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“The functional fallacy: on the supposed dangers of name repetition”

Pina-Cabral, Joao (2012) “The functional fallacy: on the supposed dangers of name repetition”. History and Anthropology, 23 (1). pp. 17-36. ISSN 0275-7206. (doi:10.1080/02757206.2012.649273)


Whenever the theme of personal naming comes up, both in academic debate and in public opinion, we encounter a tendency to take for granted that there is some sort of collective interest in the clear and unambiguous individuation of persons through their names. “Society” or “culture”, it is presumed, would not function as well if that failed, so homonymy is automatically taken to be dysfunctional. This kind of explanation carries a deep sense of validity in common sense attitudes and it clearly imposes itself upon all who have discussed this issue over the past few decades, both in history and anthropology. In this essay, I argue that, on the one hand, there are fallacious implications to this explanatory proclivity, to which I call the functional fallacy, and, on the other hand, that it finds its power of evidence in the implicit expectations that characterize late modern thinking concerning what is a person and how persons are constituted. I identify three dispositions that need to be overcome: sociocentrism, individualism and the paradigm of the soul.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/02757206.2012.649273
Uncontrolled keywords: Personal names; Person; Brazil; Portugal; Nicknames
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > Social and Cultural Anthropology
Depositing User: Joao Pina-Cabral
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2012 12:29 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 09:28 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Pina-Cabral, Joao:
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