Communication theory is heir to classic questions and proposed answers throughout human history. If Western philosophy has traditionally asked how human knowledge about various aspects of reality may be possible in the first place, communication studies examine the media and messages by which people exchange, reflect on, and enact their different perspectives on reality. In the fourth century BCE, Aristotle had identified three constituents of a basic model of communication:
Spoken words are the symbols of mental experience and written words are the symbols of spoken words. Just as all men have not the same writing, so all men have not the same speech sounds, but the mental experiences, which these directly symbolize, are the same for all, as also are those things of which our experiences are the images.