categorizing life

“Giving names to objects consists in moving immediate, unreflected, perhaps ignored events on to the plane of reflection and of the objective mind.” – Being and nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre (as quoted in Home: A Short History of an Idea)

“The word ‘comfortable’ did not originally refer to enjoyment or contentment. Its Latin root was confortare–to strengthen or console–and this remained its meaning for centuries. We use it this way when we say ‘He was a comfort to his mother in her old age.’ It was in this sense that it was used in theology: the “Comforter” was the Holy Spirit. Along the way, “comfort” also acquired a legal meaning: in the sixteenth century a “comforter” was someone who aided or abetted a crime. This idea of support was eventually broadened to include people and things that afforded a measure of satisfaction, and “comfortable” came to mean tolerable or sufficient–one spoke of a bed of comfortable width, although not yet of a comfortable bed. This continues to be the meaning of the expression “a comfortable income”–ample but not luxurious. Succeeding generations expanded this idea of convenience, and eventually ‘comfortable’ acquired its sense of physical well-being and enjoyment, but not until the eighteenth century…” pg 20 Home: A Short History of an Idea by Witold Rybczynski

“Our grandparents inserted paper rolls into their player pianos. As far as they were concerned, the piano and the piano roll formed part of the same machine. We, on the other hand, draw a distinction between the machine and the instructions that we give it. We call the machine hardware and to describe the instructions we have invented a new word, ‘software.’ This is more than jargon; the words represents a different way of thinking about technology. Its addition to the language marks an important moment.” pg 21

Radiolab “Colors” — Jules Davidoff, professor of neuropsychology at the University of London and producer Tim Howard
Jules: “When we decide to put colors together in a group”
Tim: “and thenĀ give those colors a word, like ‘blue'”
Jules: “something happens.”
Tim: “He says what happens is that now that there’s a category for that thing, the thing in the category jumps out. It gets louder and louder to your eyes. The category actually feeds back on your perception, so you notice it more.”

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