Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

The Symbol User and the Animal (with a Nod to Kenneth Burke)

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

The Symbol User and the Animal (with a Nod to Kenneth Burke)

Article excerpt

CHARLIE HAS never been to Africa. However, he knows a lot about Africa. Charlie has read books about Africa. He has heard lectures about Africa. He has talked with people who have been to Africa.

Symbols let Charlie travel without leaving home.

Fido the Dog doesn't even know that Africa exists.

Score one for the symbol user.

Charlie knows that red means "Stop" -- even though the street looks clear. It's not that he has ever been hit by a car; symbols alone keep Charlie from venturing into the road.

Symbols allow Charlie to learn without experiencing.

Fido trots into the intersection and nearly becomes roadkill.

Score two for the symbol user.

Charlie watches Fido nearly get killed and learns an important lesson. He teaches that lesson to his daughter, warning her to always watch the traffic light. She didn't see what happened to Fido, but her father's words keep her from making Fido's mistake.

Symbols allow Charlie to pass knowledge to the next generation. Fido's puppies don't fare so well.

Score three for the symbol user.

Symbols let Charlie talk about the past and the future; Fido knows only the present.

Symbols let Charlie talk about what might have been and what could be; Fido knows only what is.

Symbols let Charlie talk about things that aren't here and things that don't exist: Fido knows only what he sees and experiences.

So symbol-using Charlie is superior to Fido -- right?

Hmmmm.....

Charlie was miserable today. He was miserable the day before, too. Seems he made an error in his checkbook -- added an extra zero. Before he learned of the mistake, he was on top of the world. After he erased the zero, he was in the pits. If he learns tomorrow that his error is an error, he'll be ecstatic. …

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