Symbol Ism

"In the symbolic function of consciousness-as it operates in language, in art, in myth-certain unchanging fundamental forms, some of a conceptual and some of a purely sensory nature, disengage themselves from the stream of consciousness; the flux of contents is replaced by a self-contained and enduring unity of form." (Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, Vol. I, p. 89.)

"I do not regard the symbol as an allegory or a sign, but take it in its proper sense as the best possible way of describing and formulating an object that is not completely knowable." (C.G. Jung, Aion, p. 73.)

"The psychological mechanism that transforms energy is the symbol. I mean by this a real symbol and not a sign." (C.G. Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, p. 45.) "By a symbol I do not mean an allegory or a sign, but an image that describes in the best possible way the dimly discerned nature of the spirit. A symbol does not define or explain; it points beyond itself." (Ibid., p. 336)

"Observation has become almost entirely indirect. The sense-data on which the propositions of modern science rest are, for the most part, little photographic spots and blurs, or inky curved lines on paper. The problem of observation is all but eclipsed by the problem of meaning. And the triumph of empiricism in science is jeopardized by the surprising truth that our sense-data are primarily symbols." --Susanne K. Langer, Philosophy in a New Key, 3rd ed., pp. 20-21.

In order to fully understand the nature of symbolism, we must examine Whitehead's exposition of the two pure modes of perception, one of which is essentially perception in space, and the other in time. Whitehead designates them "presentational immediacy" and "causal efficacy." "The pure mode of presentational immediacy gives no information as to the past or the future. It merely presents an illustrated portion of the presented duration. It thereby defines a cross-section of the universe: but does not in itself define on which side lies the past, and on which side the future." (Process and Reality, p. 168) This definition comes with the sense of time, of consecutiveness, of the efficaciousness of things not immediately present. Causal efficacy "produces the sense of derivation from an immediate past, and of passage to an immediate future, a sense of influx of influence from other vaguer presences in the past." (Ibid., p. 178) "We shall find that generally-though not always-the adjectival words express information derived from the mode if immediacy, while the substantives convey our dim percepts in the mode of efficacy." (Ibid., p. 179) "The two modes are unified by a blind symbolic reference by which supplemental feelings derived from the intensive, but vague, mode of efficacy are precipitated upon the distinct regions illustrated in the mode of immediacy. The integration of the two modes in supplemental feeling makes what would have been vague to be distinct, and what would have been shallow to be intense." "Symbolic reference between the two perceptive modes affords the main example of the principles which govern all symbolism. The requisites for symbolism are that there be two species of percepta; and that a perceptum of one species has some 'ground' in common with a perceptum of another species, so that a correlation is established." (ibid., p. 180) "The species from which the symbolic reference starts is called the 'species of symbols,' and the species with which it ends is called the 'species of meanings.'" (Ibid., p. 181)

See LifeAsArt, WittgensteinsLadder, ThreeMonkeys


View edit of September 16, 2011 or FindPage with title or text search