Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Symbols: The concept of a symbol has, in a broader sense, the same meaning as the concept of a sign. The special use of the concept in different authors differs in some respects fundamentally, for example, with regard to which role conventions play in the formation of symbols and whether symbols form a system. See also signs, icons, conventions, meaning, reference, picture theory, representation, substitution, code.

Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

Author Concept Summary/Quotes Sources

Hans-Georg Gadamer on Symbols - Dictionary of Arguments

I 79
Symbols/Gadamer: (...) a metaphysical background can be found in the concept of the symbol (...), which cannot be seen in the rhetorical use of allegory. (>Allegory)
It is possible to be led from the sensual up to the divine. For the sensual is not mere vanity and darkness, but the outpouring and reflection of the true.
Solger: According to Solger(1), the symbolic denotes an "existence in which the idea is recognized in some way", i.e. the intimate unity of ideal and appearance, which is specific for the work of art. The allegorical, on the other hand, allows such meaningful unity to come about only by pointing to another. >Allegory.
I 80
The symbol is the coincidence of the sensual and the non-sensual, the allegory the meaningful reference of the sensual to the non-sensual. The symbol appears as the inexhaustible, because the indefinite interpretable is the exclusive counterpart of the allegory, which has a more precise reference to meaning and is exhausted in it, like the contrast between art and not art (german: "Unkunst"). It is precisely the indeterminacy of its meaning that makes the word and concept of the symbolic rise victoriously when the rationalist aesthetics of the Age of Enlightenment succumbed to critical philosophy and the aesthetics of genius. >Genius/Gadamer, >Symbols/Kant.
I 83
The expansion of the concept of symbol to a universal aesthetic principle did not happen without resistance. For the intimate unity of image and meaning that makes up the symbol is not an absolute. The symbol does not simply remove the tension between the world of ideas and the world of the senses. It also makes us think of the disproportion between form and essence, expression and content. Especially the religious function of the symbol lives from this tension. The basis of this tension, the momentary and total coincidence of the apparition with the infinite in the cult becomes possible. This presupposes that there is an inner coherence
I 84
of finite and infinite, which the symbol fills with meaning. The religious form of the symbol thus corresponds exactly to the original purpose of symbols, to be the division of the One and the replenishment from the duality. The inappropriateness of form and essence remains essential to the symbol in so far as its meaning points beyond its sensuousness. It is in this that the character of floating, the indecisiveness between form and essence, which is inherent in the symbol, arises. >Symbols/Hegel.

1. Solger, K.W.F. Vorlesungen über Asthetik, ed. Heyse 1829, S 127.

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Gadamer I
Hans-Georg Gadamer
Wahrheit und Methode. Grundzüge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik 7. durchgesehene Auflage Tübingen 1960/2010

Gadamer II
H. G. Gadamer
The Relevance of the Beautiful, London 1986
German Edition:
Die Aktualität des Schönen: Kunst als Spiel, Symbol und Fest Stuttgart 1977

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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2022-08-12
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