NELSON GOODMAN: THE SYMBOLS OF ART
WE BEGIN with a squiggle, a simple zigzag line on a piece of paper. But is this line more than a squiggle? Is it a symbol? An artistic symbol? And if it attains the status of an artistic symbol, what is its worth?
According to the philosopher Nelson Goodman, the status of this squiggle depends entirely on how one chooses to construe it. If the squiggle stands for something--say a month-long record of the Dow Jones stock average--then it is functioning as a symbol. If it is part of a painting--say, the outline of a mountain range in a drawing by Hokusai--then it is functioning as an artistic symbol. The way in which one "reads" the squiggle depends upon the setting in which it is encountered, the graphic context which surrounds it, and the particular "mind