Friday, October 23, 2009

The concept of a name & Catch TheMoment 2

As we are writing about immortality, we learn about the concept of a person. With the appearance of  proper names, the concept of a person is born. A noun designates a class, a group of things linked by common characteristics. Nouns speak of sameness and therefore substitutability. If we lose one watch we can buy another. If our car is stolen we can replace it. "Watch" and "car" are nouns, in both cases objects defined by their function.

A name is different. It refers not to a class or group of things but to an individual in his/her individuality. The  primary bearer of a name is a person. Only by extension do we give names to non-persons for which we have special affection- a pet, for example. This example of a pet is the cross over between inanimate objects that are a class object and an individual. While "bo-bo" can never be replaced directly another dog can be bought. If a child dies G-d forbid, another child can be had, but it will never replace the dead child.

The concepts of "name" and "person" are intimately linked. We cannot have one without the other. The single most important ethical truth about persons is that none is suitable for any other. As persons, we are unique. "When a human makes many coins in the same mint," said the sages, "they all come out alike." By contrast, when G-d makes every human being in the same image, his image, and they are all different.

Love Yehuda