective. In a sense, the names of collectives are among their more dominant and prominent attributes. This intimate relationship between names, denotats, and connotates gives rise to stereotypes;

The names of individuals do not define their bearers or referents. The name of a collective is an integral part of its definition. It is impossible to construct a workable definition of a collective without including its name in the definition, whatever its nature (lexical, stipulative, or ostensive);

The name of the individual does not determine the individual. The individual’s name also has nothing to do with his or her traits, attributes, qualities, behavior patterns, and other extensive parameters of the person named. This is different where collectives are concerned: the name of a collective is an important element in the collective’s self-determination and usually the first act on the road to autonomy, independence, and differentiation.

The names of individuals are, ultimately arbitrary and cannot be defined or explained, though they may possess semantic values. The names of collectives are always contextually “meaningful” and can always be defined;

The names of individuals are largely devoid of emotional content and provoke little or no emotional reaction in the listener. The names of collectives never fail to elicit and provoke emotional reactions;

Finally, individual names are very loosely interwoven with individual identities. In stark contrast, names of collectives are often synonymous with their identities: this is how close the relationship between the two is.

 

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