Symbols vs Signs

Are they the same? Not according to Jung (1964 pp.19).  Signs can be words, initials or a string of letters representing an organisation, for example UNICEF Signs can be logos and trademarks. Signs denote a prescribed meaning. They are a conscious representation of an object or meaning. Symbols have more than their obvious ‘on the surface’ meaning. Symbols can take on different meanings according to where and how they are placed, in which culture or tradition they are used and by the person interpreting the symbol. Jung goes on to state that each symbol has infinite interpretations beyond it’s archetypal meaning (Jung, 1964, p 21-23), as each person brings with them their own history of conscious and unconscious thoughts; symbols are read through the lens of each persons limited knowledge of the world.   Von Franz (1964) calls this process Individuation.

Signs can also have a symbolic meaning. Symbols can also be signs.  But they do not mean the same thing. A sign can exist on it’s own without a symbolic meaning attached to it. A symbol cannot exist without it’s sign (or signifier), the physical description of what represents the symbol).

 

"Carl Jung (6914204764)" by orionpozo - Carl Jung. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carl_Jung_(6914204764).jpg#/media/File:Carl_Jung_(6914204764).jpg
“Carl Jung (6914204764)” by orionpozo – Carl Jung. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carl_Jung_(6914204764).jpg#/media/File:Carl_Jung_(6914204764).jpg

REFERENCES

Jung.C.G.,1964, Man And His Symbols,  Aldus Books Ltd, London, pp 19-23