Roman Osipovich Jakobson - On symbolic thinking
Type of Spiritual Experience
Roman Osipovich Jakobson (Russian: Рома́н О́сипович Якобсо́н; October 11, 1896 – July 18, 1982) was a Russian–American linguist and literary theorist. As a pioneer of the structural analysis of language, Jakobson was among the most influential linguists of the century. Jakobson developed, with Nikolai Trubetzkoy, techniques for the analysis of sound systems in languages, inaugurating the discipline of phonology. He went on to apply the same techniques of analysis to syntax and morphology, and controversially proposed that they be extended to semantics (the study of meaning in language). He also proposed methods for the investigation of poetry, music, the visual arts, and cinema. Through his decisive influence on Claude Lévi-Strauss and Roland Barthes, among others, Jakobson became a pivotal figure in the adaptation of structural analysis to disciplines beyond linguistics, including anthropology and literary theory.
A description of the experience
An Essay on the Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field – Jacques Hadamard
Professor Roman Jakobson, besides his well-known linguistic work, takes a fruitful interest in psychological subjects. I reproduce here the highly interesting communication which he has kindly addressed to me:
Signs are a necessary support of thought and for the thought which is being socialised, the most usual system of signs is language properly called; but internal thought, especially when creative, willingly uses other systems of signs which are more flexible, less standardised than language and leaves more liberty, more dynamism to creative thought… Amongst all these signs or symbols, one must distinguish between conventional signs, borrowed from social convention and, on the other hand, personal signs which, on their turn, can be subdivided into constant signs, belonging to general habits, to the individual pattern of the person considered and into episodical signs, which are established ad hoc and only participate in a single creative act.