What would C.S. Peirce say about Ron Unz’s IQ essay? Gene Callahan notes that IQ exams are more apt to test familiarity with symbolic signifiers — in which one thing represents another by convention — than indexical signifiers that “point” to their meaning. And different kinds of signifiers may predominate in different environments:
It seems plausible to me that people who live ‘close to the land’ — farmers, hunters, gatherers, fishermen, and so on — are going to be very keenly interested in indexical signs: the snapped twig that signifies the recent passing of a deer, the gulls circling that mean a school of fish is nearby, the withered leaves that indicate a fungus is attacking one’s crop.
City dwellers, meanwhile, live in a largely human-constructed world, and deal much more extensively with symbols, or conventional signs: billboards, shop signs, traffic signals, walk lights, newspapers, parking instructions, eviction notices, and the general omnipresence of human conversation.
I’d add that even city life may now be more symbol-oriented, in the broadest sense, than in generations past.