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Interpreting Symbols - Book Report/Review Example

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Cultural and social symbols are certainly ever-present across the sphere of human civilization, offering deep meaning to those who look to such for direction or expression. The scope of this paper is to consider the idea of symbols in the context of two statements regarding their impact and, in finding a different perspective from each author, opine as to the compatibility and variance between the two views…
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Interpreting Symbols
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Download file to see previous pages .." (Geertz YEAR: 89). This perspective sees symbols as more reflective than directional and, though it might not deny some motivational aspects of cultural symbology, focuses on them as a repository for communication of heritage.
First, I will discuss the fact that in one way, certainly, these views are at variance in terms of direction; one sees causative influence and the other derivative. Secondly, I will focus on the fact that these ideas are not necessarily as opposing as one might initially expect; there is a certain compatibility and agreement in terms of symbolic influence, regardless of its direction. Finally, to illustrate these points of both disparity and agreement, I will use the iconic symbols of Greek Orthodoxy to demonstrate the relationship.
The greatest variance between the two perspectives is the relative direction of symbolic influence. For Turner, symbols motivate people to action. For Geertz, they reflect and communicate culture. In the first instance, the direction of symbolic influence is outward; the person looks to the symbol and sees something they should do. This position does not necessarily discard the notion that the symbol may be meaningful because of a shared history or culture, it simply doesn't focus on that aspect. Symbols are causative in that they influence and motivate a specific action. In the second instance, the direction of symbolic influence is inward; an individual sees the symbol and understands the cultural message for which it stands. This perspective does not deny the idea that action may follow understanding, but finds symbology important more as a repository of culture than as a personal motivator. Symbols are derivative in that an individual finds meaning and understanding from them. Thus, the two positions disagree most distinctly in the perception of the direction of symbolic influence.

Compatibility: Symbolic Influence
Directional variance aside, there is great compatibility between the two positions in that they both see great influence acting upon and emerging from individuals reacting to symbols. For the causative approach, the influence translates into action. In the derivative structure, the influence translates into understanding. Either way, an individual within a specific culture is impacted by the symbol. It should be noted that it is within this area of influence that cultural association is most vital. Symbolic influence has to occur within a specific frame of reference. As discussed below in the application of these ideals to Greek Orthodoxy, a person who lives outside the culture has no significant appreciation of symbolic influence; they are neither motivated nor enlightened. While they may be able to intellectually understand the significance of a particular symbol upon its associated people, or appreciate some cultural meaning inherent in the symbol, they are not personally impacted. Herein lies the key to the power of cultural symbols to influence a particular individual; they speak ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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