Bochumer Philosophisches Jahrbuch für Antike und Mittealter: Band 17. 2014
  • ISSN 1384-6663
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9684
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Cassirer proclaimed the human as ‘animal symbolicum’. Language, art and religion are manifestations of an symbolic and symbol-creating awareness. The symbols are caused by a movement which is to be characterized as tropical. A symbol can be generated as a metonymic term, based on the principle of contiguity, but also as an metaphoric term, corresponding to the principle of similarity. The perception of these tropical movements draws the attention to the origination of a symbolic term as well as to the changes of already existing terms. The history of the ancient symbolic speech is a history of permanent creations, but also of mutations of meaning. This history is noticeable in Greece for the first time in Homer. His figurative speech is influenced by the mythical contiguity, which yields to a metaphorization and allegorization of the symbols in lyrics and philosophy in the following period, but still remains present in the religious literature. Finally, the symbolic speech of the new Christianity is situated in the non-solvable tension between the principles of contiguity and similarity. A recognition of this history of the ancient symbolic speech is required for its subsequent analysis, which is especially important for Christianity, for whom the ancient symbolism is normative, as well as for the philosophy, which desires to recognize its own history.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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