Question on semiotics and the theory of mind
May 31, 2013 3:01 PM Subscribe
I am interested in trying to understand how our ability and inability to understand symbols in relation to their meanings binds people together as well as forming in- and out-groups. I have had a difficult time in finding works that go along with this premise and would be interested if anyone would know of good sources. What follows is a short explanation of what I think currently. Comments and criticisms are highly appreciated.
posted by ishrinkmajeans to society & culture (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Here is a brief explanation of how I think we think and how symbols are related.
We have 5 senses. To my mind a symbol is the differentiation of signal among its component pieces across any of the senses. To each symbol is imparted on us a meaning which is the priming that that signal has with other symbols that are associated with it (fire-> pain, light, heat).
What I find interesting is that we are able to communicate by turning out meaning into symbols ourselves, however imperfectly. What this shows, to my mind, is that there is a degree of information loss in how we transform meaning into signal. There is a difference in "love", the word, and love the actual form of our meaning. The key to understanding group ties is that the loss of meaning can be bridged so that a form of mutual understanding arises that is greater than the universal understanding within the resident society. This happens through shared experience, trauma, or biology. We can predict within our in-group what the thoughts and feelings of our fellows are because of this shared, incommunicable, experience which means we are more likely to trust and rely on our in-group and be suspicious of the out-group.
What is further interesting to me, in this line of thinking, is that certain symbols and metaphor can be highly invested in this emotional ambiguous thinking versus other concrete symbols that have universal meaning. Whereas scientific discourse tries to bind together through concrete universal meaning this type of meaning would be its antithesis, binding smaller groups through in-jokes and ambiguity only decipherable through experience.
On what I've read so far.
I have read some things that strike of this line of inquiry. Jung is very good as is Sartre and I've enjoyed Joseph Campbell, from an anthropological point of view. I want to read some of Lacan, outside of the wikipedia page and the overview by Zizek, but I don't know where to start. What I have found frustrating in my reading so far is that a lot of what I have read has been about universal archetypes rather than how small groups use this emotional ambiguity to create their own meaning.
1) Is my idea sound or illogical? Questions or comments for me.
2) Has it been written about so far and if so where?
3) Where can I start with Lacan?
4) What are some other places I can read about this?