Attention and Effort (Experimental Psychology) by Daniel Kahneman

By Daniel Kahneman

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One characteristic of the symbol is that it is never wholly arbitrary; it is not empty, for there is the rudiment of a natural bond between the signifier and the signified. The symbol of justice, a pair of scales, could not be replaced by any other symbol, such as a chariot" (CGL, p. 101; 68). Thus the idea that the linguistic sign (and/or signifier) and the symbol are in fact equivalent is challenged by a consideration of one of the meanings of the word symbol This definition of the symbol, which we see here in Saussure's example of the scales as symbol (or, as we saw above, as sign or signifier 4) of justice has been traditionally formulated in the following way: "that which represents something else by means of an analogical correspondance" (Lalande, 1926, see symbol).

This text is cited by Tullio de Mauro in the critical edition of the CGL, p. 445). There are two significant differences between the attitude quoted in the passage above and the attitude to be found in the CGL. As far as the theory of the sign is concerned, the substitution of the "concept" (here: the "idea", then later the "mind") for the "thing" (here: "the object") which we will find later in the CGL (p. 98) has not yet been effected. ). As far as terminology is concerned, symbol is here qualified by conventional, which the language of the CGL will later make quite impossible.

For is it possible to reconcile the intentionality of the symbol with the impossibility of uncovering this intentionality? We have seen that Saussure clearly wishes to prove the former but states with seeming satisfaction that the latter is impossible. And what is the link between the content of the theoretical discourse and the "figurative" way in which it is expressed? Reading these figures "literally", as is legitimate and as Saussure invites us to, it is possible to see in these figures a second discourse undermining the first, one which ascribes to the symbol precisely those characteristics which are not ascribed to it in the theoretical text.

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