Xunzi Book #6 Correct Name

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Xunzi Book #6 Correct Name

Commentary and Translations

荀子 Xunzi

(PD) Zhao Yong - Egrets Small Birds Willows and Peach Blossoms

(Photo clarity and wording by Larry Neal Gowdy)

Larry Neal Gowdy

Copyright ©2020 August 14, 2020

One of the high values of ancient Chinese texts is that they lend evidence that — as a whole — man's innate behaviors and manners of thinking have not changed much in the past three-thousand years. Another value of the ancient Chinese texts is that they illustrate how the behaviors and manners of thinking have been manipulated to conform to each era's cultural beliefs. The trends of beliefs closely follow man's inner behaviorisms, and have become a foundation of all of today's beliefs and social standards.

One of the underlying values of observing man's nature is in the evidence that people unknowingly repeat the patterns of beliefs and mistakes that their forefathers believed. Man is not getting smarter, nor evolving into a superior species as some people believe; man is merely going around in circles while not knowing that his ancestors had already rutted the same circles thousands of times.

Correct Names

Noun names can often share similar definitions when people share similar firsthand experiences. People can look up at the hot bright thing in the sky and know what the word 'sun' is supposed to mean. Since the sun is [1] consistent of presence every day, [2] the sun does not change from being a hot bright thing in the sky, and [3] the word 'sun' is a shared firsthand experience by most people, then [4] 'sun' can be considered to be a 'correct name' within the English language.

Without firsthand experience, all word meanings must be imagined.

The first chapter of Xunzi, titled Encourage Learning, encourages learning through firsthand experiences. Climb high mountain, walk deep gorge: learn firsthand what height and depth mean.

Incorrect Names

In Xunzi Book #5, modern teacher-philosophers teach "superior man... recites" memorized words. Schools encourage and force memorizations of imagined word meanings. Schools teach wrong words. Schools perpetuate incorrect names. Schools prohibit students from participating in their own lives. Schools teach fantasies. Schools create tiny minds, and the circular rut deepens.

A popular wrong word today is science. Most individuals have no firsthand experience doing science themselves, and the result has been of the individuals imagining what the word means.

The individuals' imaginations are products of the individuals' innate behaviors and manners of thinking that bestow and accept ideas of authority. The individuals do not understand why they feel and believe that authorities must exist, but the results remain relatively unchanged: the individuals invent and bestow herd authorities, and then invent and bestow ultimate authorities which are worshiped as gods.

As an easy example that most everyone is able to see, around three years ago during the March For Science protests, the protesters carried signs that expressed religious beliefs in the word science. Examples of the signs: "The Good Thing About Science Is That It's True Whether Or Not You Believe In It", "Defiance For Science", "Without Science It's Just Fiction", "Science Is Global!", "Without Science Life Itself Would Be IMPOSSIBLE!", "Science Speaking Truth To Power", "RESIST", "The Oceans Are Rising! SO ARE WE!", "In Science We Trust", "Yall ########## ########## Need Science" (the sign's intensely hateful and ignorantly violent vulgarity, as quoted from a scientist, has been blocked), "Got The Plague? Me Neither Thanks Science!", "Remember Polio? I Don't! Vaccines + Science-Based Policies Save Lives", plus a long list of similar statements by the very individuals who held protests in support of their imagined ultimate authority named science.

Real people create vaccines. Science does not create vaccines. Real people cleanse the earth. Science does not. The sign carriers did not distinguish between what is real, and what is imagined. The sign carriers exhibited their own innate behaviors and manners of thinking.

Incorrect Names Pattern

The common use of incorrect names in modern societies is not a new phenomenon. Xunzi's chapter 22 provides historical evidence that it has been very common throughout all known cultures and eras for general populations to use words incorrectly and improperly. Therefore, the natural inability to choose correct words can be considered to be a measure of normalcy within humans.

As a brief background, chapter 22 正名 of Xunzi is commonly named in English as Rectification of Names. A more accurate initial interpretation is Correct Name.

 (zheng) implies ideas of 'appropriate, correct, straight, upright' depending on how the word is used. The word's structure generally suggests 'one finish', as in 'one conclusion'.

The English words 'correct' and 'right' have different meanings but are often used synonymously in conversational English. The English word 'correct' implies a mental conclusion that is formed after a verb action is completed. The English word 'rectification' points to a verb action that occurred or is in progress. Therefore, by how zheng is used in the chapter, so ought the meaning be used for the title.

Within the following example of the chapter, zheng is used as a mental conclusion that occurs after a verb action, and therefore, for the moment, the English words 'correct' and 'appropriate' are favored. Nevertheless, since zheng is used with different meanings in the chapter, then the English word 'correct' is not used in the final editing, nor for the final choice of title.

The following are portions of an early draft version of paragraph #3:

'Therefore king person-ist {it-him} establish name

name firm-fixed {and} solid-true distinguish.

way-principle behavior {and} intention logical

then mindful lead citizens {and} one 'what-how-why'.'

'Therefore break-apart(chop-up) language, arbitrarily compose name, use chaotic(incoherent) correct name, cause citizens doubt, confused,

people many distinguish, dispute,

then logical-meaning-name {him} great betrayer

...Therefore {its-his} citizens no-one dare rely-on if odd-strange language use random(incoherent) correct name

therefore {its-his} people-citizens honest-sincere

Honest-sincere then amiable-simple order-envoy-cause

amiable-simple order-envoy-cause then public-common-general {its-his} citizens no-one dare-brave entrust-brave act-as-become odd-strange speech use random-confusion correct name

therefore number-one when-regarding way principle-standard {and-while} prudent-cautious-mindful when-regard follow-comply-adhere order {carry}.

...Modern holy-sacred-sage king-champion have-not(not have)

name guard-protect slow-disrespectful-leisurely

strange speech-excuse-reason raise-begin

name actual random-confusion-disorder

right wrong(right + wrong ~ dispute) {it-him} appear not bright-clear-understanding

then although-despite guard-protect law-principle-standard {it-him} minor-official

recite-repeat-speak-out calculate-repeatedly-critique {it-him} scholar-Confucian

Also-again all-everybody random-confusion {also-indeed}

Like-similar have king person-ist raise-begin surely-will have follow-adhere when-regard old-former name have make-compose-become when-regarding new-modern name

Like-this then place act-as-become have name take-part place go-along use-according-to-reason like-similar queer-dissimilar take-part system-establish name {it-him} pivot-door restrict

not able not inspect-scrutinize {also-indeed}'

Firsthand Name

The word is composed of two concepts: and . is a crescent moon. is a mouth. Firsthand see the moon, then speak. Whichever name is given for the moon, the speaker will always understand what the word means because the person firsthand saw the moon.

Giving names to things not firsthand observed, is imaginary.

Schools do not teach firsthand experience. Schools only teach imaginations.


A common assumption is that 'old-former names' are correct relative to 'new-modern names'. However, similarly as to how modern names have been given new meanings (e.g. science), very often the old names had also been changed of meanings relative to previous generations. Each generation changes meanings of names, and the more that each generation is led by socially-approved 'authorities', so will the newly imagined words be false.

Without firsthand experience, all word meanings are imagined. Memorizing 'ear to mouth' words in schools, is an act of imagination.

Exercising legs makes the leg muscles strong. Exercising arms makes the arm muscles strong. Firsthand thinking makes the mind strong. Memorizing unknown words makes the mind weak.

Choice: self-observe... self-think... divide one oneself... divide one's self... the choice is one's own... the act is a firsthand experience.