Symbolomania and Pragmatophobia

  • Kazimierz Twardowski
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 119)


Symbols, in the sense of conventional signs used in certain disciplines instead of words, have rendered incomparable services to those disciplines; what is more, some disciplines would have been unable to make even a single step forward had they not been using a system of symbols from the very beginning. (…) When working with (…) symbols we abstract from the concepts and objects which they symbolize (…). We combine and rearrange these symbols in various ways, performing a number of operations on them, and in this way we obtain certain results. But these results, when still in symbolic form, require interpretation; that is why, after having performed our operations (…), we have to move again from the land of symbols to the world of the concepts and objects which they symbolize (…). It is only when we do this that we reach the goal which symbols and operations performed on them make it easier or even possible to reach.


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  1. 1.
    Cf. Z. Janiszewski, ‘Logistyka’ (Symbolic Logic), in: Poradnik dla samouków (A Guide for the Self-taught), 1915 edition, Vol. I, p. 453.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cf. H. Poincaré’s formulation, “Ce language n’est compris que de quelques initiés, de sorte que les profanes sont disposés à s’incliner devant les affirmations tranchantes des adeptes.” (Science et méthode, Paris 1908, p. 152).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    It is not hard to see that there is an analogy between a symbolomanic pragmatophobe and a bureaucrat, if we accept the definition of bureaucracy as formulated by the late Professor Klein of Vienna, who calls bureaucracy “formelle Rechthaberei in Verbindung mit sachlicher GleichgültigkeitGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© PWN — Polish Scientific Publishers — Warszawa 1979

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  • Kazimierz Twardowski

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