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Are we too eager to categorize ourselves?

Comments on Are we too eager to categorize ourselves?

Zum
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Zum
Posted 11/03/09 - 11:15 AM:
Subject: Are we too eager to categorize ourselves?
I wonder if we depend overly on abstract categories to describe ourselves. I'm thinking about our self introductions, invited by skydog when he first joined. I'm blessed if, in mine, I didn't use the words "ambivert" and "introvert." I now think that those words did more to conceal than to present myself. I could have said, "At one times I had crowds of people in my life. Now I live alone, meditate and try to write." That would have been interesting and honest. Later I looked over others' introductions and saw philosophical and political category names.

Here's my question: do you think that we overuse categories in our self- descriptions and self-concepts? Is it possible that by defining ourselves in the abstract, and by using others' categories--we did not invent those concepts or words--we are hampering our unique development?


henry quirk
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Posted 11/03/09 - 2:13 PM:

Too many are far too eager to adopt another's 'category', another's definition.

Too many elevate what should be simple descriptors (that ought to adjust to fit the individual) into straight jackets that demand the individual adjust to fit the descriptor.
smokinpristiformis
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Posted 11/03/09 - 3:09 PM:

You're probably right, Zum.
Although it's always good fun to pass myself off as a commie. grin

henry: It's rather convenient to have some semantic agreement. Although it's completely true that you can't very well capture people in words - the best hope is to vaguely indicate certain aspects of a person. Certainly we shouldn't aspire to perfectly fit into certain categories.
What poor, sad, one-dimensional humans would we be?
libertygrl
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Posted 11/03/09 - 9:12 PM:

i think words in general are at the same time convenient but also hopelessly inadequate approximations. labels are useful tools but problems arise when people are unable to see beyond labels to recognize an individual, which happens far too often, it seems we all agree on that. and "the map is not the territory", as the saying goes.

some fairly strong emotional associations can be conjured with labels. if someone is a serial killer, a rapist or a child molester, for example, usually this is enough to deter (most) people from wanting to get to know them. if someone calls themselves an "abortion rights activist", or a "balloon animal enthusiast", a "civil engineer", etc, immediately certain thoughts begin to take shape in our minds about the person. sometimes, i'd dare say usually, the specificity is helpful in directing, say, the flow of conversation, or the development of activities between two people.

a clinical diagnosis of a mental disorder can sometimes mar a person with stigma for life, for example diagnosing someone as schizophrenic who is actually suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. i especially object to labeling children, but in special cases such as autism, it can help steer them quickly to help that they need. on the other hand, such as in too many cases of "ADHD" diagnosis, it can also create a lot of problems for a child when they didn't really have any problems to begin with, only anxious parents.

sometimes people feel good about having certain labels. they may feel proud or comfortable to be able to identify with a certain group. prejudice is a ubiquitous problem, though, and for that i think it worthwhile to steer clear of labels at times.

random thoughts,
lib
henry quirk
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Posted 11/04/09 - 5:51 PM:

"It's rather convenient to have some semantic agreement."


Sure. Language (as tool) is wonderful. Exercising language: we move beyond the base, and most real, brutalities and pleasures of 'kill and fuck' and incorporate those brutalities and pleasures into thinking and speaking and writing and building.

Simultaneously: we are moved by the crafty and mercenary into esoteric cages, cages built on, and of, ideas and fictions and words. When language becomes master, or, a tool used by superior hands, we find ourselves asking, "do you think that we overuse categories in our self- descriptions and self-concepts? Is it possible that by defining ourselves in the abstract, and by using others' categories--we did not invent those concepts or words--we are hampering our unique development?"

We find our placeholders (and the phenomenon the placeholders stand for) appropriated and tweaked to satisfy the agendas of others.

Nothing wrong with that, by the way. We each futz around with the language to serve our needs and desires. Some are clumsy; some are expert: but we each use the tool to our own ends.

The crime, the sin, the self-imposed injury, then, is not 'seeing' this manipulation for ourselves and defending ourselves against it.
Thinker13
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Posted 11/05/09 - 10:58 AM:

henry quirk wrote:
Nothing wrong with that, by the way. We each futz around with the language to serve our needs and desires. Some are clumsy; some are expert: but we each use the tool to our own ends.



To each one his own.wink
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