Free Will, Determinism, and The Names of Places

Hamill Kenny
1985 Names  
If there had not been a George Washington (1732-1799) there would today be no Washington, D.C. And if there had not been a Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) there would today be no Columbus, Ohio. If the idealism of William Penn (1644-1718) and the friendliness of the Quakers had not prevailed in the early history of Pennsylvania, there would not now be the historic city of Philadelphia. These causative, self-evident conclusions will explain to the reader why, in one and the same title, I have
more » ... mmingled placenames and the debatable doctrines of free will and determinism. Really, between the three (as I shall illustrate) there is a close relationship. To give definitions, the determinist believes that everything, including names of places, is caused, all phenomena being an unbroken and unbreakable chain of pervasive cause and effect. The believer in freedom of the will (a voluntarist or libertarian) usually accepts the belief of the determinist, but he thinks in addition that we have within us, by means of a "free" will, the power to control and direct our choices, even to the extent (sometimes) of changing or breaking natural laws. To use, for instance, the example of Cairo, Illinois, the determinist would seek a tangible cause for the name (such as its location, like Cairo, Egypt, on a great river), whereas the libertarian would discuss the commercial arguments and conflicts of will that led to Cairo's official charter in 1818. In the accompanying paragraphs, I shall, without taking sides, describe and consider a dozen similar examples. The provenance of every placename has in it, so I find, aspects both of determinism and free will. I. Free Will (Libertarianism, Voluntarism) illustrated and discussed in the case of five communities and two streets: A. *Kiccowtan (Kecoughtan; today Elizabeth City, Pasquotank County, North Carolina).
doi:10.1179/nam.1985.33.1-2.68 fatcat:ebylzrsc3jbr5lbhasbfnkkkra