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Signs in the DustA Theory of Natural Culture and Cultural Nature$
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Nathan Lyons

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190941260

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190941260.001.0001

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Culture in the Trinity in Thomas Aquinas

(p.39) 2 Word
Signs in the Dust

Nathan Lyons

Oxford University Press

This chapter gives a new, semiotic reading of Thomas Aquinas’ Trinitarian theology, in order to establish the theological ‘height’ of culture. Aquinas develops Augustine’s psychological analogy in explicitly semiotic terms, so that the divine Word is the sign of the Father. He confirms this also in terms of the Son as name and image. Because for Aquinas signs are a kind of relation, his semiotic analysis can be integrated with his notion of divine persons as substantial relations. Aquinas’ semiotic Trinity can be understood as an absolute ‘cultural nature’, in which the divine nature is identical with the semiosis of the persons (signified origin, expressed sign, eternal interpretation). This theological claim suggests a new vantage on the nature-culture question: all created natures possess a cultural dimension, reflecting the absolute cultural nature that is their origin.

Keywords:   Thomas Aquinas, Trinitarian theology, semiotic Trinity, metaphysics of relations, nature and culture, John Poinsot (John of St Thomas), Augustine, C. S. Peirce, formal signs, Jacques Derrida

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