Dissertation Abstract and Table of Contents

Play, Metaphor, and Judgment in a World of Signs:
A Peircean Semiotic Approach to Christian Worship
Paul Matthew Burgess

Institution:Duke University
Advisor:Geoffrey Wainwright
Source:WorldCat; author

Augustine inaugurated in the Western Church a rich tradition regarding signs. A central focus of this tradition has been worship, including sacramental theology and the interpretation and proclamation of scripture. The tradition has also included, however, a broader perspective under which all creatures are viewed as vestiges of the Trinity. There has been recent widespread interest, both religious and secular, in diverse notions of sign and symbol.

This dissertation applies the semiotic of American logician and philosopher of science Charles Sanders Peirce to an analysis of the ecumenical Lima Liturgy. The argument is that the notion of sign can prove both apt and fruitful as a detailed conceptual framework for Christian worship.

Chapter One indicates the tradition regarding signs and worship, focusing on Augustine and on ontological, epistemological, and axiological problems scholars have found with his project. Chapter Two develops a close reading of Peirce's semiotic, including his detailed categorial division of the sign. Chapter Three employs this reading for a semiotic analysis of the Lima Liturgy.

The final three chapters develop and interpret three motifs which emerge from this analysis: play, metaphor, and judgment. Chapter Four explores Peirce's notion of musement, relating this notion to the debate regarding ritual and play, a debate which has involved Johan Huizinga and Wolfhart Pannenberg, among others. Chapter Five argues for metaphor as a mediation of "ritual knowledge." The discussion engages Max Black and Janet Martin Soskice, as well as Peirce scholars who have applied Peirce to the study of metaphor. Chapter Six deals with Peirce's understanding of judgment, uncovering difficulties for a theology of worship which takes evil and sin seriously. These difficulties are clarified through Josiah Royce's appropriation of Peirce in The Problem of Christianity, and addressed through a Peircean transposition of Reinhold Niebuhr's The Nature and Destiny of Man.

The results of this study may be read as a prospectus for a semiotically oriented theology of worship. Or, since play, metaphor, and judgment run somewhat parallel to the Augustinian memory, understanding, and will, these results may also be interpreted as a sketch of a doxologically centered theological anthropology.