Friday, December 10, 2010

the Web of Tao

This we know - 
the Earth does not belong to man - man belongs to the Earth. 
This we know. 
All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth
befalls the sons of the earth. 
Man does not weave the web of life; 
he is merely a strand of it.
Whatever he does to the web,
he does to himself.

Ted Perry, 1972


Musica Antiqua Köln
J.S. Bach, Musicalisches Opfer: il Tema Regio

Thomaskirche,Leipzig, Saxony (Sachsen), Germany

Tao Division and Totality


I have tried many times to reach this generality to classes of students and for this purpose have used Figure 1.

The figure is presented to the class as a reasonably accurate chalk drawing on the blackboard, but without the letters marking the various angles. The class is asked to describe "it" in a page of written English. When each student has finished his or her description, we compare the results. They fall into several categories:
a. About 10 percent or less of students say, for example, that the object is a boot or more picturesquely, the boot of a man with a gouty toe or even a toilet.
Evidently, from this and similar analogic or iconic descriptions, it would be difficult for the hearer of the description to reproduce the object.
b. A much larger number of students see the object contains most of a rectangle and most of a hexagon, and having divided it into parts in this way, then devote themselves to trying to describe the relations between the incomplete rectangle and hexagon. A small number of these (but, surprisingly, usually one or two in every class) discover that a line, BH, can be drawn and extended to cut the base line, DC, at a point I in such a way that HI will complete a regular hexagon (Figure 2).

This imaginary line will define the proportions of the rectangle but not, of course, the absolute lengths. I usually congratulate these students on their ability to create what resembles many scientific hypotheses, which "explain" a perceptible regularity in terms of some entity created by the imagination.
c. Many well-trained students resort to an operational method of description. They will start from some point on the outline of the object (interestingly enough, always an angle) and proceed from there, usually clockwise, with instructions for drawing the object.
d. There are also two other well-known ways of description that no students has yet followed.
No student has started from the statement "It’s made of chalk and blackboard." No student has ever used the method of the halftone block, dividing the surface of the blackboard into grid (arbitrarily rectangular) and reporting "yes" and "no" on whether each box of the grid contains or does not contain some part of the object. Of course, if the grid is coarse and the object small, a very large amount of information will be lost. (Imagine the case in which the entire object is smaller than the grid unit. The description will then consist of not more than four or less than one affirmation, according to how the divisions of the grid fall upon the object.) However, this is, in principle, how the halftone blocks of newspaper illustration are transmitted by electric impulse and, indeed, how television works.
Note that all these methods of description contribute nothing to an explanation of the object-the hexago-rectangle. Explanation must always grow out of description, but the description from which it grows will always necessarily contain arbitrary characteristics such as those exemplified here.


Daughter. Daddy, why do things have outlines?
Father. Really? I do not know. What things do you speak?
D. Yes, when I draw things, because they have
F. Well, and other things ... a flock of sheep? Or a conversation? These things have outlines?
D. Do not be silly. You can not draw a conversation. I say things.
F. Yes ... I was just trying to understand what you meant.
You mean: "Because when we give them things we draw the boundaries?" Or do you mean that things have contours, which draw us or not?
D. I do not know, Dad, you must tell me. What I want to ask?

Friday, December 3, 2010

die kunst der Tao

Ramin Bahrami - Contrapunctus 7, a 4, per Augmentationem et diminutionem

Trans-Formation (Death) - XIII Major

The central figure in this card sits atop the vast flower of the void, and holds the symbols of transformation - the sword that cuts through illusion, the snake that rejuvenates itself by shedding its skin, the broken chain of limitations, and the yin/yang symbol of transcending duality. One of its hands rests on its lap, open and receptive. The other reaches down to touch the mouth of a sleeping face, symbolizing the silence that comes when we are at rest.
This is a time for a deep let-go. Allow any pain, sorrow, or difficulty just to be there, accepting its "facticity." It is very much like the experience of Gautam Buddha when, after years of seeking, he finally gave up, knowing there was nothing more that he could do. That very night, he became enlightened. Transformation comes, like death, in its own time. And, like death, it takes you from one dimension into another.

A master in Zen is not simply a teacher. In all the religions there are only teachers. They teach you about subjects which you don't know, and they ask you to believe because there is no way to bring those experiences into objective reality. Neither has the teacher known them - he has believed them; he transfers his belief to somebody else. Zen is not a believer's world. It is not for the faithful ones; it is for those daring souls who can drop all belief, unbelief, doubt, reason, mind, and simply enter into their pure existence without boundaries. But it brings a tremendous transformation. Hence, let me say that while others are involved in philosophies, Zen is involved in metamorphosis, in a transformation. It is authentic alchemy: it changes you from base metal into gold. But its language has to be understood, not with your reasoning and intellectual mind but with your loving heart. Or even just listening, not bothering whether it is true or not. And a moment comes suddenly that you see it, which has been eluding you your whole life. Suddenly, what Gautam Buddha called "eighty-four thousand doors" open.

Tao theater

Tao images


This generalization seems to be true of everything that happens between my sometimes conscious action of directing a sense organ at some source of information and my conscious action of deriving information from an image that "I" seem to see, hear, feel, taste, or smell. Even a pain is surely a created image.
No doubt men and donkeys and dogs are conscious of listening and even of cocking their ears in the direction of sound. As for sight, something moving the periphery of my visual field will call "attention" (whatever that means) so that I shift my eyes and even my head to look at it. This is often a conscious act, but it is sometimes so nearly automatic that it goes unnoticed. Often I am conscious of turning my head but unaware of the peripheral sighting that caused me to turn. The peripheral retina receives a lot of information that remains outside consciousness – possibly but not certainly in image form.
The processes of perception are inaccessible; only the products are conscious and, of course, it is the products that are necessary. The two general facts – first, that I am unconscious of the process of making the images which I consciously see and, second, that in these unconscious processes, I use a whole range of presuppositions which become built into the finished image – are, for me, the beginning of empirical epistemology.
Of course, we all know that the images which we "see" are indeed manufactured by the brain or mind. But to know this in an intellectual sense is very different from realizing that it is truly so.
It is all very well to say that it makes a sort of adaptive sense to present only the images to consciousness without wasting psychological process on consciousness of their making. But there is no clear primary reason for using images at all or, indeed, for being aware of any part of our mental processes.
Speculation suggests that image formation is perhaps a convenient or economical method of passing information across some sort of interface. Notably, where a person must act in a context between two machines, it is convenient to have the machines feed their information to him or her in image form.
A case that has been studied systematically is that of a gunner controlling antiaircraft fire on a naval ship. *2 The information from a series of sighting devices aimed at a flying target is summarized for the gunner in the form of a moving dot on a screen (i.e., an image). On the same screen is a second dot, whose position summarizes the direction in which an antiaircraft gun is aimed. The man can moved this second dot by turning knobs
on the device. These knobs also change the gun’s aim. The man must operate the knobs until the dots coincide on the screen. He then fires the gun.
The system contains tow interfaces: sensory system-man and man-effector system. Of course, it is conceivable that in such a case, both the input information and the output information could be processed in digital form, without transformation into an iconic mode. But it seems to me that the iconic device is surely more convenient not only because, being human, I an a maker of mental images but also because at these interfaces images are economical or efficient. If that speculation is correct, then it would be reasonable to guess that mammals form images because the mental processes of mammals must deal with many interfaces.
There are some interesting side effects of our unawareness of the processes of perception. For example, when these processes work unchecked by input material from a sense organ, as in dream or hallucination or eidetic imagery, it is sometimes difficult to doubt the external reality of what the images seem to represent. Conversely, it is perhaps a very good thing that we do not know too much about the work of creating perceptual images. In our ignorance of that work, we are free to believe what our senses tell us. To doubt continually the evidence of sensory report might be awkward.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

potable and unpotable Tao

which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.

Tao Strange Loops

In the discussion of complex systems with several logical levels of description may appear self-recursive circularities which, evolving over several levels, close in to the starting point.

Douglas Hofstadter was the first to study them in "Gödel, Escher, Bach: an eternal golden braid", 1980 Pulitzer prize winner, calling them "Strange Loops", and defined them in the cases of the development of formal logical Gödel theorems, of J.S. Bach musical scores, in particular "The Art of Fugue" and "The Musical Offering", and in M.C. Escher works.

«I realized that for me Gödel, Escher and Bach were only shadows cast in different directions by some central solid essence. I tried to reconstruct the central object and  came out this book. »

"... Godel, Escher, Bach: a great logician, a great painter, a great musician. What binds these names, except the glory? A Strange Loop. And what a Strange Loop? Hofstadter suggests: "The phenomenon of "Strange Loop" is that of finding unexpected, going up or going down the steps of some hierarchical system, at the starting point." is a phenomenon that Escher has drawn , Bach has set to music, which Godel has placed at the heart of his theorems. ..." (D.H.)

Penrose triangles

Hofstadter has further developed the theme of self-reference in "I am a Strange Loop":

"In the end, we are self-perceiving, self-inventing, locked-in mirages that
are little miracles of self-reference"

M.C. Escher: Moebius strip II

M.C. Escher, Relativity, 1953
Art of Fugue: Contrapunctus IV

unfinished last fugue from "Kunst der Fuge", last page; source: Deutsche Staatsbibliothek Berlin

Musical Offering: main theme RICERCAR

Places of Tao

Taj Mahal framed by Agra Fort window

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tao non-objectivity

The loss of distinction between observer and observed, already evident at physical level 0 and argument of 2nd cybernetics, generally extends to all levels of description/interaction:

Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson in Bajoeng Gedé (photograph by Walter Spies)


All experience is subjective. This is only a simple corollary of a point ... that our brains make the images that we think we "perceive."
It is significant that all perception – all conscious perception – has image characteristics. A pain is localize somewhere. It has a beginning and an end and a location and stands out against a background. These are the elementary components of an image. When somebody steps on my toe, what I experience is, not his stepping on my toe, but my image of his stepping on my toe reconstructed from neural reports reaching my brain somewhat after his foot has landed on mine. Experience of the exterior is always mediated by particular sense organs and neural pathways. To that extent, objects are creation, and my experience of them is subjective, not objective.
It is, however, not a trivial assertion to note that very few persons, at least in occidental culture, doubt the objectivity of such sense data as pain or their visual images of the external world. Our civilization is deeply based on this illusion.

the Teh of Tao

- 10 -

Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child's?
Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from you own mind
and thus understand all things?

Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.

appearance and substance of Tao


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"Got you. You're mine now. For the rest of the day, week, month, year, life. Have you guessed who I am? Sometimes I think you have. Sometimes when you're standing in a crowd I feel those sultry, dark eyes of yours stop on me. Are you too afraid to come up to me and let me know how you feel? I want to moan and writhe with you and I want to go up to you and kiss your mouth and pull you to me and say "I love you I love you I love you" while stripping. I want you so bad it stings. I want to kill the ugly girls that you're always with. Do you really like those boring, naive, coy, calculating girls or is it just for sex? The seeds of love have taken hold, and if we won't burn together, I'll burn alone."

"Took a charter flight on a DC-10 to London. Landed at Heathrow. Took a cab to the city center. Don't let people lie to you: hostels are for the ugly. I'm staying in Home House, the most beautiful hotel in the world. Called a friend from school who was selling hash, but she wasn't in. Met a couple of Brits who take me to, of all places, Camden Street. I flirt a bit at the Virgin Megastore, buy some CDs, then follow some girls with pink hair. I wandered around trying to get laid, until it started to rain, then went back to Home House. Ministry of Sound is dead, so I go to Remform - but it's Gay Night. I find the one hetero girl in the place and we dry hump on the dance floor. We cab it back to Home House. I strip her clothes off, suck her toes, and we fuck. I hung out for four or five days. Met the world's biggest DJ, Paul Oakenfold. Kept missing the Changing of the Guards. Wrote my mom a postcard I never sent. Bought some speed from an Italian junkie who was trying to sell me a stolen bike. Smoked a lot of hash that had too much tobacco in it. Saw the Tate. Saw Big Ben. Ate a lot of weird English food. It rained a lot, it was expensive, and I'm jonesing... So, I split for Amsterdam. The Dutch all know English, so I didn't have to speak any Dutch - which was a relief. I cruise the Red Light District. Visit a sex show. Visit a sex museum. Smoke a lot of hash. I meet a Dutch TV actress and we drink absinthe at a bar called Absinthe. The museums were cool, I guess. Lots of Van Goghs and the Vermeers were intense. Wandered around. Bought a lot of pastries. Ate some intense waffles. We bought some coke and I cruised the Red Light District, until I found some blonde with big tits that reminds me of Lara. I gave her a hundred guilders. In the end, she pulls me out, and I cum between her tits, even though I'm wearing a rubber. Afterward we made small-talk about AIDS, her Moroccan pimp, and herself. I wake to the sound of a wino singing. It's 8 AM and hot as blazes. I pretend to ice-skate around Central Station, while someone plays the sax. Trade songs with a Kiwi girl... Then split for Paris by train. Wander the Champs-Elysees. Climb the Eiffel Tower for only seven francs, because the ticket machine was broken. Got the hang of the Metro, took it everywhere. Went to a Ford model party and hooked up with a Romanian model named Karina. She chugs my cock at the Mariott Champs-Elysees, which is good. We played billiards, went shopping. I think she gave me mono. Drove a Ferrari that belonged to a member of the Saudi royal family. Made out with a Dutch model in front of the Louvre. Saw the Arc de Triomphe and almost became road-kill crossing the street... "Oakie" invites me to Dublin, so I catch an Aer Lingus flight and stay at the Morrison. Dublin rocks like you can't imagine. Oakenfold lets me spin some discs with him. Irish girls are as small as leprechauns. I swap hickeys with a drunk woman. After groping my abs and calling me "Mr. L.A.", she strips for me in the bath room of the club. Sneak into the Guinness factory and steal some stout so good my dick goes hard... I fly to Barcelona, which was a low-rent bust. Too many fat American students. Too many lame meat markets. I dropped acid at the Sagrada Familia, which was a trip to say the least. Cruise up the coast to the Museo Gala Dali, but had no more acid, which sucked. Some girl from Camden calls me on my cell, so I let her listen to the church bells in Cadaques. Canta Cruz is beautiful, but there are no girls here, just old hippies... So, I went to Switzerland where I, ironically, couldn't find anyone who had the time. Took the Glacier Express up the Schilthorn, which is beautiful in a way I can't describe... Euro Pass into Italy and ended up in Venice, where I met a hot girl who looks like Rachael Leigh Cook and speaks better English than I do. She's living for a year on only five dollars a day. We gondola around, buy some masks. She think's I'm a capitalist, because my hotel room costs more for one night than she's spending her entire trip. But she doesn't mind it so much when I pay the bills... I ditch her and hook up with a couple who obviously want a 3-some. Too much tension there, but the doofus offers to drive me to Rome, an offer I jump at. Traffic is bad and we're stopped for hours without moving. The wife turns out to be a freak. The guy starts to wig out on me. It's like a Polanski film... We stop for a while in Florence, where I see some big dome. A bomb goes off and I lose the weird couple, which is probably for the best... Ended up in Rome, which is big and hot and dirty. It was just like L.A., but with ruins. I went to the Vatican, which was ridiculously opulent. Stood for two hours to get into the Sistine Chapel, which - now that it's been cleaned - looks fake. I meet two under-age Italian girls who I try to talk into fucking each other while I jack off onto them. Bored, I buy them some ice cream instead. My hotel has a gym, so I work out. I bump into some guy from Camden who says he knows me, but I'm sure that he's a fag, so I lose him. I try to fart and instead shit my pants. Back in my hotel room, I masturbate and have a pain in my groin. That night, I dream about a beautiful girl, half in water, stretching her lean body. She asks me if I like it and I tell her she can clean fish with it. I don't know what it means, but I wake well-rested, masturbate in the shower, and check out... I make my way back to London and hang out in Piccadilly Circus. Hmm. Palakon. I swap shirts with some upper-crusty Cambridge chick. Hers was an Agnes B., mine a Costume Nationale. She acts stuffy and prudish, but is really wild underneath it all. She barely looks at my abs, though she wants to. The next day, I drop some acid and get lost in the subway for a full day and can't find my way out. I meet a cute girl who lets me jack off onto her as long as no cum gets onto her Paul Smith coat. We get stoned while listening to Michael Jackson records and the next morning I wake up talking to myself. I have a big bump on my head from flailing in my sleep. I get my stuff and barely make my plane back to the United States... I no longer know who I am and I feel like the ghost of a total stranger."

not prove but probe the Tao


Science sometimes improves hypothesis and sometimes disproves them. But proof would be another matter and perhaps never occurs except in the realms of totally abstract tautology. We can sometimes say that if such and such abstract suppositions or postulates are given, then such and such abstract suppositions or postulates are given, then such and such must follow absolutely. But the truth about what can be perceived or arrived at by induction from perception is something else again.
Let us say that truth would mean a precise correspondence between out description and what we describe or between our total network of abstractions and deductions and some total understanding of the outside world. Truth in this sense is not obtainable. And even if we ignore the barriers of coding, the circumstance that our description will be in words or figures or pictures but that what we describe is going to be in flesh and blood and action – even disregarding that hurdle of translation, we shall never be able to claim final knowledge of anything whatsoever.
A conventional way of arguing this matter is somewhat as follows: Let us say that I offer you a series – perhaps of number, perhaps of other indications – and that I provide the presupposition that the series is ordered. For the sake of simplicity, let it be a series of numbers:
2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12
Then I ask you, "What is the next number in this series?" You will probably say, "14."
But if you do, I will say, "Oh, no. The next number is 27." In other words, the generalization to which you jumped from the data given in the first instance – that the series was the series of even numbers – was proved to be wrong or only approximate by the next event.
Let us pursue the matter further. Let me continue my statement by creating a series as follows:
2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 27, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 27, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 27, …
Now if I ask you to guess the next number, you will probably say, "2." After all, you have been given tree repetitions of the sequence from 2 to 27; and if you are a good scientist, you will be influenced by the presupposition called Occam’s razor, or the rule of parsimony: that is, a preference for the simplest assumption that will fit the facts. On the basis of simplicity you will make the next prediction. But those facts – what are they? They are not, after all, available to you beyond the end of the (possibly incomplete) sequence that has been given.
You assume that you can predict, and indeed I suggested this presupposition to you. But the only basis you have is your (trained) preference for the simpler answer and your trust that my challenge indeed meant that the sequence was incomplete and ordered.
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), it is so that the next fact is never available. All you have is the hope of simplicity, and the next fact may always drive you to the next level of complexity.
Or let us say that for any sequence of numbers I can offer, there will always be a few ways of describing that sequence which will be simple, but there will be an infinite number of alternative ways not limited by the criterion of simplicity.
Suppose the numbers are represented by letters:
x, w, p, n
and so on. Such letters could stand for any numbers whatsoever, even fractions. I have only to repeat the series three or four times in some verbal or visual or other sensory form, even in the forms of pain or kinesthesia, and you will begin to perceive pattern in what I offer you. It will become in your mind – and in mine – a theme, and it will have aesthetic value. To that extent, it will be familiar and understandable.
But the pattern may be changed or broken by addition, by repetition, by anything that will force you to a new perception of it, and these changes can never be predicted with absolute certainty because they have not yet happened.
We do not know enough about how the present will lead into the future. We shall never be able to say, "Ha! My perception, my accounting for that series, will indeed cover its next and future components," or " Next time I meet with these phenomena, I shall be able to predict their total course."
Prediction can never be absolutely valid and therefore science can never prove some generalization or even test a single descriptive statement and in that way arrive at final truth.
There are other ways of arguing this impossibility. The argument of this book – which again, surely, can only convince you insofar as what I say fits with what you know and which may be collapsed or totally changed in a few years – presupposes that science is a way of perceiving and making what we may call "sense" of our percepts. But perception operates only upon difference. All receipt of information is necessarily the receipt of news of difference, and all perception of difference is limited by threshold. Differences that are too slight or too slowly presented are not perceivable. They are not food for perception.
It follows that what we, as scientists, can perceive is always limited by threshold. That is, what is subliminal will not be grist for our mill. Knowledge at any given moment will be a function of the thresholds of our available means of perception. The invention of the microscope or the telescope or of means of measuring time to the faction of a nanosecond or weighing quantities of matter to millionths of a gram – all such improved devices of
perception will disclose what was utterly unpredictable from the levels of perception that we could achieve before that discovery.
Not only can we not predict into the next instant of future, but, more profoundly, we cannot predict into the next dimension of the microscopic, the astronomically distant, or the geologically ancient. As a method of perception – and that is all science can claim to be – science, like all other methods of perception, is limited in its ability to collect the outward and visible signs of whatever may be truth.
Science probes; it does not prove.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Immortal Dialogues of Tao: but how do you speak??! Words are importaaant!

Reporter: I do not know, but certainly she has experienced a broken marriage ...
Michele: What do you say?? 
Reporter: Maybe I touched a topic that does ... 
Michele: No. .. no ... is the expression. It is not the issue, not the argument, not the subject ... is the expression.Wedding in pieces But as she speaks ...!?!?! 
Reporter: Prefers "relationship in crisis? but it's so kitsch ...
Michele: Kitsch! Where do you go to take these expressions, where picked up ...??!??!( touching his heart) 
Reporter: I'm not a beginner ... 
Michele: a beginner ... but as she speaks?
Reporter: ... even though my environment is very "cheap"... 
Michele: Your environment is very ...?
Reporter: It is very "cheap" 
Michele: Your environment is very ...?
Reporter: It is very "cheap" 
Michele: But how is this? [Slap sound] 
Reporter: Listen, you're crazy! 
Michele: And two. How to talk! How to talk! Words are important. How you speakkkkkk!

Red Wood Pigeon

Every schoolboy knows about Tao

In the first chapter of Mind and Nature Bateson outlines a series of evidence (ironically titled "Every schoolboy knows..." (or should know...) which explicitly express a basis for an epistemology of living systems:

"By education most have been misled;
So they believe because they were so bred.
The priest continues what the nurse began,
And thus the child imposes on the man".

John Dryden, "The Hind and the Panther".

"Science, like art, religion, commerce, warfare, and even sleep, is based on presuppositions. It differs, however, from most other branches of human activity in that not only are the pathways of scientific thought determined by the presuppositions of the scientists but their goals are the testing and revision of old presuppositions and the creation of new."

Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tao variations

the map of Tao is not the Tao

The treatment of logical levels in the Russell hierarchy leads to several epistemological implications, in particular to the diversity of the logical level of description and described:

This principle, made famous by Alfred Korzybski, strikes at many levels. It reminds us in a general way that when we think of coconuts or pigs, there are no coconuts or pigs in the brain. But in a more abstract way, Korzybski’s statement asserts that in all thought or perception or communication about perception, there is a transformation, a coding, between the report and the thing reported, the Ding an sich. Above all, the relation between the report and that mysterious thing reported tends to have the nature of a classification, an assignment of the thing to a class. Naming is always classifying, and mapping is essentially the same as naming.
Korzybski was, on the whole, speaking as a philosopher, attempting to persuade people to discipline their manner of thinking. But he could not win. When we come to apply his dictum to the natural history of human mental process, the matter is not quite so simple. The distinction between the name and the thing named or the map and the territory is perhaps really made only by the dominant hemisphere of the brain. The symbolic and affective hemisphere, normally on the right-hand side, is probably unable to distinguish name from thing named. It is certainly not concerned with this sort of distinction. It therefore happens that certain nonrational types of behavior are necessarily present in human life. We do, in fact, have two hemispheres; and we cannot operate somewhat differently from the other, and we cannot get away from the tangles that that difference proposes.
For example, with the dominant hemisphere, we can regard such a thing as a flag as a sort of name of the country or organization that it represents. But the right hemisphere does not draw this distinction and regards the flag as sacramentally identical with what it represents. So "Old Glory" is the United States. If somebody steps on it, the response may be rage. And this rage will not be diminished by an explanation of map-territory relations. (After all, the man who tramples the flag is equally identify it with that for which it stands.) There is always and necessarily be a large number of situations in which the response is not guided by the logical distinction between the name and the thing named.