C-77. Symbolic behavior

Humans are often characterized as unique among animal species for their use of symbols. This representational function of communication is significant, indeed, and if human identity were our only concern we might not look further than “symbol” in regard to symbolic behavior. (And humans are distinctive in other identifying respects too, notably the consequences of the steps they take.)

Symbolic behavior, however, involves cognition along with communication (App. III). And significantly so. What makes symbolic behavior so consequential is cognition’s relating (act) and relation (content). Cognition gives us leverage, not so much via symmetric relation (e.g., association) as via asymmetric relation (X: inside-outside relation and before-after relation). Given the act of relating, the asymmetric relation affords us building blocks for relationships. (And relieves us from the [back-loaded] quagmire of “relation = relationship,” as seen in the simplified notion of cause-effect.)

Cognition via the association relationship serves us pretty well, as in social-2 above (C-76), for our attending to the relationship of collisions to their consequences. But for making steps, as in social-3, composition requires the asymmetry relations and relating capabilities of a more developed cognitive technology (e.g., X: ideational mechanics).

(That reality can be constructed, by composition’s cognition and communication, is more to the point than that reality can be socially constructed. More so in light of our slow progress in composing communities more capable of social construction!)

(c) R.F. Carter