Essay: Propositional Symbolism and Lexical Symbolism

It is stated in the Bible that even animals will be rewarded by God. The commentary also adds ‘And one cannot reason a fortiori that if it is so far a beast, how much more rightly then for man will God not withhold his reward’? The direct interpretation will be animals will be rewarded. A secondary interpretation is men will be rewarded. We can also suppose that animal is used for metaphorically to designate the meek. The word animal will evoke directly the meaning of animal and indirectly that of meek. A single signifier will lead us to the knowledge of two signifieds. Linguistic symbolism is defined by the overflowing of the signifier by the signified.
We have now two examples of the symbolic functioning of language. The difference between them lies in the nature of the linguistic unit that is to be subjected to the symbolic process. This unit may or may not allow the directly formulated statement to be maintained. Where the statement is maintained, the initial proposition ‘animals will be rewarded’ can be put to the test of truthfulness. In the second case, it does not make sense to wonder whether animals in the literal sense will be rewarded or not. Only the proposition concerning men can be considered true or false. It is through the first meaning we understand the second. In the first case, the element being interpreted is a proposition. In the second case, it is a word or a phrase. We are getting propositional and lexical symbolism. It is a question of entire sentence having symbolic import against smaller discursive units like words or phrases with symbolic import. In lexical symbolism, the lexical meaning replaces the literal meaning. In propositional symbolism, the two meaning coexists.
History of Opposition
Todorov notes the distinctions made by Clement of Alexandria who provides two possible definitions of symbolism not between two forms of symbolism. Parable can be described as an evocation of one object which in turn evokes another. It can also be treated as an expression endowed with several meanings, some of which are direct and others indirect. The same possibility of providing a double description of a single phenomenon appears in the writings of Augustine. Tropes acquire the status of transposed signs. But he defines tropes in a different way than the rhetoricians. The trope is defined in terms of symbolism of objects that is transmitted by language. The word ‘ox’ refers to the evangelists in the first Epistle to the Corinthians. But the word itself does not change the meaning; in the second phrase other one that is the evangelist is evoked. In another example, ‘family of the seed’, symbolism of objects is not available. Figuratively it can mean ‘Christians born spiritually from the seed of the Word which produced us’. Despite symbolism of objects, the words are used in the sense of rhetorical tropes. We do not have two descriptions of a single phenomenon rather a subdivision within it. Following the same logic, one of the most significant distinctions in Christian hermeneutics is between allegoria in factis and allegoria in verbis. Allegory designates the whole of the symbolic whereas verbal allegories are its species. The opposition is, however, not the substantial one.
The distinction between lexical and propositional symbolism is present in the Sanskrit tradition. Anandavardhana, the author of the theory of dhvani, is to be credited at this point. His commentator Abhinavagupta speaks of four distinct functions of words-abhidha, tatparya, laksana and vyanjana. Abhidha is the power of the words to signify the primary meaning which is universal not particular. In a sentence, abhidha refers to the isolated word meanings. The syntactic relation between them is conveyed by tatparyasakti of the words. The intention of the speaker is to provide a unified purposeful sentence-meaning. Laksana is accepted only when the primary meanings cannot be syntactically connected to give a meaning. Vyanjana or suggestion is to be accepted as the fourth function of words. The first two significations are direct and the last two are indirect.

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