134 PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANING14. The whole human body is an instrument for communication.15. Parents and teachers today would do well to recognize how much of their own instruction is either directly or indirectly aimed at the inculcation of social conventions and to become aware of the meanings communicated by these symbolisms of the act.16. Modern educators would do well to devote more attention to the abiding importance of ritual symbols in the nurture of hu- man personality and in the conservation and enrichment of cul- tural values.17. The meaning of literature is in the language itself.18. The meaning of the language is discernible only through its use within the concrete literary creation.19. Materials are not generally available for studying and teaching nondiscursive forms.20. There are many different kinds of nondiscursive forms, making any common measure more difficult.
NONDISCURSIVE SYMBOLIC FORMS 13521. In mathematics one really knows the subject only if he knows about the subject.22. It is not enough to teach students of mathematics how to make calculations and demonstrations skillfully and automatically.23. The student of mathematics can be said to know mathematical- ly only if he understands and can articulate his reasons for each assertion he makes.24. The sovereign principle of all mathematical reasoning is logi- cal consistency.25. The subject matter of mathematics is formal (abstract) sym- bolic systems within which all possible propositions are consis- tent with each other.26. Mathematics only yields conclusions that follow by logical ne- cessity from the premises defining each system.27. In mathematics theory is the whole body of symbolic content of a given postulational system.28. Technical skill in computation and the ability to use mathemat- ics in scientific investigation, valuable as they may be, are not evidence of mathematical understanding.29. Mathematical understanding consists in comprehending the method of complete logical abstraction and of drawing neces- sary conclusions from basic formal premises. ____________________
136 PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANINGWe come now to a third type of symbolisms that differ in function,and to a large extent in content, from ordinary languages and math-ematics. While they vary among themselves more than do the twokinds of symbolism previously discussed, common to all of this thirdtype is their use in what are called “nondiscursive” modes of expres-sion. The symbolisms employed in such expressions may then be referredto as “nondiscursive symbolic forms.” DISCURSIVE SYMBOLIC FORMS To say that ordinary languages are “discursive” means thatthey are used in customary speech for communicating ideas in a con-secutive, connected fashion, following the principles of common logic.Such discourse is appropriate for assertions of fact and other utter-ances meant to be understood literally. It is intended as a means ofeffective cohesion and practical action within the community. Similar-ly, mathematics is discursive because it is based on logical deduction,with arguments moving from premises to conclusions by consecutivesteps. Both kinds of discursive forms are used for factual statementsin the sciences, where rational order is of the essence. NONDISCURSIVE SYMBOLIC FORMS The nondiscursive symbolic forms are used in all the arts andfor the expression of feelings, values, commitments, and insights in thedomains of personal knowledge, metaphysics, and religion. In thesefields the aim is not literal statement, but figurative expression. Theappeal is principally to the imagination rather than to consecutiveargument. In the discursive domains language is used for common un-derstanding of objective conditions: in the nondiscursive domains lan-guage is used to express personal subjectivity. In other words, discur-sive symbolic forms are outwardly oriented, nondiscursive forms areinwardly oriented.
NONDISCURSIVE SYMBOLIC FORMS 137 CONTRAST BETWEEN DISCURSIVE AND NONDISCURSIVE SYMBOLIC FORMS Alfred North Whitehead and Susanne Langer have defined thecontrast between the discursive and nondiscursive by means of theconcept of presentational immediacy. In the discursive forms mean-ings unfold in sequential argument. In the nondiscursive forms mean-ings are presented in a unitary vision, i.e., in direct or immediate in-sight. In the discursive, meaning is attained at the end of a demonstra-tion (whether explicit or implicit), while in the nondiscursive, meaningis grasped all at once, as an immediate presentation. It was said above that in discursive language the ideas are or-ganized according to the principles of ordinary logic. It is not to be in-ferred from this that the nondiscursive symbolic forms have no logic.Nondiscursive forms have their own kind of logic, meaning, and theirdistinctive patterns and characteristic orders and relationships. Theyare not haphazard or disorganized. It is simply that their organiza-tion does not follow the lines of literal rationality. In this sense theyare the modes of expression suited to nonrational (though not neces-sarily irrational) kinds of experience. The nondiscursive symbolisms are chiefly used to express mean-ings in the realms of esthetic experience, personal knowledge, andsynoptic insight. However, they are sometimes used in practical af-fairs and ordinary social life, as in the case of signals, manners, andgestures (to be discussed below). This indicates that the essential dis-tinction between the two types of symbolism is not in the fields of ap-plication, but in the contrast between discursive and nondiscursive.Nondiscursive forms are appropriate even in ordinary practical af-fairs when the purposes of communication are best served by directpresentation of a form instead of by reasoning to a conclusion. Nondiscursive symbolic forms may best be characterized as par-ticular sensory objectifications of subject states. Subjective mean-ings are contained in unified patterns of sense perception. This general description of nondiscursive symbolisms may attaingreater clarity and point, and the differences among the variousforms may become evident, from the following brief analysis of theprincipal types of nondiscursive forms. PRINCIPAL TYPES OF NONDISCURSIVE SYMBOLIC FORMSSignals Signals are codes for communicating action-cues. Strictlyspeaking, they are not nondiscursive, because they are to be under-stood literally and logically, nor are they even really symbols, be-cause they are ideally used as stimuli to automatic action and not asbearers of reflective meaning. Since they are a kind of language,with regular patterns, and since they are capable of being reflec-tively understood, they are at least analogous to nondiscursive sym-bols. Every person must master a large vocabulary of conventionalsignals if he is to adapt safely and efficiently to his environment. In amodern city he has to know what a host of light signals and sound sig-nals mean if he is to travel securely. An employee in an office orfactory must understand the meaning of bells, whistles, dials, andcolored lights if he is to do his job. With the increasing mechanization
138 PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANINGof industrial civilization, more and more such regulatory signals arenecessary and the mastery of the signal language occupies an everlarger place in each person’s education. Some signals are natural rather than conventional. For exam-ple, the barking of a dog or the hissing of a snake may be a signal ofdanger. A black sky, lightning, and thunder may indicate coming rain.These stimuli to action are not properly part of language, which isgenerally limited to communication between human beings. Naturalsignals are sometimes metaphorically referred to by such terms as“the language of the animals” or “the language of the elements.” Inany case, it is part of everyone’s education to learn to “read” themeanings communicated by natural events and to act accordingly.Bodily Gestures Bodily gestures have several different communicative func-tions. They are sometimes signals, as in the case of a policeman di-recting traffic or a person in a meeting raising his hand for recogni-tion by the chairperson. In other circumstances they may be symptoms,as when a person is convulsed with pain, recoils in terror, or leapswith joy, enthusiasm, or excitement. Symptomatic gestures are natu-ral rather than conventional signs, except that their forms may bemodified by cultural expectations. Bodily gestures may also be trulysymbolic, as when one opens his arms to welcome or comfort anotheror clenches his fists in threat or defiance. While such symbols arealso cues to action and to some extent symptoms of inner conditions,they are predominantly means of expressing ideated meanings, in whichthe distinctively human powers of imagination, self-consciousness, andrational deliberation are interfused. The mode of expression is a visi-ble act, communicating the meaning by direct presentation.Facial Expressions The same remarks apply to facial expressions as to bodilygestures. Facial expressions may likewise be signals, as when a frownmeans “it is time to leave,” or symptoms, as when a smile indicatessatisfaction or pleasure, or symbols, as when a puzzled expression isused to convey the idea of doubt or uncertainty.Bodily Gestures and Facial Expressions Bodily gestures and facial expressions are not only in them-selves expressive forms, they are also important accessories to ordi-nary language. Some people speak with their hands as much as withtheir lips. Indeed, deaf-mutes may have to depend wholly on gesture-language. In this event gesture becomes discursive and is not essen-tially different from ordinary spoken or written discourse; it only em-ploys a different symbol-system. Much bodily expression is not used asa vehicle for discursive meanings, but serves a presentational func-tion. Everyone knows the qualitative difference between the meaningsimparted by only reading or hearing and by both hearing and seeingthe speaker. It is a commonplace among teachers of speech that com-munication is function of the person as a whole, including gestures,facial expressions, and bodily posture.
NONDISCURSIVE SYMBOLIC FORMS 139 Humans communicate in many ways. Body language such as postures, gestures, and facial expressions are nonverbal forms of communication that must be interpreted by the listener. Many people get upset when someone doesn’t watch them speak. Teachers are adamant— “pay attention to me while I’m talking to you.” With thirty students in one class, how can the teacher make sure he/she pays attention to each individual? How will it affect the student if he/she does not pay attention to each individual?
140 PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANINGPicture
NONDISCURSIVE SYMBOLIC FORMS 141It follows the proper mastery of language includes far more than theacquisition of vocabulary and understanding and skill in grammaticalconstruction. Practice in the varied and subtle arts of bodily expres-sion is also needed if a person is to be able to articulate nondiscursiveas well as discursive meanings. The whole human body is an instrument for communication. Thesymbols of bodily movement have their characteristic elements andgrammatical relationships, that are an integral part of the subjectmatter of language instruction. From such a holistic standpoint, thestudent is not taught to read words and sentences as self-subsistentsymbolic patterns of the communicating person by attending to all ofthe visual and auditory stimuli that emanate from him.Manners and Customs By elaboration of bodily expression-symbols the more complexlanguages of manners and customs are constructed. Like speech,conventional behavior patterns are important for social cohesion andharmony. Actions may speak more plainly and eloquently than words.The myriad forms of social usage do much to set the tone of life of apeople, providing means of expression that extend, complement, andenrich the meanings carried by ordinary language. Cultural anthro-pologists have done much to demonstrate the significance of customs inthe life of humankind. They have shown that customary behavior, likeordinary language, is not a mere aggregate of separate elements,but is patterned into an interconnected whole. For example, relation-ships between parents and children are regulated by a great manymutually reinforcing acts symbolizing respect, authority and free-dom, dependence and independence, responsibility, and other aspects ofstatus and expectation. Not only is the language of custom a struc-tured whole, but there are as many such languages as there are dif-ferent cultures. The languages of custom are relatively independentof the ordinary languages, as shown by the fact that people withinthe same broad culture group may speak different tongues and thatpeople with widely different cultural patterns may be found withinany one language group. Modern anthropologists have demonstrated in their study ofcultures how to go about learning the vocabulary, morphology, andsyntax of the language of custom.1 The first requirement is an atti-tude of interest in, respect for, and attentiveness to other peoplesand their ways. The second rule is to discover the characteristicpatterns of meaning, so that isolated acts may be interpreted withinthe context of the culture as an intricately balanced and articulatedwhole. This same approach holds, mutates mutandis, for the studyof other tongues. The centrality of manners and customs in the life of humankindis delightfully portrayed by Harold Nicholson in his book, Good Be-havior: A Study of Certain Types of Civility.2 He presents sketch-es of twelve civilizations, from ancient China, Greece, and Rome,through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, to nineteenth-century1 See particularly Edward T. Hall, The Silent Language, Doubleday & Compa-ny, Inc., Garden City, NY, 1959, for a vivid discussion of cultural forms as a kindof language.2 Beacon Press, Boston, 1960.
142 PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANINGGermany and England. What stands out from this survey are the sub-stantial differences in patterns of culture and the fact the qualityand tone of a civilization are mainly expressed in the system of man-ners. Furthermore, one is impressed at how largely the educationaleffort of each society is directed toward the perpetuation of the cus-tomary behavior patterns. Parents and teachers today would do wellto recognize how much of their own instruction is either directly or in-directly aimed at the inculcation of social conventions and to becomeaware of the meanings communicated by these symbolisms of the act.Ritual Closely related to gestures, manners, and customs are the lan-guages of ritual. Ritual tends to be more stylized and less individualthan manners. Ritual is intended to express through symbolic actsmeanings at a somewhat deeper level than those arising out of every-day experience. Some rituals are individual and private, and are con-cerned with objectively trivial matters (e.g., routines of eating orwashing). Such personal rituals are usually regarded as pathologi-cal, reflecting neurotic compulsions growing out of deep-seated emo-tional disorders. Most rituals are communal and have to do with mat-ters of large human importance. For example, every momentous eventin a person’s life—birth, graduation, marriage, death—has its ceremoni-al accompaniments. The meaning of a nation’s life is symbolized in pa-triotic rites. The ultimate values and purposes of existence are ex-pressed in the many varieties of religious ritual. It is a common error of literal-minded moderns to assume thatrituals are useless superstitions carried over from a pre-scientificage. Implicit in this attitude is the assumption that all meanings areof the discursive logical type. As we have already seen, there aremany meanings not expressible in discursive form. Included among themare those symbolized in ritual. Humankind’s highest hopes, deepest anx-ieties, and firmest commitments have always found articulation in thevivid presentational forms of ritual activity, in which the participantacts out, or dramatizes, the meanings instead of merely voicing them.The language of ritual is learned both by participation and by obser-vation. Ritualistic meanings are enriched by interpretations using or-dinary language even though such explications can never fully inter-pret the meanings conveyed by the rituals themselves. Modern educa-tors, who tend to overemphasize the literal and verbal modes of com-munication, would do well to devote more attention to the abiding im-portance of ritual symbols in the nurture of human personality and inthe conservation and enrichment of cultural values. GRAPHIC OR OBJECT-SYMBOLS In addition to symbolic acts, graphic or object-symbols areused to express the more profound meanings in human existence. Unlikesignals, these visual symbols are not merely clues to action. Theyare bearers of meanings that exceed the bounds of ordinary logic. Ex-amples of such symbols are flags, which focus patriotic sentiments,stars, crescents, and crosses, which carry religious meanings, and as-tronomical and astrological signs (like the signs of the zodiac).3 Someof these symbols are purely conventional (e.g., many flags) whileothers are “natural,” in the sense the forms of the symbols are in3 See Rudolph Koch, The Book of Signs, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, n.d.,for description of 493 symbols used by primitive and ancient peoples.
NONDISCURSIVE SYMBOLIC FORMS 143certain essential respects congruent with the meanings symbolized.For example, the Christian symbol of the cross visually representsthe ideas of contradiction or conflict and of the meeting of the humanand the divine (the horizontal and the vertical bars, respectively).The swastika, an ancient Indian symbol, later adopted by the Nazisand derived originally from the sun wheel, represents the ideas of aprimal source of light and life, of universality (the four arms), andof energy or power (the sense of movement conveyed by the jointedarms). Similarly, the ancient Chinese symbol is taken as repre-senting the dynamic contrast and interfusion of the two cosmic princi-ples of yin and yang, the union of opposites (e.g., male and female,light and dark, heat and cold) that is the ultimate mystery of all be-ing and becoming.Dreams Dreams are a uniquely significant class of symbols that areonce more a subject of lively interest, after a period of neglect anddiscrediting. From ancient times many have thought that dreams havemeanings other than their obvious pictorial significance. It has beenassumed that hidden behind and within the images are messages of im-portance to the dreamer, perhaps in the nature of portents, warn-ings, or directions for action. Among the skeptical, rationalistic, andliteral-minded, especially since the Enlightenment, dreams have beendismissed as insignificant consequences of bodily disturbances or as themeaningless vagaries of a wandering imagination. Since the work ofSigmund Freud, dreams have once more become a subject of serious in-quiry. The art of dream interpretation has been reestablished on moresecure foundations. According to psychoanalytic views, dreams arean important clue to the dreamer’s emotional life, the true nature ofwhich to a large extent lies buried in the unconscious and which leadshim to behave in ways neither he nor others may understand, approve,or Educators use many ritualistic symbols to help teach values and preserve culture. While the teacher already knows the importance of such action, the student does not alwaysunderstand the significance of the behavior. How insistent should the teacher be on obedience in such action, and what are the consequences
144 PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANING if he/she is not?
146 PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANINGbe able to control. It is further believed that the language of dreamscan be mastered. Once the meanings communicated by them are mas-tered and understood, progress can be made toward emotional health.The language of dreams is regarded as a secret code, which it is thetask of the analyst to help decipher. When the secrets are discovered,self-understanding replaces self-ignorance, and confusion and mean-inglessness give way to insight and clarity of purpose. There are many different schools of thought concerning dreaminterpretation. Erich Fromm, in an illuminating treatment of the sub-ject in The Forgotten Language: An Introduction to the Under-standing of Dreams, Fairy Tales, and Myths,4 discusses the histo-ry of dream interpretation. Fromm gives particular attention toFreud’s view that dreams represent irrational and asocial wishes, toJung’s view that dreams are revelations of archetypal forms of wis-dom from the “collective unconscious,” and to his own position thatdreams express many kinds of mental activity, both irrational andrational, moral and nonmoral. Fromm contends that the symbols ofthe inner life that appear in dreams are not conventional, but either“accidental” or “universal,” the former referring to images thatarise out of chance associations that have proved to be personallyimportant, the latter representing types of experience that are inher-ent in the human condition. In the case of universal symbols there is anintrinsic relation between the inner feelings and their sensory repre-sentation. For example, the symbol “fire” represents the feeling oflife and energy (or of fear and destructive power, depending on thecontext), and “valley” represents feelings of security (or of impris-onment, in other situations). The main point for philosophy of the curriculum is that the sym-bolism of dreams is a significant language that can be learned withgreat benefit to the learner. Fromm believes: that symbolic language is the one foreign language that each of us must learn. . . . It helps us to understand a level of expe- rience that is specifically human because it is that level which is common to all humanity. In content as well as in style . . . Both dreams and myths are important communications from our- selves to ourselves. If we do not understand the language in which they are written, we miss a great deal of what we know and tell ourselves in those hours when we are not busy manipu- lating the outside world.5Myths, Allegories, Parables, and Fairy Tales As suggested in the above quotation, myths are another kind ofnondiscursive symbolism. Unlike any of the other nondiscursive formspreviously mentioned, myths are expressed in ordinary languagerather than in pictorial form or in act. The same is true of a numberof other kinds of symbols, including allegories, parables, and fairytales. While these are not in themselves languages, they use ordi-nary language so as to communicate nondiscursive meanings. This isaccomplished by employing ordinary language in an extraordinaryway, so as to impart the figurative or metaphorical sense ratherthan the literal sense of ordinary discourse. The meanings of whole4 Grove Press, Inc., New York, 1951.5 Ibid. p. 10. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
NONDISCURSIVE SYMBOLIC FORMS 147myths, allegories, parables, and fairy tales properly belong to thedomain of literature (see Chapter 15) rather than to symbolics. Infact, the line between the meanings of literature and of themetaphorical language of literature cannot be sharply drawn. To aconsiderable degree the meaning of literature is in the language it-self, and, conversely, the meaning of the language is discernible onlythrough its use within the concrete literary creation.Symbolic Interpretation Symbol interpretation was once a thriving art. Medieval schol-ars, notably Hugo of St. Victor, wrote systematic accounts of sym-bolism, showing the various levels of possible interpretation, includ-ing the literal, allegorical, mythological, moral, and spiritual. Dan-te’s Divine Comedy, one of the greatest works in all literature, is anoutstanding example of verbal symbolic forms used to present nondis-cursive meanings on several levels, of cosmic scope and universal hu-man significance. In the present scientific and technological age,metaphorical usage has lost the place of honor in favor of literalmodes of discourse. It is now becoming clear to many students of lan-guage that the earlier interest in metaphorical language was not un-justified, and a new appreciation is arising for the study of meaningsthat cannot be expressed by literal utterances.The Arts A final group of symbol-systems to be mentioned are the formsin which other arts besides literature are expressed. In music varioussets of tonal, harmonic, and rhythmic conventions are adopted as avehicle for musical expression. For example, scales provide orderedseries of standard tones to be used in constructing musical patterns.Similarly, the visual arts consist of colors, textures, and movementsorganized according to certain conventions. These visual art elementsand their principles of organization are, like musical elements andforms, analogous to the materials and structures of ordinary lan-guage. The study of the expressive patterns of the arts belongs to therealm of esthetic meaning and not properly to the study of symbol-isms. Unlike the case of ordinary language, the forms of music, paint-ing, sculpture, architecture, and dance cannot be separated fromtheir substance. Any further discussion of the “language of art” willbe reserved for the chapters to follow on meaning in the arts (Chap-ters 12 to 15). SUMMARY OF MAJOR TYPES OF NONDISCURSIVE SYMBOLIC FORMS This completes our summary of the various major types ofnondiscursive forms comprising the last of the three sub realms ofsymbolics. The nondiscursive forms are not widely recognized as beingcomparable to languages. Materials are not generally availablefor studying and teaching nondiscursive forms, as are materials forordinary language and mathematics. One reason for this is that thereare many different kinds of nondiscursive forms, making any commonmeasure more difficult than for ordinary languages and mathemati-cal systems. Another reason is the previously mentioned fact thatthese symbolisms cannot always be treated as autonomous disciplinesindependent of the fields of meaning in which they are used (e.g., in theesthetic and synnoetic realms).
148 PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANING Nevertheless, one feature distinguishes all three subrealms,making it appropriate to include them all within one realm and tobear a common name. It is characteristic of all three that they arehumanly constructed symbolic formalisms. They are instruments forthe expression of meaning. The emphasis in learning any symbolism isnot on the content of the meanings expressed, but on the conventionalexpressive forms used to objectify and communicate meanings. The con-tent of the meanings to be expressed is the subject of the other realmsof meaning, to which we now turn. WAYS OF KNOWING1. What does it mean to say that ordinary languages are “discur- sive symbolic forms”?2. How is “nondiscursive symbolic forms” defined?3. How do discursive symbolic forms present themselves?4. How do nondiscursive symbolic forms present themselves?5. Discursive forms are primarily used to express what?6. Nondiscursive forms are chiefly used to express what?7. List some of the principal types of nondiscursive symbolic forms and their functions.8. How are bodily gestures symbolic?9. How are facial expressions symbolic?10. How is the human body used as an instrument for communica- tion?11. Why are manners and customs significant in the life of hu- mankind?12. In studying cultures, how would a person go about learning the vocabulary, morphology, and syntax of the language and cus- tom?13. Patterns of culture are mainly expressed in the system of man- ners. Why is it important to perpetuate customary behavior patterns?14. Why are rituals important relative to expressing symbolic acts?15. How are graphic or object-symbols used to express profound meanings in human existence?16. Why are dreams a uniquely significant class of symbols?17. How are dreams an important clue to the dreamer’s emotional life?18. What are some of the many schools of thought concerning dream interpretation?19. Why is it that symbolism of dreams is a significant language that can be learned with great benefit to the learner?20. Why are myths considered another kind of nondiscursive symbol- ism?21. Why is there a new appreciation arising for the study of mean- ings?22. How are music and the visual arts elements and principles of organization analogous to the materials and structures of or- dinary language?23. Why aren’t nondiscursive symbolic forms widely recognized as being comparable to languages?24. Why aren’t materials generally available for studying and teaching nondiscursive symbolic forms?
NONDISCURSIVE SYMBOLIC FORMS 14925. What is the one common feature that distinguishes all three subrealms (ordinary language, mathematics, nondiscursive sym- bolic forms)?26. What one feature distinguishes all three subrealms (ordinary language, mathematics, nondiscursive symbolic forms), making it appropriate to include them all within one realm and bear a common name?27. Where should the emphasis be in learning any symbolism for meaning?