What is a symbol?

What is a symbol?
A symbol is a type of sign (and therefore contains all the features of it) but is more complex and contain a specific level of reality, also has directionality and tone defined by the culture and history of the particular community in which evokes feelings and values, representing abstract ideas in a metaphorical or allegorical way.

How it works?
The meaning of symbols is attributed mainly to the community traditions and the temporality in which they live. It is completely conventional, so that it will be hard to find symbols in communication between animals, plants or robots, since it has a strong connection with the intention and the will to endow a sign with features that go beyond what it would have by itself.

That is, if you think about the figure of the circle, in a plain sense, it is only a geometric figure that has intrinsic properties. However, by turning it into a symbol, we add different features, such as eternity (actually almost all cultures relate to this concept, and this is when a symbol becomes the archetype), which has no direct relation to the properties or characteristics of the circle but will be completed in accordance with the ideology and philosophy of the society that does. Similarly, the cycle can mean in today's culture progress.

What is it for?
Since a symbol conveys more than a pure representation of reality, it becomes a very strong link between members of a specific community, representing not only the obvious relation with the world, but also part of their identity as the values, feelings and ideas of those who believe on it.

Somehow, this type of sign has a special encoding that no other human can decipher without something more than the common senses to abstract the plain meaning. A full understanding of the gist of a symbol will be very difficult to get unless it is been carried out an intense process of empathy with members of the culture which belongs the symbol, and to reach a full level of empathy is necessary to keep on an ideological, philosophical and epistemological procedure which requires to look at the member of society to which the symbol belongs as an equal being rather than a foreign entity.




We recommend:

UMBERTO ECO, Sign, Symbol and Code.

J. E. CIRLOT, A Dictionary of Symbols.

VIRGINIA KLENK, Understanding Symbolic Logic.