"There is a long-standing split among philosophers on the subject of names. Realists take them seriously, believing them to be things. Nominalists take them lightly, believing them to be means, believing them to be convenient labels. Every person in the world is either a Realist or a Nominalist. Give yourself a test: if someone called you a gigger or a fell-picker, and you knew it wasn't true, would you hit them or smile? That's how easy it is to tell.

"Valuing names as they do, Realists are sparing with them. They are likely to be known only as Joe or Bill or Plato. And they don't smile much. Nominalists have more fun. They are known as Aristotle or Decimus et Ultimus Barziza, or as Edward John Barrington Douglas-Scott-Montagu, or perhaps by one name in childhood and several others in the course of life.

"A firm Realist misses out on one of the most satisfying of human activities -- the assumption of secret identities. One who has lived and never been someone else has never lived.

"It is true that sometimes there can be embarrassment in secret identities, but only a Realist will take the whole thing seriously enough to hit you. So have your fun, and avoid Realists."

-- Alexei Panshin
from Masque World

        More Panshin         John Lawler