From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Toward symbology

[edit | edit source]


[edit | edit source]
Symbology (disambiguation)
"Science of Symbolism"
  • quoted from the subtitle of Ogden, C. K. & I. A. Richards (1923). The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of the Influence of Language upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. [^]
  • "Symbology" may at least serve as a shorthand symbol standing for the "science of symbolism" as coined by the celebrated authors (1923).
  • "Symbology" may well be worth a synonym to:
    • Saussure's "semiology,"
    • Welby's "signifies," and
    • Peirce's "semiotics" in vogue.
  • Neither "symbology" nor "symbolism" is in vogue in the sense Ogden and Richards would prefer.
  • "Symbology" or "science of symbolism" may be defined as symbol to stand for the special paradigm Ogden and Richards have founded to influence studies on the influence of symbols upon thoughts.

Introduction by Umberto Eco

[edit | edit source]
to the 1989 impression of Ogden, C. K. & I. A. Richards (1923). The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of the Influence of Language upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. [^]

Are Ogden and Richards highly celebrated? Surely, for instance, by a celebrated semiotician, Umberto Eco, who "founded and developed one of the most important approaches in contemporary semiotics, usually referred to as interpretative semiotics," In the Introduction to the 1989 impression of The Meaning of Meaning (1923), Eco wrote that "it was undoubtedly a seminal book, whose merit was to say certain things very much in advance of its time; and indeed many of its promptings have not yet been completely accepted by scholars.*" In the footnote he added: "*For confirmation of the work's importance we need only glance at its five prefaces: a book that has gone through so many editions and updatings has obviously aroused impassioned interest."

In agreement with Ogden and Richards, Eco sees "our whole experience as an interaction with signs,[1] and this interaction as an activity of interpretation, is today one of the 'hot' issues of the semiotic debate." Accordingly, Eco as a specialist in "interpretative semiotics" quotes as follows:

Throughout almost all our life we are treating things as signs. All experience, using the word in the widest possible sense, is either enjoyed or interpreted (i.e., treated as a sign) or both, and very little of it escapes some degree of interpretation. An account of the process of Interpretation is thus the key to the understanding of the Sign-situation, and therefore the beginning of wisdom. It is astonishing that although the need for such an account has long been a commonplace in psychology, those concerned with the criticism and organization of our knowledge have with few exceptions entirely ignored the consequences of its neglect. (pp. 50-51)

The shortest, hence perhaps the most piercing, paragraph may be: "To read The Meaning of Meaning is not then to learn to speak in a 'perfect' way, but rather to learn what it means to speak in an imperfect way." Hence, the question of interpretation matters so vitally in life.

The triangle of reference

[edit | edit source]
The triangle of reference [2]

In The Meaning of Meaning (1923), the authors C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards put forward what they call the "triangle of reference." For them, SYMBOL in language on the one hand and REFERENT in reality on the other are not related (directly) by themselves, hence the dotted bottom, but (indirectly) by way and by virtue of THOUGHT or REFERENCE in mind on the top that is hence the central concern. This cognitive, psycholinguistic, user-centered idea is the point of departure of of their "study of the influence of language upon thought and of the science of symbolism," as mentioned as the subtitle.

Accordingly, language that is supposed to make reference to reality should be suspected of its ambiguity and uncertainty, and therefore should be reasonably interpreted by cognitive "human intelligence," which on the other hand is built up through the triangle of reference or the "Delta Factor," as suggested by Walker Percy (1975) elsewhere. Consequently, such approaches as cognitivism and interpretivism have been emphasized more and more especially since the late 1970s.

The case of Helen Keller

[edit | edit source]
The beginning of learning
Anne Sullivan . . . began to teach Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand, beginning with “d-o-l-l” for the doll that she had brought Keller as a present. Keller was frustrated, at first, because she did not understand that every object had a word uniquely identifying it. [ . . . ] Keller’s big breakthrough in communication came the next month, when she realized that the motions her teacher was making on the palm of her hand, while running cool water over her other hand, symbolized the idea of “water”; she then nearly exhausted Sullivan demanding the names of all the other familiar objects in her world.

@ Wikipedia: Helen Keller

When 19 months old, Helen Keller became blind and deaf, and eventually dumb, so helplessly and hopelessly handicapped especially from the communication point of view. Nevertheless, Anne Sullivan began to teach almost 7-year old Helen Keller how to communicate by spelling words, one letter after another, into Helen’s little palm. After a month of frustration, Helen Keller thrillingly learned to have namely WATER the idea in mind such that coupled w-a-t-e-r the spelling on the one hand with water the object on the other. This was her, and perhaps is our, beginning of learning![3] And this must demonstrate the advantage of the triadic over dyadic nature of learning as well as speaking and hearing.

The Delta Factor

[edit | edit source]
Walker Percy's theory of language (1975)
The Delta Factor, Percy's theory of language, is framed in the context of the story of Helen Keller's learning to say and sign the word water while Annie Sullivan poured water over [one of] her hands and repeatedly made the signs for the word into her [other] hand. [4] A behaviorist linguistic reading of this scene might suggest a causal relationship—in other words, Keller felt Sullivan's sign-language stimulus in her hand and in response made a connection in her brain between the signifier and the signified. This is too simplistic a reading, says Percy, because Keller was receiving from both the signifier (the sign for water) and the referent (the water itself). This creates a triangle between water (the word), water (the liquid), and Helen, in which all three corners lead to the other two corners and which Percy says is "absolutely irreducible" (40). This linguistic triangle is thus the building block for all of human intelligence. The moment when this Delta Δ entered the mind of man . . . he became man.

@ Wikipedia: The Message in the Bottle #"The Delta Factor"

In relation to the subtitle How Queer Man Is, How Queer Language is, and What One Has to Do with the Other of The Message in the Bottle (1975), Walker Percy, to begin with, regrets that the vital question of how language really works or how people really communicate by presenting and understanding symbols in language, is not properly viewed and studied by existing researchers. For him, they are mostly split between linguistics and psychology, in spite of psycholinguistics.

In this regard, Percy tries to base his integral theory of language on what he calls the Delta Factor, which looks like a parody or conceptual metaphor (1980) of the "triangle of reference" Ogden and Richards have made so popular since 1923. “The Delta Factor” is the first, so-called flagship article of the book.

Meanwhile, Percy derives the Delta Factor from the exciting moment of Helen Keller’s beginning to communicate meaningfully at last by forming such a marvelous idea in mind, say, WATER that integrates itself with the spelling w-a-t-e-r on the one hand and the flowing water on the other, resulting in a triadic whole he sees “absolutely irreducible.”

Percy holds that the Delta Factor is the building block for all human intelligence, and that the significance of all the three separate corners is enhanced by their being connected and integrated into the Delta Factor as a whole.

Dyadic perspectives

[edit | edit source]

The triangle ΔABC has three corners A, B, C, and three sides AB, AC, BC, each suggesting a dyadic relationship. Meanwhile, your concern may focus on just one dyadic relationship, while ignoring the other two, however vitally flowered with them, and however fatally flawed without them!

For example:

AB: "Signified and Signifier" (1916) by Ferdinand de Saussure
BC: Word and Object (1960) by Willard Quine
AC: Person and Object (1976) by Roderick Chisholm [5]


A: Signified, Person, or THOUGHT
B: Signifier, Word, or SYMBOL
C: Object, Thing, or REFERENT.

There have been at least two famous dyadic traditions or paradigms in the study of symbols:

  • Saussure's internalism or subjectivism focusing on the signified and the signifier (1916) as THOUGHT and SYMBOL, while ignoring REFERENT or the object C together with its relationships AC and BC. Walker Percy (1975) argues that the signified and the signifier are nothing but the response to the stimulus, hence the behaviorist perspective. See the chapter "The Delta Factor."
  • Quine's externalism or objectivism focusing on Word and Object (1960) as SYMBOL and REFERENT, while ignoring THOUGHT or the subject A together with its relationships AB and AC. The Wikipedia: Roderick Chisholm article includes a rejoinder (1976) to Quine's ignorance, which reads: "His masterwork was Person and Object, its title deliberately contrasting with W. V. O. Quine's Word and Object."
  • See also semantic externalism that may be ascribable to the seminal article "The Meaning of 'Meaning'" of Putnam, Hilary (1975). Mind, Language and Reality, Philosophical Papers Vol. 2, Cambridge University Press. [^] "Meanings just ain't in the head" is his externalist dictum. Donald Davidson argued for Putnam that semantic externalism constituted an "anti-subjectivist revolution" in philosophers' way of seeing the world. Perhaps more precisely, however, semantic externalism rooted in objectivism and positivism was rather an anti-subjectivist reaction to the sudden subjectivist, interpretivist revolution since the late 1970s that would firmly recognize that we certainly live in The Age of Uncertainty (1977), as timely recognized by an eminent economist John Galbraith. See also some revolutionary, epoch-making, sense-making theses, for instance, of 1975, as listed in the "References" chapter below. In this regard, Putnam was a reactionary, as it were!



[edit | edit source]
A parody of The Treason of Images
This is not a pipe.   
The picture shows a pipe. Below it, Magritte painted, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe.", French for "This is not a pipe."

The famous pipe. How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff my pipe? No, it's just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture 'This is a pipe', I'd have been lying!

@ Wikipedia: The Treachery of Images

The Treachery of Images
painted by René Magritte in 1928-29

"The Treason of Images" may be less known but better suited to the original French "La trahison des images." How well to say matters as well as how well to understand. Ambiguity or uncertainty in language matters as well as quality of communication. The less known title, said above, the more suspected hence uncertain of its identity. Uncertainty is all over the world, especially, of language which in itself is a loose affair indeed. For example, any name of colors, say, "blue" is just simplistic, considering its innumerous shades. It is always uncertain how blue something blue is. So is how true something true is!








[edit | edit source]


[edit | edit source]
  1. to come
  2. Any other nomenclature such as "semiotic triangle" is strictly unfounded, likely used to water down its originality.
  3. See "the beginning of wisdom" Ogden and Richards mentioned in favor of interpretation.
  4. The bracketed are mine.
  5. The title Person and Object (1976) was deliberately chosen as a rejoinder to Quine’s title Word and Object (1960).