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Outward SignsThe Powerlessness of External Things in Augustine's Thought$
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Phillip Cary

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195336498

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195336498.001.0001

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Expressionist Semiotics and the Powerlessness of the External

(p.3) Introduction
Outward Signs

Phillip Cary (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

In expressionist semiotics outward signs signify inner things, but never adequately. For in its original form expressionist semiotics was an outgrowth of Augustine's Platonism, in which inner things of the soul are ontologically higher than bodily things and causal power always flows downward in a three‐tiered ontological hierarchy, from God to souls and then to bodies, which means bodies cannot change souls and nothing changes God. This ontological hierarchy and the Platonist axiom of downward causality are illustrated by characteristic passages from Augustine's writings, including the vision at Ostia and his famous account of how children learn words, as well as a less famous passage about why lectures are boring.

Keywords:   Augustine, Platonism, semiotics, expression, signs, hierarchy, causality, Ostia, lectures

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