Augustine Relationship Between Words And Signs

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In The Teacher, Augustine writes about the relationship between words and their matching signs in the context of a dialogue with his son Adeodatus. According to Augustine, nothing can be taught through signs, including words. Augustine expresses that “we seek nothing by speaking except to teach.” (94) His theory is that in order to genuinely learn, one must seek the truth within his or her own soul. This casts doubt on the common understanding of “teaching” because if genuine learning can only be revealed by an internal process, then external things cannot truly teach anyone. Since Augustine emphasizes the importance of the ability to keep a student’s attention, I feel that Augustine would say that awareness, interest, and motivation are necessary conditions for genuine learning. Thus, the relationship between words and signs exposes the natural miscommunication that occurs between two conversing humans, establishing Augustine's concluding point: we are all called to listen, as God is the source of all true and substantial knowledge. Augustine argues, if linguistic signs are to convey any meaning, the recognition of that meaning must already be present in the one who interprets the signs. Augustine suggests that we cannot learn through words sounding in the ear because “by means of words we learn nothing but words.” (145) To get beyond words to their meaning we must depend on a “knowledge of realities” (103) that we already possess. Augustine suggests that we learn through

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