Extract from The Analects of Confucius

To `spin' or not to `spin'

Chris Patten refers to the following in his book East and West (page 163):
One day a disciple asked Confucius `If a king were to entrust you with a territory which you could govern according to your ideas, what would you do first?' Confucius replied, `My first task would would certainly be to rectify the names.' The puzzled disciple asked, `Rectify the names? And that would be your first priority? Is this a joke?' Confucius was required to explain what he meant: `If the names are not correct, if they do not match realities, language has no object. If the language is without an object, action becomes impossible - and therefore, all human affairs disintegrate and their management becomes impossible. Hence, the very first task of a true statesman is to rectify the names.'

Stephen J. Cowley, DAMTP, University of Cambridge.