Tsze-lu said, “The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government. What will you consider the first thing to be done?”
The Master replied, “What is necessary is to rectify names.”
“So! indeed!” said Tsze-lu. “You are wide of the mark! Why must there be such rectification?”
The Master said, “How uncultivated you are, Yu! A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve.”
“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.”
“When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.”
“Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.”
— Confucius, Analects, Book XIII, Chapter 3, verses 1-7, translated by James Legge…ὦ ἄριστε Κρίτων, τὸ μὴ καλῶς λέγειν οὐ μόνον εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο πλημμελές, ἀλλὰ καὶ κακόν τι ἐμποιεῖ ταῖς ψυχαῖς.
…for, noble Crito, rest assured that wrong words are not only undesirable in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.
— Plato, Phaedo 115eΤοῖς δὲ εἰρημένοις παραστήμασιν ἓν ἔτι προσέστω, τὸ ὅρον ἢ ὑπογραφὴν ἀεὶ ποιεῖσθαι τοῦ ὑποπίπτοντος φανταστοῦ, ὥστε αὐτὸ ὁποῖόν ἐστι κατ οὐσίαν, γυμνόν, ὅλον δἰ ὅλων διῃρημένως βλέπειν καὶ τὸ ἴδιον ὄνομα αὐτοῦ καὶ τὰ ὀνόματα ἐκείνων, ἐξ ὧν συνεκρίθη καὶ εἰς ἃ ἀναλυθήσεται, λέγειν παῤ ἑαυτῷ.
Οὐδὲν γὰρ οὕτως μεγαλοφροσύνης ποιητικόν, ὡς τὸ ἐλέγχειν ὁδῷ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ ἕκαστον τῶν τῷ βίῳ ὑποπιπτόντων δύνασθαι καὶ τὸ ἀεὶ οὕτως εἰς αὐτὰ ὁρᾶν, ὥστε συνεπιβάλλειν ὁποίῳ τινὶ τῷ κόσμῳ ὁποίαν τινὰ τοῦτο χρείαν παρεχόμενον τίνα μὲν ἔχει ἀξίαν ὡς πρὸς τὸ ὅλον, τίνα δὲ ὡς πρὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον, πολίτην ὄντα πόλεως τῆς ἀνωτάτης, ἧς αἱ λοιπαὶ πόλεις ὥσπερ οἰκίαι εἰσίν. τί ἐστὶ καὶ ἐκ τίνων συγκέκριται καὶ πόσον χρόνον πέφυκε παραμένειν τοῦτο τὸ τὴν φαντασίαν μοι νῦν ποιοῦν καὶ τίνος ἀρετῆς πρὸς αὐτὸ χρεία, οἷον ἡμερότητος, ἀνδρείας, ἀληθείας, πίστεως, ἀφελείας, αὐταρκείας, τῶν λοιπῶν.
Διὸ δεῖ ἐφ ἑκάστου λέγειν, τοῦτο μὲν παρὰ θεοῦ ἥκει, τοῦτο δὲ κατὰ τὴν σύλληξιν καὶ τὴν συμμηρυομένην σύγκλωσιν καὶ τὴν τοιαύτην σύντευξίν τε καὶ τύχην, τοῦτο δὲ παρὰ τοῦ συμφύλου καὶ συγγενοῦς καὶ κοινωνοῦ, ἀγνοοῦντος μέντοι ὅ τι αὐτῷ κατὰ φύσιν ἐστίν. ἀλλ ἐγὼ οὐκ ἀγνοῶ˙ διὰ τοῦτο χρῶμαι αὐτῷ κατὰ τὸν τῆς κοινωνίας φυσικὸν νόμον εὔνως καὶ δικαίως, ἅμα μέντοι τοῦ κατ ἀξίαν ἐν τοῖς μέσοις συστοχάζομαι.
To the stand-bys mentioned add yet another, that a definition or delineation should be made of every object that presents itself, so that we may see what sort of thing it is in its essence stripped of its adjuncts, a separate whole taken as such, and tell over with ourselves both its particular designation and the names of the elements that compose it and into which it will be disintegrated.
For nothing is so conducive to greatness of mind as is the ability to examine systematically and honestly everything that meets us in life, and to regard these things always in such a way as to form a conception of the kind of Universe they belong to, and of the use which the thing in question subserves in it; what value it has for the whole Universe and what for man, citizen as he is of the highest state, of which all other states are but as households; what it actually is, and compounded of what elements, and likely to last how long — namely this that now gives me the impression in question ; and what virtue it calls for from me, such as gentleness, manly courage, truth, fidelity, guilelessness, frugality, and the rest.
In each case therefore must thou say: This has come from God; and this is due to the conjunction of fate and the contexture of the world's web and some such coincidence and chance; while that comes from a clansman and a kinsman and a fellow, albeit one who is ignorant of what is really in accordance with his nature. But I am not ignorant, therefore I treat him kindly and justly, in accordance with the natural law of neighbourliness; at the same time, of things that are neither good nor bad, my aim is to hit their true worth.
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, III.11, translation by Charles Reginald Haines