Re: signs/symbols etc

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Tue Jan 11 2005 - 20:08:52 PST

Sounds really interesting!

On Wed, 12 Jan 2005 13:31:33 +1100, Andy Blunden <> wrote:
> I'll look into this some more Mike, now you've got me intrigued, but it
> appears that "tool" and "sign" in English are closely connected in their
> etymology. The origin of "tool" was Old Teutonic, and referred to the
> instrument used to make marks on a book by bookbinders, and was later
> generalised to include all "hand tools." "Sign" on the other hand was
> originally all about signs made with the hands, as in "sign of the cross."
> Andy
> At 05:41 PM 11/01/2005 -0800, you wrote:
> I did not respond to the note below, Andy, because there are so many
> different kinds of points in your note, some of which I thought I could
> follow, but many
> of which just left me perplexed.
> Recall, I started all of this because a student in Santiago asked
> about the relation of sign and symbol vis a vis tool in Vygotsky with
> special reference to tools. I was forced to wonder why a manuscript
> entitled "Orudie i znak" had been routinely translated as "Tool and
> symbol" when "znak" is ubquitously translated as "sign". I was also
> motivated by
> a current preoccupation with questions of the origins of symbolic
> thought in humans, so I do what I often do on such occasions, read a
> lot and ask elementary questions.
> I have come away with a treasure trove of interesting thoughts and I
> am greatful to the time that people have spent wondering in print
> about the issues here on xmca. I agree with you about Peirce/Vygotsky
> affinities, but also come away convinced there are some major
> differences I am as yet unclear about. I would like to take Don's
> advice:
> There are SO MANY different analyses of sign, symbol et al. that I
> think the best strategy is to find one you are comfortable with and
> then apply it consistently...... except I fear for the possibility of
> consistency. I am puzzling over the different kinds of meaning Peg
> talked about.
> Just to return a small opportunity to smile, not a joke --- at least
> -- not in its original
> context, I attach a picture I took in Turkey in the fall. It makes we
> wonderf about icons
> and people, although for sure when we look at the history of icons in
> human origins, people are its content. Not in this case though.
> mike
> On Mon, 10 Jan 2005 16:07:59 +1100, Andy Blunden <> wrote:
> > Mike,
> > I have been lurking in on this discussion about Peirce and Vygotsky, and
> > laughed out loud at the "yeah, yeah" joke. Semiology seems to lend itself
> to
> > jokes! But it also prompted me to share my thoughts, such as they are.
> With
> > so many heavyweight experts, not only in CHAT, but semiology, I have been
> a
> > bit reluctant to speak (believe it!). Nevertheless, I also see great
> > resonances between Peirce's semiology and Vygotsky and also Hegel. My
> > approach as ever is to try to relate the ideas to relations between
> people,
> > and how they are mediated.
> > Mainly I am interested in the icon-symbol-index trilogy, though the
> other
> > categorisations of signs in the discussion paper were immensely useful in
> > demystifying the idea of a sign, and also helped understand the way
> Hegel's
> > concepts find different applications in the same domain.
> > Firstly, I see the icon as above all a person, though it can be a group
> or
> > a practice or activity, but generally something in which a person not
> only
> > can see themselves, but because the icon is so impressive and attractive,
> > actually are motivated to see an image of themselves in the icon. The
> icon
> > is what teachers used to call a "role model,"
> > Secondly, there is symbol: the symbol is an expert or figure of
> authority
> > in the broader culture who gives an explanation of the experience or
> actions
> > of the icon, or demonstrates why and how one should emulate it. The
> symbol
> > would classically be highly mediated, taking the form of a "theory"
> > explaining the experiences and emotions of the icon in "scientific" or
> > otherwise socially legitimated terms. The symbol is a kind of book, or
> > teacher, or a word.
> > Thirdly, the index is numbers of people who raise their hand and say "Me
> > too!", demonstrating that the icon genuinely does point to something
> > universal and not just individual or particular.
> > These three constitute a new subjectivity; ideally they coincide, with
> > every index looking just like the icon and capable of operating in the
> > symbolic register.
> > For example, Kate Millett explains the meaning of sexism (here the
> > individual expert and the word are combined on different aspects of the
> > symbolic register). A group of women form a "consciousness raising group"
> > which receives publicity (Kate may be a member, but not necessarily, but
> > ideally the members of the group become about to replicate the
> explanation
> > of their action in terms of "sexism").
> > Finally, millions of women across the world form "consciousness raising
> > groups" to talk about sexism, and prove that they are experiencing it
> > themselves. etc., etc.
> > The importance of this approach for me is (1) we get away from "signs"
> in
> > the normal sense of the word, and making trivial (if humorous)
> observations,
> > (2) we get to talk about people, and (3) this clarifies how a new subject
> > (or social movement) gets on the road without the normal paraphenalia of
> > branches, party structures, leaders, etc.
> > What do you think?
> > Andy
> > At 12:30 PM 9/01/2005 -0800, you wrote:
> >
> >
> > > While the utterance meaning of "Yes" and "Yeah Yeah" might have been
> (at
> > > least near) synonyms; the speaker, Morgenbesser, exploits connotations
> > (of
> > > the informal/slang), discourse role conventions, and expressive
> > intonation
> > > (at least) to mean the antonym of 'yes'. Austin was working on
> sentence
> > > meaning (and that itself is more than combinatrics of the lexicon) in
> > > language as a cultural tool that can yield utterances when speakers
> use
> > it.
> >
> >
> > Hegel Summer School: 18th February 2005 -
> >
> Hegel Summer School: 18th February 2005 -

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