The symbol and the theory of the life-world: “The transcendences of the life-world and their overcoming by signs and symbols”

Human Studies 26 (2):141-163 (2003)
Abstract
This essay presents a phenomenological analysis of the functioning of symbols as elements of the life-world with the purpose of demonstrating the interrelationship of individual and society. On the basis of Alfred Schutz''s theory of the life-world, signs and symbols are viewed as mechanisms by means of which the individual can overcome the transcendences posed by time, space, the world of the Other, and multiple realities which confront him or her. Accordingly, the individual''s life-world divides itself into the dimensions of time, space, the social world and various reality spheres which form the boundaries or transcendences that the I has to understand and integrate. Signs and symbols are described as appresentational modes which stand for experiences originating in the different spheres of the life-world within the world of everyday life, within which they can be communicated, thereby establishing intersubjectivity. Schutz''s theory of the symbol explains how social entities – such as nations, states or religious groups – are symbolically integrated to become components of the individual''s life-world. The following paper reconstructs Schutz''s concept of the symbol as a crucial component of his theory of the life-world, which is seen as an outstanding phenomenological contribution to the theory of the sign and the symbol in general.
Keywords phenomenology  Schutz  Husserl  Cassirer  Jaspers  Luckmann  life-world  symbol  sign  intersubjectivity  communication
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