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Article in the peer-reviewed journal:
Virtual School, The Sciences of Education Online, volume 1, issue 3, December, 1998
Thessaloniki: School of Primary Education, Aristotle University
ISSN 1108-2356

Note: The journal website is no longer available (



The article discusses the cultural significance of the arbitrariness and the human symbols. The age-long discussion on the arbitrariness of linguistic sign does not seem to consider the scope of arbitrariness itself, neither its meaning for civilization and human culture. This article attempts to extract from naturalist and cognitive approaches the "tools" to be used for analyzing the fabrication of symbols as an intrinsic aspect of human activity. The analysis shows that it is necessary to explore new ways to control the functions of mechanisms for the management of symbols and symbolic systems (like the mass media). For democracy to function in the cultural field also, this issue is considered most important.

According to the suggested approach, arbitrariness is peculiar to human beings; an intrinsic feature of signifying, and of communication in general - including the cultural and artistic communication. It is this feature that enables the development and refinement of the contemporary opaque mechanisms for knowledge and information management. These mechanisms require fresh forms of literacy and critical thought, and this is a field of research that still remains open.

The article focuses on the historical and systematic analysis of arbitrariness as a feature of civilization par excellence. From this point of view its significance is methodological, in order to comprehend some of the functions of the symbolic production and distribution.