What is it for something to have symbolic value? How important is symbolic value? We are familiar with the idea of symbolic value in ordinary speech, and philosophers sometimes help themselves to it when discussing other topics.1 However, symbolic value itself has not been sufficiently studied. The present project is to shed some light on the nature and significance of symbolic value. This is of practical significance. In some cases, symbolic value is offered as the ground of reasons to judge and behave in particular ways.2 In some of these cases, symbolic value is supposed to provide these reasons in the absence of other values.3 In other cases symbolic value is more important than other values.4 To understand whether such claims about reasons are cogent, we must understand symbolic value.
The place to begin is with the nature of symbols. Generally, the Peircean account of the nature of representation applies to symbols.5For something to be a symbol, it must...