What Is A Symbol

In saying his, he was adopting both an empiricist and a priori approach in explaining the categories. He states that the categories are inherent to human nature, but only exercised through the experiences of the social. On the contrary, Strauss’ approach to explaining symbols and the categories of understanding is purely a priori. According to his writings in The Savage Mind, similarities in myths and mythical structures point us to the conclusion that all human minds are wired the same -this is the only way that we could see the same structures come up in myths all over the world.

Thus, Druthers uses a educationist breakdown to explain the development of symbols and consequently the categories of thought since primitive times, whereas Strauss uses a structuralism analysis to flesh out the relationships between symbols Of different times and cultures. Druthers defines what he believes a symbol is when discussing Australian totemic. As described on Peg. 208, “the totem is above all a symbol, a tangible expression of something else. ” In totemic, it is not the object that the clan members worship that is important, but the meaning that the members attach to that object.

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For example, the churning, en of the objects that clan members used in totemic rituals, is in itself simply a piece of wood or a stone (Peg. 121). However, once the totemic mark of a clan is drawn onto it, it takes on a new meaning of the importance of the totem to the clan. Thus, a symbol serves as a tool that can be used over and over again to recall certain experiences or ideas to a person. This is similar to Strauss’ idea of signs (sign-?symbol in Strauss’ text), as he says that signs recycle previously available meanings (Peg. 0). However, while Druthers uses the churning to show how symbols can be used to recall past experiences, Strauss uses the example of the bricklike (Peg. 22). As a sort of intellectual handyman, the bricklike uses past experiences to create new structures or rather, he uses symbols to make sense of things unfamiliar to him. Thus, we already see how Strauss’ perception Of the symbol is different from that Of Deuterium’s. Furthermore, Strauss does a much deeper examination of the interpretation of symbols than Druthers does.

Specifically, Strauss believes that a single symbol is not enough to designate a certain meaning or message to a person, they must also understand how that symbol relates to others thin that system of symbols to know what it actually means. Thus, a letter in an alphabet does would not mean anything to us if we did not understand it within the context of the entire alphabet. The letter “a” is symbolic because we know it is not any of the other letters in the alphabet.

The example that Strauss uses to illustrate this concept is that of eagle hunting among the Hiatus. This ritualistic act relies on the duality between the hunter and its prey; one exists on the ground and the other in the sky respectively. What is special about eagle hunting is the use of menstruating women to improve hence of capture (Peg. 51). While the presence of a woman on her period is usually detrimental to a hunt, in the case of eagle hunting, many factors about menstruation that are negative are reversed and therefore make it a useful tool in the ritual.

For example, Strauss mentions the way in which a semantic point of view can be used to see the advantage in using menstruating women in the ritual: “In the hunt at close quarters menstrual periods always risk introducing excessive union which would lead to a saturation of the original relation and a naturalization of its dynamic force by redundancy. In the hunt at a distance it is the reverse” (Peg. 52). The use of menstruating woman in hunting eagles is an illustration of how symbols are only meaningful when understood in relationship to other symbols.

While in most rites, a menstruating woman is usually regarded as harmful, when used in eagle hunting she is a powerful tool. To put it simply, while in one system she is considered one thing, in another system she is considered something completely different This is how Strauss believes we form categories and classifications. Though Druthers does not have such an in depth look at how unmans understand relationships within categories, he does discuss what he believes are the origins of classifications in his work.

As Druthers highlights in his analysis of Australian totemic, the most important part of the religion is the feelings of kinship you feel with fellow members of your clan. Because of these strong con mentions you feel to your totemic group, there is an internal bond that consequently places you into a certain “category’. According to Druthers, this is the same kind of logic that results in a genus -the way that we sort humans into totemic groups is the same way that we ray to find similarities between things in nature and then classify them accordingly.

Furthermore, he writes “the only groupings of that kind with which experience acquaints us are those that men form by coming together (Peg. 148). That is to say, it was necessary for man to first experience categorizing in the social form of totemic clans before he could then apply this logic to nature. In saying this, Druthers is asserting his belief that the categories Of understanding, and thus symbols, depend on social interactions. Strauss explores this same phenomenon in The Savage Mind, UT he uses cultures outside of Australian totemic to show how societies all over the American continent form classifications.

When explaining the classifications used by Navaho Indians, Strauss writes that the Navaho divide living creatures into two categories of speaking and non-speaking and the non-speaking creatures are made up of animals and plants. Animals are then further divided up by mode of transportation (water, air, land) and plants are divided up by observed sex, medicinal properties, and their appearance (Peg. 39). Evidently, these primitive people used their senses to extract symbols hat would help them explain different parts of nature.

He mentions multiple other cultures that can be seen using this same system of classification, and notes that this kind of thinking is “evidence of thought which is experienced in all the exercises of speculation and resembles that of the naturalists and alchemists of antiquity and the middle ages” (Peg. 42). While the average opinion during Strauss’ time was that primitive thought was inferior to contemporary scientific thought, it is clear through these examples that this kind of extrapolating ideas from symbols was not only very practical, but also reverent throughout various societies on the American continent.

Through this discussion, Strauss has set up his argument that primitive thought is not so different from modern day thought. In this observation lies the main difference between Druthers and Strauss’ definitions of a symbol. While Druthers believes that the mind is only capable of producing symbols in the social world, Strauss insists that the repetition of various structures in multiple cultures is evidence of the fact that all human minds are the same, and thus could form the thoughts we do even outside of the social.

Looking rather into how both thinkers use their respective beliefs to expand their arguments, Deuterium’s take on the mind and collective thought leads him to a judgment on the human as a social being. Because Druthers believes that humans are incapable of exercising the categories of understanding outside Of collective thought, he reaches the conclusion that humans can only answer questions by being social. Thus, in the conclusion of his work, he reveals his belief that humans need to be social because there will always be questions that humans must answer (Peg. 432).

While science aims to answer unknown questions with pure scientific thought, the humans first approach to scientific inquiry is always to use the categories that have been formed from collective thought. Without collective thought, there can be no examination of the unknown. On the other hand, Strauss presents multiple mythical frameworks that point to his conclusion that all human minds must have the same structure. That is to say, there is a way of thought that is inherent to human nature that allows us to form categories and understand symbols in the way that we do.

Even if we were to take man out of a social context, he would still e able to form the same kind of thoughts that he does in the setting of a social group. Strauss provides further evidence of this conclusion through his example of exogamy/endogamy and totemic/castes in his work, showing that the primitive totemic clans of Australia practiced exogamy, while European caste societies practiced endogamy (Peg. 1 11). Though the customs are opposites, both in terms of marriage and the exchange of food, the parallelism between the two societies cannot be ignored. Both systems function to form social groups that their members are placed into.

The existence of these structures in regions far apart in space and in time is indicative of the conclusion that Strauss makes about the human mind -primitive thought is no different from the kind of thought we engage in today. In fleshing out the differences between the use of symbols in both Druthers and Strauss’ works, one can see what both thinkers found important in humans. As Druthers outlines in his argument, the development of the categories of thought came from the human being able to share experience with his fellow man and then form symbols that could be used to recall those experiences and use them as tools to understand nature.

Conversely, while Druthers believes symbols point to the social, Strauss argues that symbols are representative of the mind. If one were to go to a region that was practicing a type of thinking that seemed primitive, a closer examination would reveal that the Systems they produce are no different from the ones that modern science has instilled in us. However, while these thinkers do arrive at different conclusions, it is important to note that both aimed to extinguish the negative stereotype that was given to primitive thought. By doing this, Druthers and Strauss were able to answer these questions about human thought.