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Rethinking Whitehead's SymbolismThought, Language, Culture$
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Roland Faber, Jeffrey A. Bell, and Joseph Petek

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474429566

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474429566.001.0001

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The Inhumanity of Symbolism

The Inhumanity of Symbolism

(p.81) 4 The Inhumanity of Symbolism
Rethinking Whitehead's Symbolism

Michael Halewood

Edinburgh University Press

Whitehead is clear that language and symbols are important for humans. But they are not generated solely from or by humans. If they were, Whitehead's philosophy would fall back into a sophisticated humanism and would lack metaphysical bite. This chapter traces the inhumanity of symbols in order to return to a more specific understanding of what Whitehead can tell us about the intersections of humans, language, and symbolism. It discusses the ways in which symbolism separates us from the world, relating this to Marx’s concept of the fetishism of the commodity, in which we ‘fail to see the human (or social) relations that have gone into making them’. It compares Whitehead and Marxist Raymond Williams, concluding that the concept of ‘ideology’ is ultimately a distraction in this discussion, although some degree of ‘inhumanity’ must always remain inherent in symbolism.

Keywords:   Whitehead, symbolism, philosophy, language, Marx, inhumanity, ideology, commodification

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