1

Philosophers seem to use more neologisms than most other academics. Novel permutations of morphemes seem especially prevalent. I suspect most people apprehend the meanings of words like mathematizability, cousinhood or cousindom, and intelligentness. One can use words like that instead of using lengthier phrases like the quality of being able to be restated mathematically, the quality of being a cousin, and the quality of being intelligent.

None of those are words, but they seem useful. Does increased brevity, generally, justify the use of neologisms like the aforementioned?

  • 1
    "None of those are words[...]" I don't know about 'cousindom' and 'intelligentness', but the others look like proper words to me. Also, I'm not too sure of your repeated use of 'quality'. – user3164 May 6 '14 at 14:14
  • Evidently, they are real words. The repeated use of the quality of is part of the point - repeated use of something like the quality of being an x gets obnoxious when its used too often. – Hal May 6 '14 at 14:28
  • 1
    Well, I don't understand the question. The proper words there were probably not coined by philosophers. Is there a general rule against using words that were once coined? – user3164 May 6 '14 at 14:39
  • 1
    I flagged this as off-topic. It may be related to philosophy writing, but I fail to see the philosophical relevance. Does this belong to Academia.SE or English.SE? – DBK May 6 '14 at 14:42
  • 2
    I wouldn't say that this is on-topic nor off-topic, more of a border-case, that may be of interest to the community. – Mozibur Ullah May 6 '14 at 22:59
3

Brevity is not a virtue by itself, but it can help make things easier to understand (which is a virtue by itself). When formulating complex throughts, every little bit of clarity helps.

So I would say that neologisms are justified if they improve readibility, which to me means:

  • Their meaning must be clearly defined
  • They should be memorable (ideally, derived from an established term in an obvious way)
  • They should be considerably shorter than the terms they replace
| improve this answer | |
3

I don't think brevity alone justifies coining new words, but in philosophical writing, the coining of new words is often doing substantial conceptual work. There is a school of thought that holds that we can only think about the things we have words for. Even if that is only slightly true, it suggests that coining new words is one of the ways philosophers shape future pathways of thought.

| improve this answer | |
  • Please coin a word for 'only slightly true'. :) – user3164 May 6 '14 at 17:00
  • @Watson Verita: 'Veri' plus the spanish suffix for little. – Hal May 6 '14 at 18:17
1

Coining words are important, because concision is important; It's also important in how it suggests other possibilities. A further thought here, is that sometimes an extension of meaning occurs without any corresponding change in the word. For example supervenes was originally used in a specific sense, but is now used almost everywhere in philosophical discourse according to the SEP - which implies a change of meaning by context.

The Category Theorist & Topologist Peter May said he spent a week thinking about what to call a new mathematical concept, the monad; whilst this is a term used by Leibniz in his Monadology as a unit of ultimate being, utilising the sense from the greek root monos (lone) and monas (unit); and which goes further back to the Pythagoreans as the Unit of Divinity, in the sense of being indivisible; it is at least lexically similar to monoid and which a monad is (in a certain precise sense). It is also connected with the word monoidal category.

This shows that top-flight mathematicians, and by extension philosophers take naming quite seriously.

One might say to bestow a name is to bestow importance, and one might view titles as an extension of naming - hence naming ceremonies in primitive & feudal societies were of significance.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.