Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Terrence W. Deacon on Icons - Dictionary of Arguments

I 71
Icon/Index/Symbol/Deacon: when we say something is iconic we think it reminds us of something, e.g. landscapes, portraits, etc.
Index/indicator: here there is a physical connection to something else, e.g. thermometer, weather vane, etc.
Symbols: this is about social convention, e.g. wedding ring. Taken together, the words in a sentence symbolize a particular idea or set of ideas.
No object is intrinsically an icon, an index or a symbol. If we call something an icon or index, we are talking about the intention of its use.
VsIconicity: Many people say that everything can be an icon for everything possible.
Deacon: That is what you can also say about the other two cases.
I 72
For example, there is a debate about whether certain sign languages such as the American Sign Language (ASL) are symbolic or iconic.
Interpretation/Interpretability: it is also the question of whether interpretive skills are needed or are lost over time and are regained.
I 73
Symbol/Icon/Animal Language/Deacon: e.g. laughter/humour: there is probably a symbolic element in the term >humour< for which animals - in contrast to laughter - are not receptive. Animals are also not receptive to understand the social component of simple signals, even if they are involved in this process.
Interpretation/Peirce/Deacon: Peirce distinguishes between different types of references and explains them with different levels of interpretation:
Animal calls: unlike animals, humans can distinguish higher-level associations. This is about more than just increasing complexity.
I 74
N.B.: if I do not recognize the symbolic reference, I can still see the same thing as an icon, i.e. I can recognize its similarity to something else.
One could assume that there would be a hierarchy of references, from iconic to index-like to symbolic reference, but it is not that simple.
N.B.: it is not the likeness that creates the iconicity! Only after recognizing the iconic relation we assess the similarity of the sign with the object. The interpretation is something we are not doing! It is an act not to make a distinction!
I 75
E.g. Mimicry, for example: whether it works depends on small things like the attention or inattentiveness of the predator. It depends on these circumstances whether we interpret the coloration of the animal as iconic or indexical.
I 76
Similarity/interpretation: Similarity, which is determined in the interpretation process due to external influences, decides upon whether we perceive something as an icon or an index.
Interpretation: is no different in the case of sculptures or blackening of paper.
I 77
Icons/Deacon: Thesis: Icons arise from the failure of the attempt to set up differentiating indices for distinguishing things. > Symptoms.

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.

Dea I
T. W. Deacon
The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of language and the Brain New York 1998

Dea II
Terrence W. Deacon
Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter New York 2013

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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2022-09-25
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