Semiotics as a metaphysical framework for Christian theology

Zygon 45 (3):689-712 (2010)
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Abstract

We provide an overview of a proposal for a new metaphysical framework within which theology and science might both find a home. Our proposal draws on the triadic semiotics and threefold system of metaphysical categories of C. S. Peirce. We summarize the key features of a semiotic model of the Trinity, based on observed parallels between Peirce's categories of Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness and Christian thinking about, respectively, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We test and extend the semiotic model by exploring how Peirce's taxonomy of signs offers a new approach to theological reflection on the Incarnation. This leads to a novel way of framing scientific questions about human evolution in semiotic terms and to a new approach to theological anthropology. Finally, we use the semiotic model of the Trinity as the basis of a trinitarian approach to the theology of creation according to which the semiotic processes that are fundamental to life and to human behavior and cognition may be understood as “vestiges of the Trinity in creation.”

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