2018-05-22

Confucius on naming

There is a Chinese proverb which states:

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.

This proverb is generally understood to be a summarization and paraphrase of an actual quote from the  "Rectification of Names" section of the Analects of Confucius.

The original quote is as follows:

If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.

- Confucius (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rectification_of_names#Confucius)

Of course, the value of the quote lies not in the fact it carries the weight of the name of Confucius; it lies in the fact that by simply seeing it spelled out in words, one can immediately realize its self-evident truthfulness, and thus, perhaps, appreciate the magnitude of its importance.

In the modern western world fashion of "here is some entertainment to go along with your philosophy", I would point out that for us programmers, this quote should be understood as:

If you don't name your variables properly, your programs ain't gonna work.

And:

Confucius was not fond of confusion.


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