From: Ken Armstrong <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Tue, March 16, 2010 2:17:54 PM
Subject: Re: signs and wonders
Jerome Walsh wrote:
> Yes and no. The distinction between signs and wonders involves a further distinction between the order of being and the order of knowing (or, if you prefer traditional philosophical categories, between ontology and epistemology). To call something a "sign" implies that it is, as an event, notable (perhaps miraculous, perhaps spectacular, but certainly not a banal and everyday occurrence); but the term "sign" further denotes that it can communicate meaning. To call something a "wonder" is to denote its noteworthy quality, but to connote nothing about a signifying function. So the hendiadys "signs and wonders" points to something that is both impressive and meaningful, whereas to claim that someone has seen the wonder but missed the sign says that they have witnessed the spectacle of an event but not discerned its significance.
> At least that's how I understand the terms in biblical
I think I follow your explanation OK, but for me my previous (and now long in the tooth) preoccupation with Tillich's Systematic Theology and Peirce's use of signs as interpreted by Walker Percy is a bit distracting. For Percy, signs are dyadic vs triadic, the latter composing symbolist thought. R G Collingwood does a similar thing with "three-cornered thinking." (in a book on art that TSE reviewed and spoke approvingly of). All of these take up "signs" with a quite different meaning than what you have assigned to the term; which I am not contesting in the least, just pointing out the possibility of confusing influences. Josiah Royce, too, distinguished between percept, concept, and interpretation and "interpretation" was a focus for Eliot at Harvard where he studied under Royce, who again was familiar with Peirce.