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Outward Signs – The Powerlessness of External Things in Augustine's Thought - Oxford Scholarship Online
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Outward Signs: The Powerlessness of External Things in Augustine's Thought

Phillip Cary


Augustine invented expressionist semiotics, the theory that words and other bodily things are external signs that give expression to what lies within the soul. This theory of signs is quite different from Greek philosophical semiotics, which is a theory of empirical inference, not a theory of language or expression. Augustine's semiotics is rooted in his Platonism, which allows no external or sensible thing to have causal power over the inner realm of the soul. Consequently, Augustine thinks we learn nothing from words, not even from Scripture. Faith, for Augustine, means believing in the auth ... More

Keywords: Augustine, Platonism, semiotics, expression, signs, words, grace, inner, external, soul

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2008 Print ISBN-13: 9780195336498
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195336498.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Phillip Cary, author
Professor at Eastern University Scholar in residence, Templeton Honors College
Author Webpage