The Criteria Necessary to Achieve Formal Definitions of Sign and Symbol


This paper attempts to illustrate a process of analysis that will hopefully open a path to more complete and useful definitions of sign and symbol. It applies a form-content analysis to the metaphysical properties of these two concepts. The objective is to locate criteria necessary and sufficient to derive formal definitions for these terms. Wittgenstein’s concept of “forms of representation” is analyzed and applied to the topic. Criteria are outlined that determine the appropriateness of the sign and symbol to be applied as labels. Criteria of definition are then developed using gesture, metaphor, and several other example types to illustrate the use of the criteria in distinguishing between sign and symbol. The structural organization of these two concepts proved to be especially complex and led to what some readers may find somewhat obscure. It is not our intention to be purposefully obscure.


sign, symbol, form, content, class, concept

How to cite:

Herrman, Charles. “The Criteria Necessary to Achieve Formal Definitions of Sign and Symbol.” Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 6, no. 1 (2022):  97-121. https://doi.org/10.14394/eidos.jpc.2022.0008.


Charles Herrman
Independent Scholar


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